When thinking about strength training workouts, the first picture that used to come to mind is a sweaty man working out in a gym. Thank goodness that stereotype has been long since buried for most of us.
Strength training workouts sculpt your perfect body;
The fact is that both men and women can gain positive benefits when engaging in this type of physical exercise.
Research demonstrates that strength training should be included in every workout program, but it is especially important for women who want to stay fit and healthy.
Some misconceptions still exist about how beneficial strength training can be for women, or whether they should be “doing it differently” to men. Just a few years ago, women would never have considered “lifting heavy”, but now it has become extremely popular.
Old beliefs have given way to new ones, as women become more determined to live longer, healthier and more active lives, and sports science catches up to help them train more effectively.
If you do happen to harbour any doubts, the following benefits should convince you to start lifting heavy as part of your routine.
Strength training workouts, heart health benefits
The heart is a muscle too that is sometimes neglected before it is too late.
Strength training workouts help the heart by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in women.
Exercise contributes to an overall healthy heart by helping to decrease LDL levels, also known as "bad" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol levels in the blood "good" cholesterol is increased leading to a healthier heart.
High blood pressure may be reduced by following a program of strength training. Just as the heart benefits from strength training, so do the veins and arteries. When the heart walls are thicker, pumping blood becomes a much more efficient process.
The American Heart Association says that;
A well-rounded strength-training program provides the following benefits:
- Increased strength of bones, muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments);
- Lower risk of injury;
- Increased muscle mass, which makes it easier for your body to burn calories and thus maintain a healthy weight
- Better quality of life.
Note that in the following info graphic the AHA are recommending at least two high intensity muscle strengthening sessions per week;
Strength training workouts, bone density benefits
Older women are especially susceptible to osteoporosis and bone loss. Even younger women are at risk for developing this disease because their bones are naturally lighter than men’s are.
Aging is a major factor in the decline of bone density and bone loss. Women can improve their chances of avoiding osteoporosis by building and strengthening their bone density through strength training.
Strength training exercises have the additional benefit of helping reduce the risk of falls or other accidents that can lead to fractures.
Younger women who start training early have a better chance of making their bones stronger in later life.
Strength training workouts, controlling chronic conditions
Doctors recommend the correct type of strength training program to help their patients who suffer from chronic conditions.
They find that it is easier for them to manage this type of condition by adhering to carefully managed strength training workouts.
Several troublesome health conditions such as heart disease, back pain, diabetes, and obesity can be improved through strength training.
Noticeable improvement has been observed in patients suffering from arthritis. Even though some people believe that any exercise program is harmful for joints, the opposite is true.
Health care professionals recommend strength training for their patients with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis.
Even though this training is often prescribed for joint tissue rehabilitation, it is important that if you are suffering from problem joints, you get approval from a physician before beginning a program.
Strength training workouts, managing weight
Weight management can be a concern for women and can easily be addressed in a strength-building regime.
You can see in the above graph, that even only a modest increase in overall strength over a ten month period, resulted in significantly reduced body weight.
Consistent strength training will improve the body's capacity to burn calories, and over time, a more efficient body becomes a fat burning machine
Building muscle mass helps women burn extra calories, even when not actively engaged in a workout. Both strength training and cardio training help in weight reduction. One is not as effective without the other.
Cardio is designed to burn calories thus reducing fat, while strength-training programs concentrate on toning and firming the muscles, while also burning a high amount of calories.
Studies show that the body continues to burn calories at a higher rate for longer, following heavy strength training, than it does following a steady cardio session. Therefore, strength training really does give you more bang for your buck, on the time you’ve got to exercise.
Strenth training workouts, feel stronger and less fatigued
A major benefit associated with strength training for women is how it helps improve stamina required for participating in everyday activities.
The added strength gained from weight training provides more endurance by building strength and increasing energy levels. Feeling strong and healthy physically provides a woman with confidence in going about everyday activities.
Another of the positive effects of strength training is that the physical fatigue enables a women to get a better night's sleep.
So when you're burning loads of calories from your workouts every day, and getting good quality rest at night, it results in that healthy youthful glow that just screams to the world that you are loving life.
You'll be slimmer, but stronger, so every day life will be easier and you'll not only look good, but feel great too.
Strength training workouts, controlling blood glucose levels
Type 2 diabetes is a risk at all stages of life, but is more prevalent as women age. Several studies have been conducted that illustrate that the addition of a strength training program can significantly improve blood glucose levels.
Type 2 Diabetes is caused by increased insulin sensitivity. Even though it can be controlled with medications and a healthy diet, strength training helps prevent it from developing.
A really quick but informative research article that explains this is -
Obesity is one of the factors believed to contribute to Type 2 diabetes and the tendency to be overweight is greatly reduced with a strength training program.
The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend that strength training be included as an essential component of a well-balanced physical activity program for those with type 2 diabetes who do not have contraindications to exercise.
Strength training workouts, improved overall fitness
A woman's body undergoes several changes with age. The natural loss of the estrogen hormone is responsible for the rapid loss of bone mineral density.
Younger women's bodies still produce this estrogen, which helps the body build new bone tissue. As the body ages and becomes more mature, the body loses its ability to build strong bones. Strength building exercise helps to combat the devastating effects of bone mineral loss.
Better muscle tone and improved strength through resistance training programs help improve balance and prevent the risk of serious injuries due to falls.
Improving your overall fitness, and your body shape through strength training will help you look better and feel great both physically and mentally.
Strength training workouts, improved Libido
Decreased libido can be caused by several factors that are commonly found in many individuals because of stress or just everyday living problems.
One of the positive effects of practicing strength training is increased libido. Men produce about ten times more testosterone than women do, but that doesn't mean that women don't also benefit from increased testosterone levels.
Because stress, boredom, and exhaustion can lead to a low libido, strength training helps reduce these factors, improving libido.
If you're overweight, you aren't going to feel too great about yourself, and your self esteem suffers. As your self esteem gets knocked around, reduced libido follows. Strength training over a consistent period will help you to look great, and that naturally leads to feeling better about yourself, and more attractive.
Strength training workouts, relieves stress and mental fatigue
Strength training helps promote brain growth and reduces anxiety within the brain.
Because anxiety is caused by muscle tension, the physical stress of strength training helps reduce it. During a workout, the neurotransmitters in the brain function at a higher level and promote a more concentrated focus.
Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which can erode neurons and have a negative effect on memory and focus. Strength training decreases the cortisol released during stress, helps calm the nerves, and offers peace of mind.
Any exercise program is beneficial in the battle to combat depression, but strength training is more effective in lessening a sad or depressed feeling over a longer period.
Strength training causes the body to release endorphin's, which are referred to as happy or feel good chemicals.
Strength training workouts, stimulates the brain
The aging process can have a negative effect on the brain and cognitive functioning.
The brain can benefit from strength training at any age.
It works by increasing the flow of blood throughout the brain thus stimulating brain activity.
Because blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain, it runs more smoothly and operates more efficiently.
Strengthening exercises also exercises the brain as well as body muscles. These exercises have the potential to help the brain retain more information and improve memory function.
An interesting scientific study found that even one instance of completing a resistance exercise can improve your memory.
You see, there's no truth to the old "meat head" stigma attached to strength training. We're actually all getting smarter by lifting more, science say's so!
Strength training workouts, contribute to a more positive body image
Just feeling healthy and stronger has a positive effect on mental health.
Feeling confident and happier is an unexpected benefit of a strength training regimen. People who spend time working out exhibit an improved self-image. And it's not just because they're spending more time watching themselves in the gym mirrors either:)
Being able to perform previously impossible tasks such as moving or lifting heavy items is a real ego booster. Feeling fit and being stronger is in itself a mood enhancer for a woman.
The feeling experienced from a strength training workout has been described as a heightening sense of euphoria. This in itself gives women a more positive outlook on life.
A good strength training program challenges women to make a commitment to improve their overall physique, health and well-being. Having and maintaining a positive body image requires dedication, but is well worth it in the end.
Not sure how to start, strength training workouts?
So it's great if you've been reading this to get some affirmation that what you're already doing is really really good for you, kudos to you.
But if you've always been a bit timid about venturing into the lifting area in the gym, you know, where the big boys hang out, then maybe you're not sure where to start.
A great place to start is with these five strength training exercises
And for more inspiration and ideas to include in your strength training, we recommend the following;
Strength training for fat loss, by girls gone strong
The ultimate female training guide, by simply shredded.
Still need more inspiration?
Just in case you've still got doubts, and think that strength training isn't for you, I'll share a couple of my favorite trainers, who I find really inspiring, and see if you don't like what strength training has done for them;
Yes, I love her because she's Latina and has done so well internationally.
Andreia has become an inspiration for many women, and she shows different sides to being a fitness model, as you will find many images where she's not in contest shape.
She's not scared to show that even top fitness models don't walk around every day looking completely cut.
With a really healthy outlook, Andreia is really a great example of what living clean, and lifting iron can do.
Sophie Guidolin, the Australian fitness model and mother of four.
I met Sophie at an INBA competition here in Brisbane. She was there with her husband, coaching some of the competitors, and had her kids in tow
You can read Sopie's bio on her site, to here it directly from her, how she was originally not into weight training, but it was only after she tried it, that she started getting really great results.
Sophie is a great example of a woman who copes with all the pressures of being a mum, but still maintains her healthy lifestyle.
Check out her site for some great recipe and training guides.
For myself personally, I just love running, but the best results that I achieve come from strength training workouts.
When I first attempted strength training, I really didn't challenge myself enough. But lifting weights that you are comfortable with won't get you great results.
I learned that I was capable of lifting heavier weights, and to focus on progressive overload, and then the results started to happen.
I'm not intimidated by strength training at all anymore, I just love it.
I can't encourage you enough, to focus on strength training workouts as a major part of your fitness program. It will change your body, and improve your life!