Why We All Need To Strength Train For Women

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Having celebrated a big birthday recently has made me more sentimental about aging than normal. But with sentimentality comes complaints. Granted, they’re not in a “woe-is-me” kind of way, but with a bit more humor and irony attached to them. Humor? My feeling is that if we don’t laugh about creaky joints, gray hair and diminishing eyesight, hearing and skin tone, then all that bitching becomes whiny.

And who wants to listen to a whiner, any way ”especially an aging whiner? Irony? To be deliberately contrary sure helps make things funny, don’t you think? Anyhow, what I’m getting at is this so-called aging can’t be avoided, unless you don’t want to be around anymore. So we might as well do the best we can with it.

And that includes staying strong. Strength training is just as important a part of your fitness routine as is doing cardiovascular work. But sadly, so many women ignore it because they don’t have time. Or they’re afraid of developing big muscles (that’s a fallacy, by the way). Or they’re too intimidated to even try.

The American Council on Exercise says that unless you regularly engage in activities to strengthen your muscles, you’ll lose about a half a pound of muscle a year in your 30s and 40s. Once you turn 50, they say, that rate can double.

What is Strength Training?

Eat right and lift heavy.

If there’s one constant thing we say across Nerd Fitness, it’s that if you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or just look better than ever for an upcoming event, the two things you must do is eat right and lift heavy.

But what exactly does that mean?  And how do you get started? And why does this work so darn well? We’ve touched on it a few times before, gone over your diet, and shown you some people it’s worked for, but we haven’t really gone into great detail.

Today that changes.

This is the first in a series of articles from NF Team Member Staci, covering all things strength training. Today we’ll be covering the basics before we tackle each movement in more detail.

Why strength training?

First of all, lets face it: Putting everything else aside, life is EASIER when you’re strong.  Carrying groceries? One trip. Children to carry? No problem. Car stuck in the snow? Push it out with ease. Plus, whether you’re 100 lbs overweight or just need to lose the last 15, strength training is one of the most effective ways to burn fat and build muscle.

Lifting has been shown to halt and even reverse sarcopenia – the reduction of skeletal muscle that occurs as we get older  which helps us stay independent (and out of a nursing home) and live longer.But in addition to making life easier, strength training has a lot of great benefits right now.  Here are just a few: Look Good Naked: Strength training helps you lose weight (and body fat) in a few different ways.  First, it helps you retain the muscle you have while eating a calorie deficit and losing weight.

Second, strength training has a much greater level of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption than aerobic exercise.  What does this mean?  When you finish a workout, your body needs to do a lot of work to replenish itself in order to bring itself back to a normal state (the way it was before you worked out).  This takes a lot of energy, and some studies have shown that it can boost your metabolism for up to 38 hours after you finish your workout.

Not only that, but strength training can help increase your metabolism by speeding up your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).  This is because it takes your body more calories to maintain muscle than it does to maintain fat.  Estimates are that for every 1 lb of muscle you gain, your RMR goes up 30-50 calories!

Makes You Healthier: If you’re looking for a workout in which you get the biggest bang for your buck, strength training is it. Strength training increases bone density, builds a stronger heart, reduces your resting blood pressure, improves blood flow, halts muscle loss, helps control blood sugar, improves cholesterol levels, and improves your balance and coordination.

You’ll Feel Better: Not only will you find yourself with more energy and confidence, less stress and anxiety, and a better overall mood, but you’ll actually begin to think better (resistance training has been proven to help increase cognitive function). And while training too close to bedtime can be a bad idea, exercising earlier in the day has been proven to help prevent sleep apnea and insomnia. I even improved my posture – when I started lifting, I was 5’4”.  Now I’m 5’5.5”.

Prevents disease and degenerative conditions

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women; Strength training helps correct issues relating to cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and inactivity all factors for heart disease. Cardiologists are even starting to recommend strength training for people who have suffered a heart attack as little as three weeks after the attack. Who knows, maybe one day your cardiologist will tell you to do some “cardio” and he’ll be referring to strength training!

Strength training has also been proven to help manage and improve the quality of life for people with Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Down Syndrome, Lymphedema ,fibromyalgia, who have recently had a stroke, have had a spinal cord injury, cancer survivors and clinical depression.

In addition to ALL of the above, strength training is fun! Whether you are looking for the most effective 20-30 minute workout (to stay fit and look great naked), or are looking for a competitive sport that you can really get into, strength training can help you meet your goals. It’s easy and fun to see progress as you strength train, almost like leveling up. And if you’re looking to improve in other areas (a sport, traditional cardio, or an activity like rock climbing), strength training is an easy choice!

Ok, ok.  Enough already.  Is there anyone who SHOULDN’T strength train?

Honestly, I did a lot of research on this one, because I wanted to find a single group of people who should not strength train.  I even found studies on how strength training can be beneficial for paraplegics.  Not to mention it can be safe for children, adolescents, and pregnant women.  Obviously, you should take a break from strength training if you’re injured, and always check with your doctor before you start any sort of strength training program, but it’s natural for us, as humans, to move around and carry things.

I hate almost ALL fitness marketing that’s geared at women.

If these marketers were telling the truth, they’d be saying things like:

  • “Want to tone, tuck, and tighten those abs? Don’t waste your time with this!”
  • “Want to banish that belly fat? This ab coaster won’t help!”
  • “Want to get stronger? You’re gonna need to pick up something heavier than this!”

In every issue of practically every women’s fitness magazine, you’re presented with a new workout that promises crazy results in minutes a day by ‘toning muscles’ with light weights and crazy equipment.

You’re promised super-foods that specifically target belly fat, and ab workouts, butt workouts, and thigh workouts that are designed to “tighten those problem areas.”

All of this lingo makes me want to vomit.

And I haven’t vomited in a long time (I’d like to keep that streak going).

With our first ever course specifically designed for Rebel Women coming out in two weeks(!), I want to set the record straight today and destroy every myth I’ve heard when it comes to women and strength training.

Women shouldn’t lift heavy or they’ll get bulky

Gwyneth Paltrow’s trainer makes sure that Gweneth doesn’t pick up anything more than 3 lbs.

Which means, I guess, Gweneth isn’t allowed to pick up groceries, move a chair, carry her child, or do pretty much anything.

This is the biggest myth in all of female training, and it makes me want to punch a hole in the wall.  If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know this isn’t true.  If you’re brand new to Nerd Fitness, then allow me to assure you:

You Will not get Bulky From Picking Up Heavy Things.

You know those women bodybuilders who look really bulky? They eat, train, and take supplements specifically so they can look like that! They’ve probably been working towards that goal for years and years.

Here’s the truth

when you pick up heavy things, your muscles get STRONGER (but not necessarily bigger).  If you pump yourself full of testosterone and eat way more calories than you are burning every day, you will get bigger.

If you pick up heavy things, and eat a caloric deficit (and eat the right kinds of food – actual healthy foods), your muscles will get stronger and denser; you will burn the fat on top of your muscle, and you will get that “toned” look that you’re after.

You know Staci, right?

She picks up very heavy things.  How heavy?  Her last deadlift session had her picking up 355 lbs. for a set of five. She weighs 150lbs and wears a size US4.

Here are five reasons to start incorporating strength training into your routine:

  • Look Great and Feel Even Better

Strength training burns calories more efficiently than a cardio workout.  Pair it with a better diet and you’re on your way to looking and feeling great.

  • Manage Body Weight

While some tend to tout cardio as the means to lose or maintain body weight, strength training can be more beneficial.  The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest.

  • Decrease Blood Pressure and Improve Heart Function

Weight training improves heart function, enhances arterial function and decreases inflammation (all of which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease).

  • Sleep Better

Regular strength training not only helps you fall asleep faster, but improves the quality of your sleep because you tend wake up fewer times throughout the night.

  • Get Stronger

Along with building muscle, weight training is the best way to build bone mass and density.  By staying strong, you are more resistant to injury and osteoporosis.

You can spot reduce fat

Sr Mix-A-Lot was wrong. Don’t do side bends and sit ups, because you’re wasting your time:

  • Side bends will strengthen your side muscles without actually reducing any fat there, potentially making you bigger around the waist unless you change your diet as well.
  • Situps will not remove belly fat. They can also wreak havoc on your lower back, and are an incomplete exercise.

Your body cannot spot reduce fat in specific locations. If you have flabby arms or a big stomach, doing thousands of bicep curls and thousands of crunches won’t help.

Your body is genetically predisposed to storing fat in certain locations in a certain order.

When you start to lose weight, your body will lose the fat you currently have in a certain order as well – it might come off your arms first, then your legs, then your belly, then your chest, and THEN your butt. Or in a different order, depending on your personal genetic makeup.

Want to make it disappear faster? 

Eat better. Your diet will be responsible for 80-90% of that fat loss.  Strength train, not with targeted exercises, but with big compound movements that recruit lots of muscle (and thus force your body to rebuild lots of muscle, which requires extra calories burned, even after the workout is done).

I know I can’t force you to strength train. You don’t really have to do it, unless:

  • You want to lose more muscle mass than you’re already losing with age.
  • You don’t want to replace the lean muscle you lose, but instead prefer to increase the percentage of fat in your body.
  • You don’t want to increase bone density and reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
  • You don’t want to control your weight, since muscle helps burns fat more efficiently.
  • You don’t want to boost your stamina, improve your balance and maintain your independence as you age.
  • You don’t want to manage chronic conditions like back pain, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.
  • You want to rely on the kindness of strangers to open heavy doors and lift your suitcase.

You don’t even have to go to a gym you can do exercises at home.

Do I have your attention yet? If you’re starting to come over to my side, I’ll give you a bit more info:

  • You only need two to three sessions each week to target the muscles in your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
  • Twenty minutes is enough to get a good strength training workout.
  • Results are pretty quick; you’ll notice a change in just weeks.

I say no excuses not to do it! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says research shows that strengthening exercises are both safe and effective, no matter what your age, even if you’re not in perfect health. “People with health concerns including heart disease or arthritis often benefit the most,” they claim.

Are you sold yet? A good way to learn more and get inspired is with a copy of Strength Training Exercises for Women, a by fitness expert Joan Pagano, who writes health and fitness books tailored to women. This book includes and demonstrates more than 200 exercises and will guide you through everything you need to know to stay fit and lean.

For more information visit us our website: https://www.healthinfi.com

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