Strength Training for Women
Strength training. Some of us love it, some of us tolerate it, and some of us avoid it altogether. When it comes to strength training there are some serious benefits, particularly for women. Since people are getting on their new year’s resolutions we wanted to take the time to point out why it is so important for women to include strength training in their routine, as well as dispel some myths that may be preventing you from giving it a go.
First of all, it is an absolute myth that if you lift “heavy” that you will modify your body in a way that makes you “bulky” or masculine. Our body shape is largely determined by our genetics, our diets, and our hormones. For most women, we simply don’t produce enough testosterone or growth hormone to rapidly gain muscle mass in that way. Also, building the type of muscle mass that women are talking about when they say things like that takes a very specific training program, as well as being in a calorie surplus for a long period of time. Why do you think we call it “bulking” season? Because usually people tend to gain some fat mass at the same time when they are eating for muscle growth due to the surplus. People who train for large gains in muscle mass will typically then follow this with a period of “cutting,” or eating in a calorie deficit to return back to a leaner body composition with the increased muscle mass. However, not for nothing, the reason that the person you have been admiring or labeling “body goals” looks so toned is because they possess muscle! Muscle tissue is also metabolically more expensive than other tissues. That means the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you will burn throughout the day, even at rest. Pretty rad if you ask us.
Furthermore, strength training is basically the fountain of youth and can help combat aging processes, specifically the negative effects associated with menopause. Changes in metabolism and progression to metabolic syndrome is a real concern for women going through menopause. Strength training has been proven to increase muscle mass, improve glycemic control, regulate blood lipids, regulate blood pressure, and improve overall metabolic health. This is so important to note because one thing that MANY of our female clients report to us during this period is their frustration with weight gain and feeling like it is impossible to lose despite trying “everything.” Many studies have shown that when women participate in a progressive strength training program they are able to gain lean muscle mass, lose fat, and even improve balance. The research also supports that strength training leads to improved bone density. Osteopenia and osteoporosis disproportionately affect females after menopause. This increases risks for serious injuries, a hip fracture being one of the worst, as it most often leads to an invasive surgery. 6 out of 10 people never fully regain their prior level of function after a broken hip. Those aren’t great odds. Most strength training programs will affect those joints most likely to fracture- the spine, hips, and wrists, making them stronger and healthier over time. So if you want to stay in one piece, LITERALLY, adding strength training into your routine is a great place to start.
Strength training offers you independence. When we are strong we are capable. This is important as we age when you consider even simple things like getting on/off the floor, climbing stairs, carrying laundry or groceries, and even just standing up from a low seat. Strength loss causes reliance on others and reduces quality of life. You have to wait for others to make time for you instead of just doing whatever task you are looking to complete. This could apply to carrying firewood or pellets, moving furniture, installing air conditioners, even something as simple as opening a jar. I think most women can relate to the feeling of complete annoyance when you need help with a lid. We know we can! Plus, think of the moments you may miss if you aren’t strong enough to pick up your grandkids, if you aren’t able to play with them as they grow up, or if you have to decline participation in trips with family or friends because you are worried your body won’t be able to keep up. Even if you don’t love lifting weights, the pros certainly outweigh the cons!
At Clash we emphasize the importance of strength training as a habit, especially for women. You don’t have to get under a barbell to build strength. A good strength training program can be adjusted to be sustainable for any woman, no matter her experience in the gym or with sports. If you don’t know where to start, invest in a good trainer and get some coaching! If you think of it as an investment in your future it changes things. Just as you would invest in a retirement plan financially, investing in things that will keep you healthy long term pays dividends. If you have questions don’t hesitate to reach out!
- Gómez-Alvarez, Nicolás & Jofré-Hermosilla, Néstor & Matus Castillo, Carlos & Pavez-Adasme, Gustavo. (2019). Effects of muscle strength training in postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome. Systematic review. Cultura, Ciencia y Deporte. 14. 213-224. 10.12800/ccd.v14i42.1334.
- Rosario, Eric & Villani, Rudolph & Harris, Jeff & Klein, Rudi. (2003). Comparison of Strength-Training Adaptations in Early and Older Postmenopausal Women. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 11. 143 -. 10.1123/japa.11.2.143.