Strength training for women
Strength training or weight lifting can be intimidating for women.
Strength training for women: Our Plan is Part of Your Normal Life
Strength training or weight lifting can be intimidating for women, especially for beginners! Many women have never picked up a dumbbell or ventured into the weights section of the gym – often because of old, completely inaccurate ideas that it’s not the “right” sort of training for women, that it’s dangerous for our joints to lift heavy weights or that it will make you look “bulky”.
Our team is passionate about the incredible impact that strength training offers to women. Whether you’re looking to achieve fat loss, build strength, grow lean muscle or simply feel fitter and more capable in your daily life activities, then incorporating resistance training into your fitness routine is an absolute must.
Want a “toned” or “lean” body? Strength training is the way to achieve results
Many of our female clients arrive at the gym wanting to “tone up”, saying that after months (or even years) of sweating their way through cardio workouts and HIIT classes, they still haven’t obtained the results they want. This is where we introduce them to the idea of strength training to build muscle mass and strength.
To achieve this toned aesthetic, there are two basic steps: strengthening your muscles and losing the body fat covering them. The result is that you build more lean muscle and your muscles become more visible and defined.
A common mistake for women with these goals is do loads of cardio exercise. While this will help you to achieve a calorie deficit and therefore lose weight, it will not guarantee that this weight loss comes from fat, and it will not build muscle. Therefore, you might find yourself with a smaller body, but not a lean one. Lifting weights is all about shaping your body and creating strength.
But wait… Won’t lifting weights make me look bulky?!
No! Please don’t let this old myth bother you. Building a significant amount of muscle takes a lot of hard work and time! Adding weights into your fitness routine will not see you suddenly develop huge amounts of muscle. It takes time, commitment and a well-designed training programme that includes progressive overload and an effective nutrition plan.
While it’s certainly possible to add mass and grow your body through weights, that’s just one outcome. With proper programming, you can use weight training to simply shape your body and create a toned, lean look.
Thanks to hormonal differences between men and women, it’s much more difficult for women to get “bulky” when strength training. Men have between 240-950 nanograms of testosterone per deciliter of blood, whereas women only have between 8-60. Since testosterone is a key driver of muscle strength, logic follows that men will find it relatively easier to pack on muscle mass. So, instead of worrying about putting on unwanted mass, focus on the fact that lifting heavy weights will help to strengthen your bones and give you increased muscle definition.
Finally, to build a really serious amount of muscle, you also need to eat a serious amount of food! Bulking up in a noticeable way not only takes time and heavy weights, it also requires you to eat a lot more. You would need to be in a consistent calorie surplus with a high amount of protein to put on serious bulk. If building mass that’s your goal – great, weight training can help you to achieve this. If not – no worries. Weight-lifting can be incorporated intelligently into your training to achieve a wide variety of goals.
Benefits of strength training for women
Strength training exercises have so much to offer women, beyond just aesthetic goals. One of the most important benefits of weight training for women is the positive impact it has on bone health.
As we age, both men and women lose bone density. For women however, this happens particularly rapidly once we enter the menopause. This loss of bone density is a key factor in the increased frailty and risk of fracture that we see in older women. Strength training for women is therefore incredibly important to help prevent osteoporosis and stay strong well into later life.
Strength training for women is also key for…
- Helping to build lean muscle > building lean muscle means you become stronger and more capable in your day-to-day life. The skills and strength you developing in weight training transfer to your daily activities – think about running for the bus, carrying heavy things, lifting your kids, climbing stairs… Weight training makes all of this much easier
- Building stronger, more mobile joints
- Improving cardiovascular fitness
- Helping your body prepare for motherhood > if you’re planning on having a baby, strength training can help your body develop the strength it needs to cope with the demands of pregnancy and labour
- Improving your mental health
- Boosting confidence > Pushing past your comfort zone and learning a new skill can be incredibly empowering. Plus, lifting something the equivalent of your body weight feels pretty damn good
- Enhancing cardio health
- Driving your performance in running and other sports
What does a strength training workout look like?
If you’re completely new to strength training, working with a personal trainer is highly recommended in order to ensure you are lifting properly, with technique that is both safe, to avoid injury, and effective, to ensure you’re working what you actually want to work. The key is to build confidence and nail your form across the fundamental patterns of movement, before gradually adding load to increase the challenge and provide the body with the stimulus it needs to build muscle.
Depending on your goals and your training schedule, your trainer might choose to do full body workouts with you, or do a split for example alternate between upper body and lower body workouts.
When you first start resistance training, the key will be to learn and master the fundamental patterns of movement (e.g. squat, lunge, hinge, pull, push…) before gradually adding a weight load to these movements to increase the challenge. Effective weight training relies on the principle of progressive overload; in other words gradually increasing the challenge to make sure your muscles continues to receive enough stimulus to grow and become stronger.