Strength Training for Women
Strength training is an important part of an overall fitness plan. Unfortunately, many women still believe that strength training will make them “bulky” or “manly”. This is just not true for almost all women out there. Just like men, women must be genetically predisposed to add serious mass for strength training to add that kind of muscle. Or they are chemically enhanced, but we won’t go there. Women will often put in hours of cardio every week and never touch free weights or machines. Aerobic activity is important, but it needs to be balanced with regular strength training.
Despite its reputation as a “guy” thing, strength training is an important part of a well balanced fitness program for everyone, regardless of gender or age. Regular strength training can help increase lean muscle mass, reduce body fat and burn more calories, even at rest. We all want to look better and feel better and strength training can help. Regular strength training can also help you:
- Control your weight – Lean muscle burns more calories, even at rest.
- Develop stronger bones – Strength training helps increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Reduce your risk of injury – Adding muscle helps to protect your joints from injury and can also contribute to better balance, which can help maintain independence as we age.
- Manage chronic conditions – Strength training can reduce the symptoms of many chronic conditions, such as back pain, diabetes, arthritis, depression, obesity and osteoporosis.
- Boost stamina – You won’t fatigue as easily as you get stronger.
- Sharpen focus – As we age, we tend to lose some of our focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps us improve focus.
So how do you get started? First of all, get clearance from your doctor before starting any exercise program. Once you are cleared, you have a few options. Many people are not comfortable in a gym environment. They often feel lost because they don’t what to do, or they aren’t comfortable working out in front of others or they just don’t want to go wait for their turn on the machines. The good news is you don’t have to join a gym to get an effective workout. While gyms do offer a bit more variety due to the machines and free weights, you can get an effective workout using body weight exercises, bands or you can buy some free weights relatively inexpensively.
- Body weight exercises are an excellent place to start for beginners and can even be included for more advanced trainees. Pull-ups, push-ups, abdominal exercises, body weight squats and lunges are all great to include in a workout program.
- Resistance bands are an inexpensive way to add extra resistance to your workout routine as you gain strength.
- Free weights are classic training tools and are a great addition to any home gym if you have the necessary space. A quality bench and some dumbbells can add a new dimension to your workouts.
Another option is to hire a personal trainer. While hiring a personal trainer can seem expensive, the benefit of having someone set up your program, guide you through it and track your progress can be invaluable to sticking with it. We often need someone to be accountable to and to provide support and motivation when we just don’t feel like working out. And when you compare the cost of living a healthy lifestyle to the cost of an inactive, sedentary lifestyle, it really isn’t that expensive. When you are fit and healthy, you are more energetic and productive, you use fewer sick days and your medical bills drop. Being healthy has a positive impact on every aspect of your life, including financially.
You don’t need to spend hours a day working out to enjoy the benefits of strength training. Two to three sessions per week lasting just 30 to 60 minutes will usually benefit most people. You may notice improvements in your strength and stamina in a few weeks and begin to see changes in your appearance in 4 to 6 weeks.
There are no quick fixes when it comes to your health and fitness. Strength training and aerobic activity should become a regular part of your healthy new lifestyle to improve your physical and emotional well-being.