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Women and Strength

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101_0236Women and strength—those two words seem to belong together.  Strength training for women is empowering.  Not only am I referring to the physical aspect but also the mental and emotional aspect.  As a personal trainer I am constantly asked by my female clients “but won’t that make me big”?  Perhaps, if you trained like a crazed Olympian seven days a week and took anabolic steroids.  If you don’t then it will only make you look better, feel better, help to prevent osteoporosis, and the positive mental and emotional benefits will carry over to other areas of your life.
Don’t get me wrong I realize and appreciate the differences between men and women, especially anatomically.  However, I don’t believe that they need to train that differently.  Physiologically speaking men and women are very similar from a musculoskeletal standpoint.  There are some differences in my training for the genders; most women lack significant upper body strength so I focus on bringing that in balance with the greater strength most women have in the lower body.  Women by nature, for childbearing purposes, tend to carry more body fat in the leg and hip areas; training adjustments are sometimes made in this area.  Other than that the training is similar.  An ectomorphic male would be trained similarly to an ectomorphic female; just as the training would vary for those individuals with an endomorphic body style.  The differences in training are more closely related to body style rather than gender.

So ladies, time to hit the weights and hit them hard!  Weight training is imperative but only a part of a well balanced exercise program that includes cardiovascular activity, functional training and sound nutrition.  How often?  2-4 times per week depending on your goals.  How heavy?  Don’t be afraid of heavy weights, form is everything but until you have developed sound technique I advise going lighter.  Also, the body adapts to any type of training and it is best to periodize your training and change it up about every 4-6 weeks.  Vary your reps from 8-12 for a given time period and then 6-8 for the same time period.  That will give you conditioning (nice muscle tone) and strength.  Which exercises?  Compound movement’s, keep it simple, keep it basic.  Squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses (flat, incline and decline), rows and pull ups or pulldowns.  Your smaller ancillary muscles (arms and calves) will get more than adequate work.  Throw in some core work to keep the lower back and abdominals strong and functional and you are well on your way to becoming a tight and toned lean mean machine.

In addition to developing and maintaining lean body mass you will set your metabolism on fire!  Muscle is metabolically active fat is not.  Just by the sheer nature of having more muscle you will increase the efficiency of your metabolism.  Weight training also increases bone density which can help prevent osteoporosis.  Strengthening tendons and ligaments will help prevent injury and there is no sport on this planet that performance will not be enhanced through strength training.  These are just a few of the physical benefits of strength training for women.

From a mental and emotional standpoint, weight training is incredible.  When you progressively increase the weights, see your strength increase and your body metamorphosis something happens internally.  You begin to feel better about your self; your confidence and self esteem improve.  You believe in yourself more, you begin to feel the ability to accomplish your goals.  You take charge of yourself, charge of your life and the sky is the limit.  This transposes into your personal relationships—they improve or you have the courage to disentangle yourself from negative ones.  This also carries over to your career, whether it is inside or outside the home.  You become a better mother or better at your outside job.  Stress is easier to handle and solutions to problems become more clearly visible.

There are many facets to changing your life for the better and strength is one of them.  The stronger we are of body the stronger we are of mind, so grab the steel and pound it—your life will never be the same.