I am often asked this question “Why do I need to use weights?” especially by women. Women are concerned about bulking up and building muscle. The mere appearance of a dumbbell brings some women out in a sweat! The truth is that, it is very difficult to bulk up and contrary to what most women and some men think, weight lifting to increase body mass is very difficult to achieve without the proper nutrition.
I am a big fan of strength training especially for women because I think there are so many benefits which are overlooked. It is important to remember that strength training does not have to involve weights or machines. Training with your own body weight is also a form of strength training and just as effective.
I used to be a big cardio fan, particularly running. I used weights occasionally, did a couple of body pump classes but particularly preferred cardio. I loved sweating profusely during and after a tough cardio session as this was tangible evidence to me that I had worked out. I loved that feeling of complete exhaustion at the end of my run, swim or cycle that I couldn’t seem to emulate when I trained with weights and I wasn’t quite clear how I could avoid bulking up so I kept weights to a minimum Unfortunately, I sustained an injury which meant I had to stop running and it was then that I turned to strength training. To allay my fears, I researched the area thoroughly and read extensively and one of the first things, I discovered is that the main difference between whether you bulk up or lose body fat is NUTRITION. Also in a woman’s case, we have less testosterone (which is commonly known to help the process of building muscle) so it is much harder to build muscle than for men.
The article below from LIVESTRONG.COM;
Resistance exercise and other strenuous physical activities trigger muscle growth by causing small amounts of trauma to the muscles themselves. In response to this stimulus, the body adapts by repairing the muscular tissue and increasing its strength and size by adding new protein strands to muscle fibers.This process is called protein synthesis, and it is modulated by a variety of hormones called growth factors, of which testosterone is one of the most important.
Though the role that testosterone plays is important and significant, it is only one of many factors that controls muscle growth. Other growth factors include insulin, insulin-like growth factor 1, hepatocyte growth factor, fibroblast growth factor and growth hormone. Outside of an athlete’s body chemistry, his nutrition, quality of sleep, training experience, discipline and quality of training plan all play important roles in muscle growth.
Having read plenty of information and feeling more confident that I wouldn’t become a female Arnie! I proceeded with caution………………………and I have to say the results were impressive.
There are many positives of strength training but these are the ones that I have personally experienced and can therefore recommend you to strength train for if you are looking for any of these;
- Reduced body fat……………………big drop in body fat provided you don’t combine your strength training and cardio in the same sessions (more about this in another post coming soon) and of course you eat healthy!
- Lean and toned body
- Faster metabolism! (Yes!!! there is no quicker way to increase your metabolism than by having more muscle (not bulk just muscle tissue as opposed to fatty tissue). When you have more muscle, your body burns calories at a much faster rate. (At least twice as much calories per pound, figures from research are inconclusive but conservatively muscle burns about 6 calories per pound to fat’s 2 calories per pound). So the more muscle you have the more calories you burn. Apart from this however, you have the increased after burn, after exercise involving strength training, you continue burning extra calories after your workout.
- Strengthens bones and connective tissues (this is especially important for women especially menopausal women who are more prone to osteoporosis after the menopause due to the loss of oestrogen)
- Improves coordination and balance and can help prevent injury (when done correctly!)
- Keeps you strong and active as you get older, I feel one of the other main benefits of strength training is the fact that you can continue it well into old age compared to cardio where as you get older, your ability to perform activities such as running can be limited if you haven’t previously been involved in the sport.
- There is no quicker way to sculpt all or parts of your body, be it toned arms, legs, less flabby triceps, firmer abs……………….the list is endless
- Finally contrary to what i thought, you can work out just as hard and sweat just as much when doing strength training by incorporating high intensity interval workouts. e.g. squats + Kettlebell swings or skps + squat jumps and so on
- It also helps you cope with depression and mood swings and also boosts your self esteem and self confidence.
All in all, its a win win situation with strength training in my view but the key is to seek good advice and ensure you use good technique and to remember that if you don’t want to bulk up then watch what you eat and keep to around 2000 to 2200 kcalories per day, if you do want to bulk up then you can increase that by another 500 to 1000kcal. Get in there and watch your body change……………………..Enjoy!