it comes to women and weight training, there are a lot of misconceptions.
The fact is that weight training can be very beneficial for all women, particularly those of us with weight loss and fat loss goals.
This article explores some of the most common misconceptions of weight training for women and provides some interesting facts about why we should all include weight training in our exercise routine.
Common misconceptions about women and weights
The most common misconceptions surrounding women and weight training are:
Let's explore each of these briefly in turn.
Women who lift weights get big bulky muscles
Most women do not have the high levels of testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone) required to increase lean muscle mass dramatically.
By strength training we can all replace muscle lost through aging and (depending on our genetics) perhaps add on a further couple of kilograms of lean muscle mass if we are LUCKY.
I say lucky because even though many of us are trying to lose weight, more muscle means a faster metabolism, faster fat burning and a major slowdown of the ageing process.
Ok, so if weights don't lead to bulky muscles, why do women body builders look so big?
The answer to that is easy, their use of anabolic steroids results in enhanced muscle growth because of the testosterone being injected - this is why some female body builders look HUGE!
Our beautiful, lean, hard muscle will turn to floppy, flabby fat if we stop lifting weights
Muscle will not turn into fat; it is as impossible as turning wood into steel!
However, if we stop strength training and we still eating the same amount of food we were eating while we were training, we will naturally put on fat.
This is because when we stop strength training we begin to 'lose' muscle (use it or lose it!) and our metabolic rate declines causing a natural decrease in our daily energy needs. Any excess calories, regardless of their source, is then stored as fat.
Women should lift weights at high repetitions and low weight for 'toning'
'Muscle tone' comes from having adequate amounts of muscle that can be seen under low levels of body-fat.
Obviously to do this we need to lift weights so that we have enough muscle visible, however, lifting weights at high repetitions and low weight actually uses our aerobic system and trains our muscles for endurance instead of strength and hypertrophy (muscle gain).
So to make our muscles tight and 'toned' we need to 'build muscle' and this can only happen if our muscles are placed under sufficient overload (lifting relatively heavier weights).
Overloading our muscles is best achieved by regularly and progressively increasing the amount of weight we lift.
As our body adapts (gets stronger) to lifting a certain weight that weight becomes easier for us to lift and we will need to lift more weight to create an overload.
By using lighter weights and doing the exercise more times we force our body to 'endure' more weight but there will no longer be an overload.
Facts about women and weight training
Now that we've discussed and corrected some common misconceptions about women and weight training, let's discuss some interested facts about the same subject, which are:
Lifting weights will replace lost muscle and avoid further muscle loss
After the age of 20, if we do not strength train we lose between 2.2 and 3.2 kilograms of muscle every decade.
Fortunately, research shows that a standard strength training program can increase muscle mass by about 1.4kgs over an eight week training period. This is the typical training response for men and women who do 25 minutes of strength training one day each week.
Although endurance exercise can improve our cardiovascular fitness, it doesn't stop muscle loss.
Strength Training increases our Metabolism and Reduces Body Fat!
Research studies have shown that if we increase our lean muscle mass by 1.4kg we also increase our resting metabolism by 7% and our daily calorie requirements by 15%.
At rest, one kilogram of muscle requires 77 calories per day for tis sue maintenance, and during exercise this figure increases dramatically.
If we replace lost muscle through a sensible strength training program we will use more calories all day long and therefore reduce the likelihood of fat accumulation.
Want proof? In a 1994 study, strength training produced 1.8kg of fat loss after three months of training, even though the subjects were eating 15% more calories each day. That is, a basic strength program resulted in 1.4kg more muscle, 1.8kg less fat, and 370 more calories per day food intake!
We are all capable of amazing strength - don't be told otherwise!
Women have the same 'functional' anatomy and physiology in terms of their muscles response to exercise that men do; meaning..
Both men and women require progressive overload to stimulate physiological adaptations in muscle strength, endurance and power.
Our body was built to perform; therefore our strength training program should be based on our relative strength and not on our gender.
There are no special exercises that women should do instead of men and vice versa. We all have the same muscle structure and they need to get stronger. The only difference is men have a higher capacity for muscle hypertrophy (bigger muscles) due to differing hormonal levels.
So should YOU Strength Train?
If you want to lose weight, burn more fat, look and feel stronger, have stronger bones and be able to eat more without putting on extra weight from fat, ABSOLUTELY!
Strength training replaces lost muscle tis sue and means YOU will have a faster metabolism, faster fat burning and less chance of getting fat!!!
Strength training does not make women 'bigger' and 'bulkier'.
Muscle is smooth, lean, hard and small; Fat is lumpy, flabby, soft and big - the choice is YOURS; which would you prefer??
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This article was written by Scott Haywood.
Scott Haywood is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.
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