Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tribute to Women of Strength


Here is a short video with several of my friends, colleagues, team mates, and clients training for competition or just to stay in shape.

Regardless of whether I am training male or female clients, I approach their strength training program with a similar intensity. Of course there will be small variations in each individuals workout, but to get results both men and women need to participate in a serious strength training program as part of their overall exercise plan.

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to serious strength training for women. Many women mistakenly believe that resistance training will create large, unattractive muscles. Some women think they have to lose their body fat before starting to weight train, or the fat will “turn into muscle”. The truth is that the vast majority of women do not have the genetics to build large muscles. It is also impossible to turn fat into muscle, or muscle into fat, as each cell is completely different from one another.

Strength training has been proven to benefit all populations, both male and female, from young athletes to older adults. In fact, intense resistance training provides tremendous benefits to women, in particular. Traditionally, women depended on a low calorie diet and cardiovascular activity to “get in shape”. Unfortunately, low calorie diets simply depress your metabolism and, without including resistance training, make it nearly impossible to attain long term results. It has now been demonstrated that strength training is essential if you want to get leaner and reshape your body. But the benefits of strength training go far beyond physical appearance:

1) Increased Metabolic Rate – This is a very important benefit of strength training for women. A good strength training program will increase your resting metabolism by increasing the calories you burn every day! This helps you reduce body fat much more quickly! This becomes especially significant for middle age women, because strength training can help them avoid the typical metabolic ‘slump’ that often occurs at that stage in life. Therefore, the secret to staying lean as we age is not to eat less, but to do more strength training!

2) Increasing Bone Density - Strength training prevents and combats osteoporosis by maintaining or increasing bone density. This reduces risk of fractures and other health issues. Once again, this becomes even more important as we age.

3) Lean Muscle Gain - Note: You will NOT get big and bulky by strength training! Women do not produce enough testosterone to develop excessively large muscles. You would need to train with very heavy weights, eat significantly more, and dedicate yourself for years to becoming a bodybuilder in order to “bulk up”, and even then most women would not become overly muscular. Simply lifting weights as part of a regular strength training program will make you leaner, stronger, and more “shapely” or toned. Keep in mind, for every pound of lean muscle you have you will burn about 50 calories each day! This is a good reason to maintain or gain that lean tissue!

4) Injury Prevention - Strength training strengthens our muscles and tendons, as well as bones, as already mentioned. Once again, this is important as we get older. Strength training for women and men is highly recommended for injury prevention.

5) Better Balance - Stronger legs and core muscles, as well as greater neural muscular control, means an increase in overall balance and coordination.

6) Decrease Risk of Coronary Disease - Strength training can reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Heart disease is one of the highest causes of death for women each year.

7) Rehabilitation and Recovery – Building stronger muscles and more stable joints is one of the best ways to recover from an injury. By ensuring the muscles surrounding a joint are trained in a balanced manner, and strong on both sides, you speed the rehabilitation process.

8) Enhanced Performance in Physical Activity – This results in a better quality of life. Regular daily activities are performed with less effort.

9) Aging Gracefully – Strength training can help you maintain stable hormone levels, prevent “sagging” bodyparts, keep a more youthful figure, and improve your posture.

10) Look and Feel Better – Strength training can improve your self image by keeping your body looking younger, healthier and leaner. Strength training will reduce body fat, increase muscle tone, regulate blood sugar levels, and help you build strength and confidence. The physical results alone are a great reason to start strength training, but the mental benefits are awesome as well.

Quite often women will avoid using heavy weights while strength training because they are afraid of “bulking up”. Unfortunately, if not enough resistance is used the muscle will not be challenged enough to become more "toned" or "shaped". Consistent hard work is necessary to become more toned and to reshape your physique! You need to lift weights that are heavy enough to cause muscle fatigue.

To achieve safe results quickly, you should follow an effective program designed by a certified fitness professional. As always, consult with your physician before beginning any new exercise routine. I hope this article has inspired you to take your strength training program seriously and I wish you the best in reaching your fitness and performance goals!

Stay Fit,

Josh Hewett
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