It’s been nearly a year since we discussed strength training for women in this earlier blog post, so it’s time to delve a little deeper. Here, we specifically look at why women can and should lift weights.
As skilled certified trainers understand or learn very quickly, there are subtle differences between strength training and lifting weights. While strength training regimens for women often includes lifting weights (lighter weights more reps) it is one of a number of techniques that make up this training lexicon.
Resistance bands, wrist weights and resistance training using your own body weight as with pushups are all great forms of strength training. Although they can certainly be considered a form of weight training, let’s look at lifting weights from the standpoint of free weights and weight machines and why women should use them.
As a personal trainer working with women that want to lose weight as well as gain strength and muscle without bulking up, it can be a gradual process of increasing weights to build that endurance and get the fat burning benefits of weight lifting. At some point, very light weights and extended reps may, and often should, graduate to slightly heavier weights depending on the client and the goals.
Although researchers have shown that strength training three times a week for two months will add two pounds of muscle while losing over three pounds of fat on average, every woman’s body, health and metabolism are different. The operative words in that pronouncement of muscle gain and weight loss is “on average.” Depending on the person, it may take longer and require a gradation increase of weight over time to achieve these benefits.
For some women, it may be beneficial to slowly increase the weight with staggered rep increases over time, which can lead to more pronounced weight loss. It often takes the training and skill of a personal trainer with experience to develop a total health plan for a female client so that the weight training plan fits together with a cardio plan, meal plan and health monitoring that is ideal for each individual. When the goal is maximized fat reduction with maximized lean muscle production without gaining bulk, this is doable but must be developed for the particular physiology of each female client.
The idea of weight lifting leading to bulk for women is a myth. Women do not have the levels of anabolic hormones that men have, which is key to building larger muscles. Obviously it can be done, but it takes a herculean effort and an all-encompassing lifestyle plan to become one of those female body builders that you see.
It is no easy feat being a modern woman with an endless list of career choices that require more than just minimal physical strength, raising a family, which often requires near superhuman strength, or both. Just living your life and enjoying it to the fullest by being active requires strength, and weight lifting as part of a well-balanced and client-specific fitness plan can provide this.
Today, women do more than work out as a way to stay fit. For many their social lives have athletics as a major component. We’re not just talking skiing, swimming, basketball tennis, football, and more. We’re also talking about rollerblading, volleyball, biking and a myriad number of sports on the water, on the court or over land.
Lifting weights (beyond the concept of strength training) can be crucial to developing the needed strength as well as the endurance that must be developed in particular muscle groups to play these sports well as well as enjoy them. This is where strength training (with its high reps/ low weight), cardio, and lifting weights all come together to sculpt a body that has strength, endurance and lean muscle mass with stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability.
Let’s not forget the mood and personal outlook benefits that come with the strength gains of lifting weights. While it is also true for men, women in particular gain a great deal of confidence and sense of control when their bodies are stronger. This sense of confidence spills over into almost all aspects of life that help to maintain a healthy and positive attitude, positive mood, and positive outlook on life. Study after study after study has proven this out for women. Studies have linked weightlifting to lower anxiety and better overall mental health.
From our teens to old age, weight lifting for women provides countless benefits in terms of general health. This includes improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and increased glucose utilization among others. Reducing the chances of disease states such as Alzheimer’s and conditions such as osteoporosis have been shown to occur when women make weight lifting a part of their fitness routines. While these benefits accrue when we start young, they are also very beneficial for women that start when they are older.