I get a lot of women telling me they want to lose weight. And their initial response to doing so is…cardio. They assume with they do a bunch of cardio and get their heart pumping as fast as possible they will burn calories and lose weight. And don’t forget to add in there the insane decrease in calories because they also assume you must eat less to lose weight. While all of this might be a true, this will allow you to lose weight, but does come at the expense of your health, and it still won’t give you the body you desire. Women need strength training for several reasons, but especially if you want to change the look of your body. Because believe it or not, you don’t want to just lose weight. You want to lose fat and get “tONeD” right? Then you need strength training, so let’s talk about the overall benefits of strength training for women.
What is strength training?
Strength training is the performing or physical exercises that are designed to build strength within the body/muscles. Typically weights are involved to add the stimulus on the body necessary for change; but when just starting out, your bodyweight can be enough of a stimulus to initiate change.
The body needs a specific amount of a stimulus placed on it for change to take place. Overtime, that stimulus amount increases as you become better trained, making you then have to progress so you don’t plateau from adaptation.
In laymens terms, you have to continue to lift heavier things or make your workout harder because your body adapts and get’s used to (aka stronger) which means it needs more weights (heavier stimulus) to create more change. If you just do 20 bodyweight squats per day for a year, you will stop seeing results. At the beginning you will see change because your bodyweight and that many reps is difficult. But as it becomes easier and your body gets used to that stimulus, it’s going to stop creating results because the exercise is no longer hard enough for your body to be pushed to create change. I hope that makes sense…
So strength training can be things like pushups, squats, planks, biceps curls, tricep dips…anything that focuses on a specific muscle to get stronger or lift a weight. But strength training can also be the use of weights in the form of deadlifts, front squats, step ups, bench press etc. All focused on strength, but each one applies a different stimulus to the body.
This is also why it is important to follow some type of program. A good coach is going to be able to either progress you, or teach you how to do it, so that you don’t plateau. Even with limited equipment, you can change the stimulus by change repetition number, order of exercises, different weights etc. A lot of ways to do it, but you have to also be smart about it. If you are looking for a strength training program, or rather one that includes strength and cardio for a full, well rounded program, check out the Collective.
Benefits of strength training
Strength training is going to give you a different body, or outcome, then cardio will. If you want to read about the difference, here is a blog post about it. Aside from body image, there are a lot of benefits for strength training in women. Things you may not even think about, but that become extremely important as we age. So by starting now, you get ahead of the game.
You want that toned look, that muscle definition and those nice arms? Strength training. Building muscle tissue also allows you to increase your fat burn/calorie expenditure because it takes more energy (calories) to move muscle than it does to move fat, so your body is working harder!
Decrease risk of chronic disease
Strength training, because it is exercise, can decrease your risk of certain chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension. While it may seem like taking a pill is easier to manage, strength training is actually the golden ticket to lasting change. Even just 2 times a week decreases your risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 40%..I would say thats worth it.
Improve bone density
As we age, our bones become brittle and start to breakdown. This is why you tend to see a lot of elderly people breaking hips when they fall. Strength training will actually help to improve bone density. When you lift weights, you are adding a stimulus to the body, what we talked about above, and so the added weight you are lifting or carrying actually helps to add pressure to the bone which creates more body building cells! So cool, right?!
Increase metabolism function
Strength training builds muscle tissue. Muscle tissue speeds up your resting metabolism because muscle burns more calories than fat. So by increasing our resting metabolism, we are able to then eat more food and still burn the same amount of calories. Yes, you read that right. More muscle = more food = same calorie burn (if not more). That’s a win in my book.
Decrease risk of injury
Not only does strength training build muscle tissue where we concentrate, it also allows your body to improve stability. So while lifting weights to do a shoulder press, you are also strengthening the ligaments around the shoulder girdle that is then going to decrease your injury risk if you were to fall and catch yourself in an odd way. It also will help with balance and stability to even decrease risk of falling and injuring yourself. The more muscle tissue we build, the better our overall stability, which makes us more agile and able to do more without injury risk overall.
How to get started strength training
I know it is much easier to go from a walk, go for a run, hop on the elliptical. Those things don’t take much learning, and therefore you don’t really have to go through the season if looking like you don’t know what you’re doing. But if you follow a program and educate yourself, you won’t have to with strength training, either. If you are a gym goer, just remember, no one cares what you look like and no one is there to pay attention to you. You are the only one worried about you. Unless you are a trainer like me, then you can’t help but watch people and then help when you find it necessary for safety reasons.
Anyways, getting started with strength training..
Start simple. Two days a week with one being upper body focus and one being lower body focus is great. That allows you to work all the muscles, without overwhelming yourself or getting too specific.
Start with the basics. There are 6 movement patterns you want to hit with your workouts: hinge (deadlift), squat, lunge, press (pushups), pull (row) and carry (farmers carry). Those are the basics and what you want to focus on getting started. So find write some things down and find videos you can use to learn the proper mechanics of lifting (so you don’t hurt yourself).
Add progression. This means sticking with the same program for 4-6 weeks and adjusting each week to make it more difficult. So maybe it’s 1-2 more reps, maybe its a little more weight. Whatever that looks like for you.
Those are the basics of getting started, and if that totally overwhelms you and makes you not want to start, get into a program or hire a coach. It’s important to do it right, and if you don’t have the time to put into research or planning, hire someone! There are so many programs out there that will get you started with this (including mine).
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