For all the ladies…Why YOU need to strength train
Ok, I’m sure you ladies know there are a myriad of benefits to strength training. You already know it will make you stronger (uh… duh, it’s called strength training). You probably know it will improve your performance in daily activities and athletics. You may have even heard that it will improve your bone density, helping to prevent conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis. But there are a whole host of other benefits that may never have occurred to you. Drum roll please…
Build the body you really want
Most women believe that in order to get the lean physique they desire they need to spend hours at the gym every week, slogging away on cardio equipment. If they do venture out onto the weight floor, it’s usually high rep work with machines or dumbbells that weigh less than their purses. I hate to break it to you ladies, but steady state cardio is not the most effective tool for fat loss. Your body adapts exceedingly well to the demands of aerobic exercise, and as you become more efficient at it, it will take you longer to burn the same number of calories. Also, once you hop off of that piece of cardio equipment, your body is done burning calories. However, following a resistance training or anaerobic cardio session your body continues to burn calories long after you’ve left the gym, through excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (or EPOC). And to burst another fitness bubble, the low weight/high rep business will more than likely lead to a loss of muscle tissue, especially if you’re in a caloric deficit (psst this is exactly the opposite of what you want). If you want to build a lean, strong body you need a balance of proper nutrition, conditioning (both aerobic and anaerobic), and low(er) rep, heavy resistance training. If your goal is to run a marathon or to look like a marathon runner, then by all means continue to embrace the steady state cardio.
But if you’d rather look like a sprinter, you might want to try some HIIT and lifting some heavy weight.
You have absolutely no idea what your body is capable of. Once you start increasing your strength through heavy weight training, you’ll be astonished at your abilities. Picture perfect pushups? An unassisted chin up? Deadlifting your body weight? All possible if you work hard and train consistently. It will take time and diligent effort, but nothing worth having ever comes easily or quickly. Two years ago I struggled to perform a single body weight pull up, and now I can bust out 33 in 5 minutes! Accomplishing physical things you once thought were impossible will have a positive carry-over effect into your life outside the gym as well. Something as simple as knowing you don’t need to rely on someone else to lift that heavy bag of dog food out of your trunk or to open that pesky pickle jar can be very empowering.
Change your mindset from negative to positive
All too often a woman’s primary objective when she sets foot in the gym is to burn calories and reduce body fat. Having this kind of negative motivation may work in the short-term, but it will leave you burned out and disappointed over the long haul. By constantly striving toward performance based goals, strength training will give you something positive to focus on, making your workouts more meaningful and hopefully more fun! This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improved body composition. But giving yourself a positive goal to work towards will impart you with a sense of purpose, keeping you coming back to the gym day after day, week after week, month after month. By staying consistent with your training and achieving your performance goals, the physique goals you have your sights on will naturally follow suit.
It’s arguable that pretty much any type of physical activity will bring you some degree of stress relief through the release of endorphins, those “feel good” chemicals your brain releases during a workout. Strength training is the best outlet for turning your daily stressors into something positive. Had a bad day at work? Kids refusing to cooperate? Husband being less than appreciative of all you do in a day? Take it out on the weights. Use your stress to fuel your training session, push yourself to beat last week’s workout, and set a PR. Once you finish, you’ll likely leave the gym in a much better mood than when you arrived.
Set a positive example
Take a moment to imagine your little girl, all grown up and plodding away for hours on an elliptical trying to lose the last ten pounds. Now imagine your little girl busting out her first strict body weight chin-up or setting a PR on deadlifts. Which image do you want to see in her future? Intentionally or not, our actions and ideals transfer to our children, and the mother-daughter dynamic is particularly important. The way a mother treats her body, her attitude towards fitness, and her motivation for going to the gym becomes ingrained in her daughter’s subconscious. If you think your daughter hasn’t picked up on the fact that your only reason for going to the gym is to lose weight, you’re kidding yourself.
Why not show her a more positive and rewarding reason, like building strength and improving performance?
Because what you’ve been doing is no longer working (or never worked to begin with)
This one should be fairly self-explanatory so I’ll keep it brief. How long have you been doing what you’re doing? And how’s that working out for ya? Obviously, if the approach you’ve been using for years has left you dissatisfied, something about it is inherently flawed. My suggestion? Change. Get out of your comfort zone and get on the weight floor. Don’t be intimidated by the men there, 99% of them don’t know what they’re doing anyway (I’m talking to you, mister 40 inch waistline doing 10 sets of bicep curls and calling it a day). Don’t worry that you’re going to get “big and bulky,” you simply do not have the anabolic hormones (hello testosterone!) to support significant muscle gains (more on this in a future post).
Not comfortable on your own? Not sure of your form? Hire a trainer to coach you through the basics (compound movements like squats, deadlifts, pushups, etc.) and to set up a simple but effective program catered to you and your goals. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and train!