Although it is a shame that we live in a society where certain body image ideals mean that some women fear strength workouts in case of getting bulky, this article is not about that. This article is about the benefits of strength workouts for women and why you shouldn’t fear that strength training will make you larger… because chances are, if you don’t want it to, it won’t.
Testosterone is needed for muscles to grow and women, on average, have about a 15-20% lower concentration of testosterone than men.
Our muscles need to grow from something. When people want to 'bulk' they have to put in a lot of effort to increase their calorie intake and consume a high amount of protein. If you’re not eating enough to do so, you won’t see any muscles developing.
Bulking is a technical and skilled process. If you want to bulk, your workout regime needs to fit the 3 criteria that body builders follow in order to experience 'hypertrophy' (the enlargement of muscle fibres):
Increasing your muscle mass increases your metabolism. That means with higher muscle mass, you burn more calories. Even at rest. This is why men generally have a higher metabolic rate than women and therefore can consume more calories as they have greater muscle mass. Every strength workout also places stress on our muscles that takes them up to 72 hours to recover. During this recovery time, depending on the intensity of the workout, you could be burning 10% more calories whilst your body is working on that repair. This is known in the gym-world as ‘after-burn!’
So fitness marketing over the years has spread a common myth that toning is a specific type of strength workout for women. A type of workout that stops muscles from getting bulky and instead makes the body firm and tight. Fortunately, these results are not provided by some magic formula that only the influencers are clued up on. All it is, is strength training. The ‘toned’ look is from having low body fat (which can be made more achievable with a higher metabolic rate and burning calories from regular strength workouts) and from increasing muscular strength. The result is less body fat with visibly firmer and tighter muscles.
Strength exercise not only works our muscles but our bones and joints too. As we age, our joint degeneration increases and our bone mineral density decreases. This is especially true once we hit menopause. Low bone mineral density and weak joints can lead to a multitude of problems and injuries such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Strength exercise, especially starting from an earlier age, places stress on our bones and joints which in turn makes them stronger to prepare for further weight-bearing activity.
Strength training is based on functional movements, it's the same movements we perform throughout the day. Lifting heavy bags, picking up heavy kids, pulling open heavy doors…. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was easier? Not only is it great to be able to do more things and for longer, especially as we age, but it’s also important to do them without the risk of getting injured. The fast movements we may have to make such as picking up our children before they run into a wall or holding a bookcase up before it falls down, can cause us to tear, pull or strain our muscles if we don’t have the appropriate muscle strength for the power required. In fact, you may not succeed in the movement at all which of course may result in other accidents.
Whilst all types of exercise boost endorphins, new research has found that strength training causes anxiolytic effects, a whole other benefit for our mental health that exceeds that of regular exercise. In fact, resistance training at a low-to-moderate intensity (<70% of 1 repetition maximum) has been proven in numerous studies to be the best type of training for lowering anxiety.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. In fact, research has found that even lifting weights less than an hour a week could reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 40-70%.
All these benefits of strength training plus improved posture and balance not only improve your way of life now but also for years to come. At Attika, we are passionate about educating on these benefits so that women don’t miss out.
Strength training is not reserved for only for men. Strength training will make you strong, healthy, feeling great and able to do more, physically, in life.