Sizing It Up

When it comes to strength training, many women envision men with bulging muscles at the gym “pumping iron.” Other women, unaware of strength training’s benefits, shy away from it due to misconceptions about what it will do or not do to their bodies. According to the National Center for Health, only 21 percent of women are involved in strength training two to three times per week! This number needs to change in order to promote the health, capability and confidence of women nationwide.

Strength Training For Women

By Laura Childers

Consider the Benefits

The most obvious benefit of strength training is increased lean muscle mass, making you physically stronger. As you build muscle, you increase the amount of calories you burn per day, even if you are at rest. In fact, for every pound of lean muscle mass that you build, 35-50 extra calories are burned per day. This is because muscle takes more energy to maintain than fat.

As you increase muscle mass and the amount of calories you burn, you will increase your metabolic rate (rate of energy expended). This in turn, will assist you with weight management. A recent study says that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and will lose 3.5 pounds of fat. Strength training, in particular, can help you keep from gaining intraabdominal fat, known for wrapping around organs and constricting blood vessels.

Strength training is also known for significantly increasing and restoring bone density, which lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis. This means that strength training is particularly important for women, as post-menopausal women can lose from 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass annually.

Strength training also builds stronger ligaments and tendons, increases your joint stability and flexibility, and lowers your risk of injury.

Convinced yet? If not, other benefits of strength training include:

• improved balanced and coordination

• lowered blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of developing heart disease

• increased glucose utilization, reducing the risk of developing diabetes

• improved mood

• increased self-confidence

Getting StartedStrength Training sidebar

So now that you’re motivated to hit the gym, here are some quick tips for getting started on a weight training program.

Have a game plan. This is the number one rule. You don’t want to get ready and go to the gym only to start scratching your head. Ideally, you should design a program to fit your needs, keeping in mind a few training principles.

1. Think total body. Select one or two exercises for muscle groups in the chest, back, legs and core.

2. Determine sets and reps. A standard program would be 8 to 15 repetitions in two to three sets.

3. Choose the weight. You should choose the heaviest weight that still allows you to complete the repetition. If you finish without a struggle, the weight is too light. If you alter your body position to complete the rep, the weight is too heavy.

4. Follow through. You should keep the muscles under tension while performing the movement, and each rep should take from 4 to 7 seconds.

Do it well. If you are going to work out, go for it! There is no use in doing it halfway. This means you should adhere to a few more basic exercise principles.

1. Warm up and cool down. You should do at least five minutes of cardio before lifting any weights. You should also take breaks between sets and rest between lifting days.

2. Don’t forget to breathe. This is very important if you want to maintain the correct balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood and avoid passing out. To keep oxygen going through your bloodstream, exhale during the exertion and inhale during the return to the starting position.

3. Push yourself. If you don’t break a sweat, it’s not worth it. On a scale of one to ten, one being laying in bed and ten being your fastest sprint, aim for a seven or eight.

With your newfound knowledge about strength training and a little determination, you’ll be ready to start lifting toward a better body. So wish osteoporosis and extra belly fat goodbye, because you’re on your way to a healthier, happier, stronger you.