If you think working out with weights is just for the boys, think again. Strength or resistance training is an essential part of any fitness programme for both men and women of all ages.
Strength training is quite often associated with athletes and bodybuilders who work hard, with rigorous training and a strict diet, at increasing muscle size. Many people think when resistance training is done, the body will grow much bigger.
For many men (and women), increasing muscle size is desirable, but resistance training for the average person won’t increase the size of their muscles to the point where they are ‘bulky’, but will simply increase the strength and tone of their body.
Women are often afraid of using weights because they think they will bulk up and lose their feminine appearance; however, women have only one tenth of the testosterone of men. Testosterone is the hormone that results in the muscular physiques seen in men who lift weights. Because women have low levels of this hormone, resistance training will not lead to a bulky physique, but instead a toned and shapely appearance.
There are many ways to incorporate resistance training in your routine. You can use free weights, kettle bells, machines, resistance tubing, TRX suspension trainers or by using your own body weight – doing push ups and lunges, for example. There are numerous benefits of resistance training – especially for women.
A few of these benefits include:
Improved body composition
Your body is divided into two parts – body fat and lean weight. This lean weight is comprised not only of muscles, but of bones, organs and skin as well.
As age sneaks up on us, body fat generally increases while muscle decreases at a rate of about half a pound per year, a process known as ‘creeping obesity”.
Regular and consistent strength training helps to prevent this loss of muscle and maintain a more balanced and healthy body composition. This muscle-loss acceleration causes a reduction in metabolic rate, leading to subsequent weight gain. As a result, women tend to lose their toned appearance and put on weight more easily.
Weight training can slow this process down and for some people, turn it around.
Boost your metabolism/calorie burning
The sluggish activity of fat is nothing compared to the power of muscles. Every pound of muscle in your body burns about 50 calories per day.
Just imagine what kind of calorie-burning machine your body would be if you started to increase, even just a little, the amount of muscles in your body.
Improved physical ability and athletic performance
Strength training creates stronger muscles, which in turn allows you to better perform activities of daily living, like carrying the groceries or picking up your child. For those of you with athletic endeavours, weight training can improve performance by enhancing power, speed and agility.
It makes you (and your bones) tougher. Injuries and mishaps can cramp anyone’s lifestyle – strong muscles are less prone to injury and lifting weights can help to slow the rate of bone loss associated with aging. Bones, tendons and ligaments will adapt and become stronger in response to weight training. This reduces the incidents of sprains and muscle pulls. The increase in bone mineral density which occurs with regular strength training, is related to bone health and strength and is very important in preventing fractures and other bone related problems later in life.
It will help you stand taller
A strong, balanced body will do great things for your posture while a toned, sculpted body will do amazing things for your confidence and self esteem. So what are you waiting for?
Almost everybody wants to trim down and tone up at some point in their life and unless you are naturally gifted with a fast metabolism and good genes, the only way to do this is to combine cardio, resistance training and diet.
So if you haven’t added resistance training into your exercise routine, there is no better time than now to get started.
Deanna Smith is an exercise physiologist and Pilates instructor at ENERGY. Contact her [email protected] or 946-6006.