Strength training for women - that very term often conjures up images of women looking like male bodybuilders, or hard-core weightlifting workouts that turn your biceps into blocks of steel.
Take a look at our fabulous female Personal Trainers from our UFIT Orchard gym - who, along with their clients do regular strength training - and have toned, feminine bodies. In Part 1 of this two part series, here’s what Tsvety, Jasmine and Ellie have to say about the effect of strength training on the female body, health and mind - balanced out with the way a male sees it all (thanks Nathan Williams).
WhAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR WOMEN?
Tsvety Ivanova - from Bulgaria, mum of Isla aged 16 months
It lowers body fat - When you do strength work your body composition will change and resting metabolic rate will increase which will burn more fat
It increases physical strength - You'll be less dependent on others. Nothing makes me feel more invincible than picking up my own stroller in one arm, child and diaper bag in the other and going down a flight of stairs. As you get older, that strength will keep you independent and able to take care of yourself for longer
It improves athletic performance and increases energy - You'll be stronger, more powerful and faster in any sport you do, but not just that. Doing things around the house or with your kids will be much easier. The daily chores won’t feel nearly as tiring and you will feel much more capable
It reduces the risk of injury Just ask most of my runner clients how much less knee pain they’ve had after strengthening their glutes. Weight lifting not only builds stronger muscles but also builds stronger connective tissues and better joint stability
It decreases the risk of osteoporosis It's been proven that to stop, reverse and prevent bone loss you should add strength training to your workouts. It protects bone and muscle mass.
It decreases the risk of diabetes Your body may improve the way it processes sugar, which could reduce the risk of diabetes
It improves mood and fights depression The best stress relief in my opinion is smashing a strength training session. Strength training releases endorphins that naturally make you feel better.
What are the myths?
Jasmine Danker, from Singapore
There are so many myths! I’ve heard it all since I picked up my very first dumbbell when I was 15:
- Don’t lift anything more than 3kg! Your arms will get massive.
- Don’t train legs or you’ll develop thunder thighs.
- Don’t do over your head to heavy or you'll get bulky
- Only run on the cardio machine and do a lot of abs.
I once believed all this malarkey and it hindered whatever benefits I could have gotten if the people around me told me the truth about strength training, but it's never to late to discover it yourself. This is what I still hear:
"I don’t want to have muscle I want to be toned" - There isn’t a difference between both; being toned or defined only means you have low enough body fat so your muscles can be seen. Therefore the less fat you have covering your muscles the more toned you are, and the fatter you are the less defined you will be. So to get toned you've got to build some muscle, and to carry less fat around your body, strength training obviously can do just that! Boom !@#!
"Bench presses will make your boobs flat" - Every woman’s dream body happens to be a six-pack and maintaining their chest size thanks to all the fitness/bikini models on social media (roll eyes).
What actually causes breast reduction is extremely low body fat. Your breast tissue is mostly fat and any chest exercise won't cause your body fat to dwindle low. As long as you keep eating enough. The American Council on Exercise says that "10 to 13 percent body fat is the minimum amount you should have to be healthy, so a percentage of 10 or more should keep your breast size normal”.
"Muscle will turn to fat if you take a break from lifting" - Both are made up of very different types of cells that have different functions. The muscle cells simply shrink when someone stops exercising after a long period of time to conserve energy. The reason behind weight gain is failing to adjust their food intake to compensate for their decrease of caloric needs and continue to devour the same amount as when they were lifting.
"It’s dangerous". Everything is dangerous, walking in heels is way more dangerous then weightlifting, but we still do it. The benefit outweighs it all and if you want to learn the proper technique on lifting we are here at your service!
What do we mean by strength training?
Ellie Halse, from the UK
Strength isn’t just a physical state, it's also a mental state. Strength can be defined as being able to withstand a force, and for a lot of women that can mean a lot of different things. I believe it's best explained by if you feel strong you are strong.
Strength training for females has so much variety!
1. For lean muscle and endurance:
Use lighter weights and higher reps - and perform high numbers of the same movement.
2. For hypertrophic muscle:
Add weight, decrease reps - for a mixture of endurance and strength.
3. To get big bursts of strength for short periods:
For pure strength/power training, increase the weight and do smaller rep ranges (1-5).
In short, there is something for every woman out there. Woman also hold their strength differently to men. We're able to build lower body strength much easier than males, however having less testosterone males will build bigger muscles much easier than females.
Thankfully today more and more women are strength training than ever before and at UFIT Orchard our team of powerhouse women bring their own style of strength training to the floor, whether it’s for the perfect booty, lifting heavy, or movement efficiency.
We’ve heard from the women - hear it now from Nathan Williams
Over the past five to ten years there's been a huge change in the mentality of strength training by females.
Within the fitness industry I believe this trend was popularised by the amazing female physiques forged by the ladies of the world's most popular fitness company CrossFit. CrossFit has made female strength training sexy and achievable. This trend is now mainstream and all good coaches know that to get your female clients a lean and athletic physique - of different degrees - that strength training is absolutely essential for training success.
UFIT has always attracted slightly more females than men in terms of clients (around 50-55%) and this seems to be even higher at our new Orchard location - the women really are taking over the gym floor!
Ask any coach, there's no better feeling when your female client is rocking relatively big weights with impeccable form and the whole gym can't help but stop, look and says “Wow!” No ego, just consistent progress, hard work and long term dedication to getting stronger and better.