Warning …I have just trained.
Weights. In the gym. The lone “she-wolf” in the pack pushing some big tin.
I feel on top of the world. I literally feel like I am walking taller and lighter and if someone tried to “jump” me right now, I would be the victor.
Ain’t nobody stealing my handbag from me right now.
My endorphins are flowing and my testosterone is high. I feel invincible.
How cool is that?
And that my friends is ONE of the benefits of strength training.
Now I know you have heard it before, and likely a million times, how important strength training is to women and why we should be doing it.
NO? Well let me give you a summary of SOME of the benefits;
- you will lose body fat.
- you will gain strength.
- you decrease your risk of osteoporosis.
- you will improve your athletic performance.
- you will be physically stronger.
- reduce your risk of injury, back pain & arthritis.
- you will reduce your risk of heart disease.
- you will reduce your risk of diabetes.
Any google search (which is where I collated this list of goodies) will tell you all of these things.
So why is there still this unspoken fear around lifting heavy things and that crazy theory we need to eat less and do more….. especially cardio…. to reshape our bodies and look more “toned”.
I hate that word…. “tone”. What does it even mean?
Generally when someone asks for a body with more “tone” they mean “I want a firmer body and more muscular definition and shape”. Muscles do not “tone” up, they increase or decrease in size. The look of the body “firming up” or “toning” (cringe) comes from an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in bodyfat, making the body look less “wobbly”.
This shaped look is obtained by lifting heavy stuff, for the strength of your body, repeatedly and some element of dietary manipulation and control.
Toned; buzz word of the moment that the industry consumers understand, whatevs.
I am sorry. I hear the shards of disillusioned dreams falling to the floor.
It is quite simply…..hard work.
Right, now we have that out of the way, let us carry on. I will tell you some cool benefits from strength training and possibly clear up some other stupid stuff I have heard about females in the weights arena, shall we? Yeah, great, keep reading.
If you want to change the look and shape of your body then strength training is the way to go. The reason that the sport of Bodybuilding has had a recent resurgence with female athletes is quite simply that weights work. The transformations are unreal. Using a weight that challenges you will carve out the muscle that you desire- like a sculptor working with a clay masterpiece. Weights will enable you to carve out bits you want to shave down and add muscle to areas you need to highlight.
(Side note: that is about as technical as spot reduction gets- you can’t do it, it is a myth, but you can work on your natural bodyshape to highlight and firm some areas of your body while minimising others. You can create the illusion of a “smaller” waist, and with diligent work in the kitchen, lose some bodyfat to make your hard work “pop”)
This may be a good opportunity to blast away another myth-
You WILL NOT get bulky lifting weights.
Yes, you will hopefully build some more muscle mass. It is however bloody hard work to put on muscle mass naturally. As females, we do not have as high a proportion of Testosterone like our male counterpart. It requires strategic nutrition and very challenging weights for YOUR body to build muscle tissue. Now the tissue built, though referred to as mass, is not some huge, unknown entity that sits on our skeleton. It is shapely, firm and a functional connective tissue responsible for manipulating our bones from one point to another in order to create movement. It is a smaller volume (space) than fat. So, replace 1kg of fat with 1kg of denser muscle tissue, you will look smaller, take up less space per se.
Train like a Man-
I have seen it, men being put through or putting themselves through challenging strength training routines that include functional movement patterns like Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, Pushes, Pull-ups, Lunges and rotational patterns. A thorough and complete training plan hitting all of the functional training patterns of movement.
Then I look at us girls. Yes, some have cottoned onto the “training like a man” concept and are following their male counterparts, but most are still doing hours of cardio, or using light weights in circuits that include high repetitions and pretty much look/ feel like a cardio workout. Now before you say “hold up Big Nats….” High repetition bodyweight circuits are a GREAT place to START from- if that is what your body finds to be difficult in terms of STRENGTH training. The key thing here is to push weight that is CHALLENGING for your body. That might be your bodyweight, it might be resistance bands, but it needs to be something that puts the fear of God into you. That there is a genuine fear you might not get the return phase of that one extra rep on that 2nd to last set in your program. And yes, your heart rate will spike.
You DO NOT need cardio to “lose weight”. Strength training is where it is at.
Use cardio as a tool to keep your heart and lungs healthy and because you ENJOY it. Pounding the pavement, or worse, cardio on electrically fed machines, can be detrimental to the body changes you desire. If you are not feeling it, if your joints are sore, don’t go there.
Listen to your instinct.
I love getting outside and walking/ chasing my dog. I get out of breath (oxygen debt), my heart rate spikes and I get Vitamin D booster (link here for why this is so good for us) …BOOM!
(Side Note: Cardio is used as a TOOL by bodybuilding competitors to lean up for shows….. a TOOL, a weapon that only works if it is not abused in the periodised plan of training leading up to said show.
A lot of dietary planning is required with strategic cardio -LISS and HIIT, to get there, but lifting weights is the key component.
Too much cardio can be too much CORTISOL which means your body will hold onto body fat from too much stress. Confused…please read this)
Walk Like a Man….sort of;
I do think that as females we do NOT need to train IDENTICALLY to men. We have different hormone cycles to factor into our training that men do not experience. Hence, we should alter our training around “that time of month”. Check out this link to an article by Strength Sensei, also known as Charles Poliquin, one of the founding influencers in my training philosophy and what i believe to hold true.
We are also all different genetic make ups and structures- so why do the same training rep for rep/ set for set/ style for style as your neighbour when you are not your neighbour?
Alter training for you, your inherited talent, what YOUR body will flourish with.
Mental Relief and Unstoppable Confidence
As alluded to above, lifting weights can make you feel on top of the world. Like an actual super human. Wonder Woman. Thor. Your own version of your BEST SELF.
In strength training, there is an emphasis on setting new personal bests (PB) with lifting even 0.5kg more in the next session, completing one more repetition, finishing one more set. It is this focus and feeling of accomplishment which instantly gives us a sense of gratification.
I just lifted that RIGHT NOW. That NEW squat pattern, yeah, nailed it!
The emphasis is off what the scales are saying, or not saying, and on something which is instantly tangible and gratifying. Your brain and kinaesthetic awareness is on fire- learning, developing coordination and ultimately making you smarter.
BOOM! Endorphins flow from not only the training, but also that sense of happiness. Oh, what do you know, that means the stress hormone, cortisol is down. Lower the cortisol, the body is more primed for fat loss. Pair that with a metabolic-kicking, fat-burning activity like strength training and what do you know….. RECIPE FOR SUCCESS.
Yep, healthier and stronger bones
As we age girls, our hormones change, undisputed fact. Menopause will happen.
We will lose bone strength and density, the risk of Osteoporosis increase.
This decline starts to happen in our 30’s.
We know this. Now imagine you are in the latter years of your life, you have fallen out of bed, a simple everyday activity, and you have broken your pelvis. Nobody else is home.
You are in pain.
Your pelvis broke not because you did anything silly, you simply do not have the bone density and strength you once had. Your phone is in the lounge. You are stuck. This is serious.
Extreme example but I think we need to understand the lifestyle implications and emotional attachment to the facts we are presented with to really gauge why the facts are so serious and we should take action while we can.
We can train to counteract this decline in bone density and strength, reversing any potential detriment by declining hormone levels, by lifting.
Now go lift!
If you need help or advice, as always seek out a qualified professional or hit me up and slide into my DMs.