In some cases, the moment that we make mention of strength training to female clients can be a tense one—one that tends to be full of excuses. “I don’t want to bulk up.” “Ha! I’m not a body builder.” “But cardio burns more calories.” The truth is, strength training is one of the best things you can add to your exercise regimen 3-4 times a week—not only for a strong, lean-looking physique, but also for body-fat loss and overall long term health.
The “I don’t want to bulk up” Excuse
Muscle hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle size, is not always a package deal with strength training, especially for women. Your body composition will change—you will build, shape and strengthen your muscles—but that is the point! You want to develop muscle tone and definition, and lose the squishy fat. Unless you’re training full-time for a bodybuilding competition, the bulkiness will be minimal. Plus, compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy.
Extra Calorie Burn
Studies have shown that adding strength training to a workout session can burn more calories in the hours and days following a training session versus just cardio alone. In Exercise Physiology, this is called EPOC—or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Immediately following a strength training session, the body continues to need oxygen at a higher rate than before the training began in order to return the body to its normal resting state. In the hours and days beyond that, extra oxygen and energy are needed to supply the muscles with adequate components to rebuild and recover. Bonus calorie burn!
Muscles Use More Energy
Women who add strength training will tell their body to shift its focus to building and supporting lean muscle mass, as opposed to contributing to fat mass. As your lean muscle mass increases, so does your resting metabolism, resulting in more calories burned throughout the day. Fat is a lazy bum that likes to sit on your bum and do nothing—it doesn’t require any energy to be there. Muscle, on the other hand, is constantly working to support your body and move it around—requiring more overall energy to sustain its presence. Fat loss will almost always come with added strength training.
Effect on Overall Health and Disease Prevalence
Strength training has been proven to have a beneficial effect on the general prevention, treatment and management of osteoporosis, low back pain, arthritis, diabetes, depression and heart disease. Adequate muscle strength supports your joints more effectively, resulting in less joint pain and a reduced risk for injury. Metabolic processes throughout the body will function more efficiently—improving glucose utilization, reducing the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and increasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Let’s not forget the confidence-boosting ability of a strong woman—one of the main weapons in the fight against depression.
Strength training may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely something women of all ages should start considering if they haven’t already. It can be intimidating with unfamiliar weight machines or equipment, or even the overwhelming male presence in that part of the club—so it wouldn’t hurt to work with a personal trainer or fitness professional to develop a strength training program and familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Have no fear, ladies—strong is the new sexy.Get your own personalized plan!
*Disclaimer – Always consult with your physician before engaging in a strength training program.
By Melanie Mauer, Fitness Specialist & Personal Trainer, Elite Sports Clubs – West Brookfield