Strength training (also known as resistance training) has surged in popularity in the past decade as scientists have identified the powerful effect muscle and strength have on longevity and well being. Most women are aware that strength training is good for them, but due to harmful misconceptions and stereotypes, many women haven’t adopted an effective strength training program. This article will convince you to start a strength training program and provide a quick overview for getting the most out of your efforts.
Strengthen Bone & Prevent Osteoporosis
Strength training is overwhelmingly the best activity to build bone mass and prevent osteoporosis. Most important is to lift heavy loads using exercises that load the spine—squats, overhead press, and deadlift will strengthen bones, lowering risk of fracture by 20 percent.
Lose Fat & Build Curves
People generally think of cardio as their go-to workout for losing body fat, but strength training can have a longer lasting effect by increasing lean mass, which sustains your metabolic rate (the amount of calories burned daily).
Have More Energy
Strength training increases coordination between the muscles and allows you to move with ease and grace. This pays off in an interesting way: Studies show that as women improve their ability to move, they feel like they have more energy and get more active in daily life, which has a significant effect on preventing fat gain and obesity.
Protect Metabolic Health
As diabetes rates surge, we are hearing more and more about the importance of regulating blood sugar and insulin. Strength training has a potent effect on metabolic health, restoring insulin sensitivity and helping to balance blood sugar.
Improve Your Ability To Handle Stress
Strength training improves the brain’s response to stress by resetting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis so that you are more resilient when the going gets tough. Training also builds mental strength and teaches you to work through obstacles in a positive, proactive way.
Protect Your Heart
Strength training lowers inflammation that negatively affects heart function and improves health of blood vessels, lowering the load on the heart.
Improve Sleep Quality & Quantity
Strength training can enhance sleep in women who suffer insomnia and those who report normal sleep. Researchers think sleep improves due to the stress lowering effect a regular strength training program has on the body and brain.
Increase Your Chance Of Survival
Any time your body is threatened either due to injury or illness, you rapidly lose lean tissue, compromising organ function. Strength training offsets this, improving your percentage of lean mass, which increases your ability to endure physical trauma. For example, breast cancer survivors have much better long-term prognosis if they perform a strength training program.
Boost Immune Function
Because strength training has a positive effect on hormone balance it shores up your immune system and raises levels of disease-fighting compounds that fight off illness and disease.
Strength training improves blood flow to the brain, lowering inflammation and improving release of the brain-health protein known as BDNF that plays a role in memory and learning. This pays off in terms of better grades, enhanced performance and work, and even higher salaries in the professional job market.
Reduce Depression & Boost Mental Outlook
Studies show that exercise may be more effective than antidepressants for reducing depression because of how it balances hormones. Strength training may be especially good for improving mental outlook because you can see yourself getting better as your weights go up and your feel more energetic.
Reduce Pain & Physical Discomfort
Lifting weights is one of the best ways to solve most physical problems that women experience, whether they suffer from pain due muscular imbalances, tight muscles, or arthritis. Training also raises your pain threshold so that you experience less discomfort.
How Can You Reap The Benefits of Strength Training?
You’ll get the biggest return on your efforts by choosing multi-joint exercises such as squats, presses (chest press and overhead press), rows and pull-downs or chin-ups, step-ups, and lunges. Also known as compound exercises, these lifts will train proper movement patterns and give you the greatest increase in metabolic rate.
Challenging yourself with heavier weights is also important. Your body won’t change unless you lift loads that you aren’t accustomed to so it’s necessary to push yourself to lift weights that have you nearing failure by your last rep.
Regarding sets, reps, and frequency of training, we typically recommend strength training 4 times a week for one hour, but if all you have time for is 2 sessions, start there. You’ll still achieve the benefits on this list if you challenge yourself. Set and rep schemes will depend on if your goal is to increase strength (use lower reps and higher weights) or improve body composition (higher reps and slightly lower weights). To ensure you continue to improve, design your workouts in 4 to 6-week phases so that during the first phase you focus on body composition with 8 to 12 reps and 3 to 4 sets. For the second phase, focus strength with 3 to 8 reps for 3 to 5 sets.
Final Words: If you’re looking for a form of exercise that will give you back significantly more than the effort required, strength training is the way to go. Women need to embrace strength training and spread the word about the incredible benefits of picking up some weights on health, body composition, and performance.