Celebrate International Women’s Day with Strength Training
International Women’s Day is March 8th. I thought that it was a great time to discuss the benefits of strength training for women.
Before we even get started, let me dispel a common myth that keeps men strength training while women stay corralled on the treadmills doing cardio at your average LA Fitness. Many women fear bulking up and getting huge, “manly” muscles. For the average woman, however, that simply isn’t possible, even if you were actively trying to achieve that result. One reason is due to physiology. Testosterone is the main muscle-building hormone, and women don’t naturally produce anywhere near as much as men do. Women’s dominant hormone, estrogen, actually works to block the building of muscle.
According to Matt Brzycki’s book, A Practical Approach to Strength Training, another reason has to do with women’s proportion of fast-twitch (FT) and slow-twitch (ST) muscle fibers. Research has shown that females possess a slightly higher percentage of ST muscle fibers than males. FT and ST fibers both have the potential to increase in size but FT fibers have a much greater potential. Therefore, since females have a higher percentage of ST fibers, their potential to increase the size of their muscles is lower. When women lift weights, the changes to their muscles are generally related to tone, strength, and endurance rather than size.
The women who are professional bodybuilders with huge, bulging muscles got to be that way through the use of steroids and artificial hormones, as well as years of highly targeted strength training and a huge caloric intake. It simply cannot happen accidentally. Instead, women who perform strength training with the help of a personal trainer are going to see their bodies become more toned and fit. You’re most likely going to get a bit smaller, not bigger. You can read more about what it actually takes to get big muscles here, and try to ignore the insulting comments made about female bodybuilders. There is nothing wrong with having muscles like that if that’s what a person wants to do, but it takes a concerted effort for a woman or a man to do so, and it cannot happen accidentally.
In fact, women benefit hugely from strength training exercises, more so than if they were to stick to strictly cardio. Unfortunately, the media pushes the idea that women must be concerned only with weight loss. If you pick up any women’s health magazine, you are almost guaranteed to see weight loss tips featured on the cover, and it is the sole object of fitness marketing towards women (besides perhaps “fitness fashion”). This is a shame because not only does it reduce a woman’s worth to her waist size, it ignores the health of the whole woman. I don’t want the women in my facility to be simply thinner, I want them to be healthy, strong, disease-free, and better able to tackle the challenges in their day. Strength training can help accomplish all of these things.
A few of the benefits of strength training for women include:
- Increases lean muscle tissue, which builds strength and endurance
- Burns body fat
- Strengthens your metabolism, so you naturally burn more calories throughout the day
- Improves your posture
- Strengthens your bones, reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis
- Reduces your risk of many other conditions including diabetes and some forms of cancer
- Increased strength in tendons and ligaments, helping to protect your joints from injury
- Increase your balance and coordination
This year, celebrate yourself for International Women’s Day by doing something that will make you stronger, happier, and healthier so you can kick more butt every day.
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