Men and women should train differently is a common myth. Being feminine is often misinterpreted to be synonymous with being fragile. Hence, as intimidating as the typical gym appears to be to most female members, thanks to the glamorized images of frail women in glossy magazines, TV shows, and movies; the free weight section is permanently passed on to become the official domain of men.
What is strength training?
Anything that puts pressure on your muscles to induce contraction by providing resistance is strength training.
Why should you take up training with weights?
Building strength keeps your body injury free and minimizes age-related wear and tear. It builds the foundation and power to engage in any physical activity with safety and find it even more enjoyable, thanks to improved body control. So, be it explosive cardio or steady state running, hours of dancing or hiking or just about any other demanding activity or sport. Weight training will make you better at it.
Yoga and Pilates, under able supervision, are safe and less taxing methods of training with resistance using your own body weight. Nevertheless, the gains in muscle density that you will get through lifting serious weights are likely to be unbeatable.
For once and for all, busting the myth about getting ‘big’ and ‘bulky’!!!
The day you decide that you actually WANT to build big muscles will be the day you realize how difficult it is for women to gain sizeable muscle that reflects pure brute strength. Female bodybuilders work towards getting ‘big’ and ‘bulky’ for many years before they are able to flex and flaunt considerable muscle gain. Many take additional ‘help’ of anabolic steroids or inject male hormones.
Crossfit athletes and power-lifters shove around heavy weight in excess of 300 pounds every week for months and years, eat six meals a day and consume up to 200 grams of protein daily before they are able to add a thick layer of substantial muscle all over their bodies. Yet, some women despite this rigorous lifestyle still do not gain an intimidating amount of muscle mass. For instance, Christmas Abbot, Crossfit athlete & coach (right) despite showing exceptional muscular clarity, still maintains a very lean frame of 115-pound body weight with a height of 5’3” despite having a personal record of squatting and deadlifting over 220 pounds!
As a famous fitness model, Jamie Eason puts it; muscles are the fountain of youth. Lifting stresses your body to keep producing growth hormone while you rest, which in turn keeps your young! For the average gym-going female who lifts primarily in the range of 2-30 pound dumbbells, you get to control the size, shape, and appearance of every part of your body according to your own preferences. As an added bonus, increased muscular definition will enhance your curves minus the flab!
Watch the following videos to gain a greater understanding of the benefits of resistance training and learn why too much cardio to lose weight could be counter-productive since it burns away precious muscle tissue along with the fat.
Building a stronger ‘you.’ How to get started?
- Enroll in a gym as usual but give the cardio machines a much-needed break and ask a trainer to teach you the basic lifts for all the different body parts.
Beginners, in the gym, are often asked to train on machines because they save a newbie from worrying about their breath control, postural alignment etc and simply focus on the targeted body part.
- Do not hang on to the machines for too long. Move on to free weights as soon as you can. It is safe for people of all age groups to develop the propensity to train with dumbbells and smaller barbells. Just ensure that you learn to execute all movements with perfect form.
Meanwhile, also incorporate the beginner versions of fundamental bodyweight movements like kneeling pushups, squats, walking lunges and assisted pull-ups in your workout routine.
Supported by a reasonably clean, healthy diet and cardiovascular conditioning 3-4 times a week, one should see serious changes within 3-6 months of a good workout program.
- Always remember that apart from staying consistent, progressive overload is crucial to ensure constant improvements in physical form. Until you achieve your goal weight, size and definition, always try to improve your numbers in your performance every week, no matter how small the increment.
For instance, try to sneak in a couple of extra repetitions from the usual number you can execute on different exercises. Attempt a slightly heavier weight to gauge your ability to control it or crank the resistance up by a couple of levels, if only for a few minutes, when on a cardiovascular machine.
If you can motivate yourself to stick to a workout program long enough under the supervision of a decent trainer who constantly keeps a tab on your form and technique, you might find yourself amazed by the amount of “muscle tone” you see on your body. Everyone is different. The results might arrive slowly for some women, but they will not diminish overnight and will surely last long, unlike the weight gain that comes back after merely a day’s binge for those who resort to crash-dieting or marathon cardio sessions.
- If you ever want to build greater badass strength, learn to practice all the ‘big’ lifts on the 45-pound Olympic barbell. The ‘big’ lifts are compound movements like squats, deadlifts, barbell rows, bench press etc.
Complement these movements with advanced bodyweight exercises like decline push-ups, close grip push- ups, low bar inverted row and pull-ups in your routine.
Several links at NiaShanks.com and SimplyShredded.com, offer sound guidelines and principles involved to start a good strength-training program.
The blog Factor75.com reiterates the experiences of several women who found love for their own bodies, once they started worrying about building strength over getting slim.
On a final note, one must realize that fitness is a very personal journey that you have to go on with your own body. Everybody’s journey and progress is bound to be different and will run at a different pace. Focus on building and refining your physical skills by mastering the simplest movement patterns first. Keep building upon every little triumph and make sure that you are kind to your body while you are at it.