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Strength Training For Women – 5 Things You Need To know

Strength training goes by a few different names such as resistance training or weight training and basically means lifting or applying an external force on the body to improve muscular strength and/or endurance.

For years, since the days of arnorld schwarzenegger, weight training was only ever really geared towards men and the meat head men at that or least that was the perception. Even the average Joe was intimidated by lifitng weights with big guys beside them in the gym.

Strength training is and should be a huge part of everyone’s training, especially women. It’s only recently that more and more women have been taking that step into the strength training world albeit tentatively. The younger generation may find it a little easier because of maybe more of an exposure to social media and a lot of people posting images and videos of being strong and fit. But this leads an older generation to fear strength training as they didn’t have that exposure in their youth and can sometimes now feel that it is only for young, fit people.

The irony is, it’s for that very reason strength training is more important as you get older because you may not have done it at all.

This is a video we filmed live on our facebook page about 5 things you need to know whether you are a women starting out in strength training or a seasoned pro

Some of these tips relate to men just as well but others are given particularly with women in mind. It’s important to understand the benfits and remove the barriers to strength training if you find yourself reluctant to give it a go:

1)  You won’t get bulky

One of the main reasons women don’t get into weight training is the fear of getting all muscly, bulky and having these veins showing. It’s just not what they are going for. Don’t get me wrong, some women are after that and each to their own but generally the clients we see are over 40/50 years old who want to lose weight and feel good, they don’t need or want to be turned into “she-hulk”. Strength training isn’t about putting on loads of muscle for these women it’s just about being stronger, feeling like you are getting toned, tightening up the wobbly bits. For a woman to put on major muscle like that would first of all have to be eating super clean and a lot of calories but they also don’t produce the hormones to do it, like testosterone. Women produce a lot smaller amounts than men which is why they would find it hard to put on muscle and to do it the way you see some women do it is not fully natural let’s just say. And because it’s harder to put muscle on it means you won’t burn calories as effeiciently and would have to work a lot harder to burn the same calories as a male equivalent

2)  To get stronger you need to do more

There is a principle of training called Overload. This basically means for anyone to get fitter or in this case stronger they need to do more once their body is ready for it. What this means is that if you were using 2kg dumbbells for bicep curls and found it tough until week 3 but then they started getting easier there is no point staying with 2kg because the body now has adapted to it and you have lost the overload effect. You now need to increase that a little bit to keep the overload going and it’s not about constantly lifting heavier because no one can do that indefinitely, then it becomes about training types to continue getting results. It’s the same for someone starting out walking. Walking will only get you so far, then you may need to walk at steeper inclines or start jogging and then running because you are getting fitter and you need to overload the body.

3)  Being strong as you get older is critical

Once we pass 30 years of age we lose 10% of our muscle mass every decade due to the natural ageing process. So by the time you are 60 if you have never dipped your toe into strength training you have already lost 30% of your muscle mass which is huge. So it’s even more important that you try to regain as much of it as you can so you can have the best quality of life. For women again because they will find it harder to put on lean muscle as mentioned above they have to work harder. The reason we see more women at this stage of their life and not younger is because a lot of them have given up a lot over the years raising a family, making a home and working.

The other reason it’s so important is, because of this self sacrifice and not looking after ones strength it means women may be more susceptible to injury and the more lean muscle you have the more it protects your joints and while it may not seem as too important to some of our younger readers, to our older clients you will know all too well the effects of that wear and tear over the years

4) Pregnancy

After having kids there is a great opportunity to get back in shape. Some pregnancies require c-sections which is where they cut down through the abdominal wall. Some experts reckon that after four C-sections the muscles will never recover properly so it’s crucial to build the strength in that abdomin. Core strength work can certainly help but so can big whole body movements that require core stability such as deadlifts.

After pregnancy, when you get the go ahead, is also a time for optimal fat loss. Over the last nine months the body has been providing for another human which means the blood vessels, capillaries, everything has expanded to carry extra nutrients around the body. After pregnancy these transport lines are still expanded which means you are going to have increased blood flow still so by engaging in exercise once safe to do so is an ideal time to transport that extra oxygen to the working muscles and use that unwanted fat for fuel in the body. People often struggle with fat loss around the mid section because the blood flow is so poor.

From years of raising kids it also leads to further wear and tear, lifting them, changing them, getting them awkwardly in and out of cars, it all takes a toll, especially on your flexibility and strength when you start slowing down later in life.

5)  Osteoporosis

Not solely associated with women but a lot cases of osteoporosis would be, Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bone and the best defence is to try and build the density and strength of them. Strength training is a natural way to help do that.

Tendons are what joins muscle to bone so the more you work the muscles through strength training the more the tendons have to develop and this in turn puts pressure on the bone to build up to anchor those tendons.

Impact work is also a key consideration when developing bone density so the exercise selection in your strength training that requires the feet to move would be more beneficial such as lunges where the feet have to step out versus squats where your feet don’t move but maybe you could add a jump into the squat to get in that impact but not with a bar on your back, just body weight. We have seen first hand the benefits of clients coming to us both with osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis that have been completely reversed) and osteoporos showing signifcant increase in bone density after a few months of training



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