Strutting your stuff in gym, you’ve got your new gear, your fancy protein shaker… you’re all laced up and ready to go!… ten minutes later and running on the treadmill suddenly seems like a never ending form of torture, leaving you wondering to yourself, if it’s actually possible to die from boredom. Looking over at the posters of those toned, flat stomached fitness models you wonder “how do they do it?”… Do they starve? Do they do hour and hours of cardio?
How can you lose weight or burn fat and tone up? You don’t have to do endless sessions of cardio or live off lettuce; the way to a toned body is through resistance and weight training!
But “I want to be sexy and lean, not manly, muscley and bulky”- right?
Well let me just stop you there, the biggest misconception currently circulating around females in society is that weight training for women will leave you muscley and manly- but trust me this is physiologically impossible!
We don’t have enough of the testosterone hormone in our bodies to be able to synthesis that much muscle, and if you ask extreme body building women, in order to get to their target physique it takes A LOT of excess food and A LOT of chemicals/hormones. So let’s bury that thought with the rest of the dead weeds and find out the real facts!
So what actually is strength training? Is it just lifting weights?
Not necessarily. Strength training is a type of physical exercise that uses resistance in the body to cause muscle contractions to build strength and anaerobic endurance. The principle behind strength training is quite simple really; it involves neural adaptations in our muscles through the use of weight, intensity and frequency within precise time efficient intervals.
So when I say “strength training”, that doesn’t mean throwing around those 1kg dumbbells every once and a while in the hope for a sudden overnight transformation. STEP AWAY from those girly weights.
You spy those little pink and purple dumbbells that a 4 year old could probably play with? Those things have been designed by clever companies who are well aware that most women are scared of weights, but trust me those things are not going to get you results!
Apart from sculpting a perfect beach body, there are so many benefits to weight training that have been scientifically proven in oodles of studies. Here at Myprotein we don’t believe fitness and nutrition is just for men, and that’s why we’re going to reveal all the hidden secrets you didn’t know about strength training.
So how do we know that strength training can help transform your body and sculpt that master piece? You don’t just have to take our word for it you can check out the science for yourself!
For example, in a study by Mayhew and Gross (1974) the effect of high resistance weight training in 17 university women students was evaluated over 9 weeks. In this study the women carried out a 40 minute training routine 3 days a week, whereby skin fold thickness, skeletal diameters and weight were measured in order to determine body composition. At the end of the nine week period it was confirmed that weight training can enhance feminine body composition without causing masculinising effects or gains in body fat.
So you can officially put that fear behind you!
Not only this, but in a study by Trujilo (1983) the effect of a weight training intervention in 35 female undergraduate students was analysed over a period of 16 weeks. Within the study females were assigned to either a group that took part in weight training or to a control group. Upon completion, the study revealed that women in the weight training group saw physiological gains in strength and cardiovascular fitness. In addition, results also revealed that weight training had a psychological effect amongst women, increasing self confidence and self esteem. An increase in self esteem was thought to be not only down to an increase in fitness and change in body composition, but also due to the fact that the women were entering exercise activities that had been traditionally reserved for men.
That’s right girls- weights are NOT just for men. This has even been proven in a study by Tracy et al (1999) who revealed in 12 men and 11 women that although strength training caused a greater muscle mass gain in men, increases in strength and loss of fat appeared to be similar between both gender groups.
Now bone density probably isn’t one of your top concerns, but to all you crash dieters out there, starvation and endless hours of cardio can really affect your bone health and increase your risk for osteoporosis in later life. For women, bone density starts to increase from the onset of menstruation until it reaches a peak at around the age of 25. From here bone density can gradually decreases with age due to changes in our hormone levels. At menopause, the levels of oestrogen in the blood dramatically decrease and our bone density begins to degrade, and this is why as we become old we become frailer.
However, strength training in both young and menopausal women has been shown to help increase bone density. For example In one study postmenopausal women were found to have an increase in bone mineral density after one year of weight training, compared to a decrease in those of a control group who did not take part in resistance training. Moreover, in a 2 year randomised intervention trial by Friedlander et al (1995) the efficiency of strength training was analysed in 127 women aged 20- 35 years old. These women were randomly assigned either a strength training program or a stretching programme. After 2 years it was revealed that aerobics and weight training together, had beneficial effects on bone mineral density and several other fitness parameters in young women.
Additionally, these days a common cause of illness and absence from work is by conditions such as back pain. Well, it has also been demonstrated in numerous studies that gradual resistance training can help increase strength to relieve back and joint pain.
So weight training can actually change our body composition, reduce body fat, benefiting your long term health. The beneficial health effects of strength training exists through several various mechanisms involving the regulation of blood pressure, glucose, insulin and cholesterol.
Recently research suggests that weight training can help control factors such as insulin resistance, resting metabolic rate, glucose metabolism, blood pressure, body fat, and gastrointestinal transit time, all of which are associated with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. For example, in a study of inactive men and women undergoing a 16 weight training program there was a significant reduction in harmful LDL blood cholesterol and an increase in good HDL cholesterol, highlighting that weight training can result in produce beneficial changes in blood lipoprotein levels. Heavy resistance strength training has also been shown in a study of 21 men and women to effect hypertensive patients, causing their blood pressure to shift from high into the normal category. Therefore, these various effects in addition to positive effects on the musculoskeletal system, contributes to the maintenance of functional abilities, and prevents osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower-back pain, and other disabilities, whereby it is now being considered to become part of public weight intervention programs.
So now you’ve got the background know how, before you go off and start your very own strength training program make sure you read up and you know what you’re doing. Always start with a low weight and with sets of three. The reason I advise you to start with sets of three is because studies have actually shown, within basic experienced strength training, that a set of 3 movements compared to a single set in a 6 week body strengthening program results in superior strength gains and changes in body composition for women. So until you’ve nailed your movements, stick to a moderate weight and three sets.
Another word of advice is to focus solely on yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other people in the gym, a big misconception of gym goers is that responsiveness, tolerance and increased muscle strength is the same for everyone, when in fact, muscle responsiveness is largely genetically mediated- as is aerobic training, meaning there is a large individual difference in weight training and we all gain different levels of strength.
So there you have it, a few myths well and truly busted. There now should be no reason why you should fear getting on board the weights wagon- trust me it’s a decision you will not regret.
Friedlander, A. L., Genant, H. K., Sadowsky, S., Byl, N. N., & Glüer, C. C. (1995). A two‐year program of aerobics and weight training enhances bone mineral density of young women. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 10(4), 574-585.
Goldberg, L., Elliot, D. L., Schutz, R. W., & Kloster, F. E. (1984). Changes in lipid and lipoprotein levels after weight training. Jama, 252(4), 504-506.
Martel, G. F., Hurlbut, D. E., Lott, M. E., Lemmer, J. T., Ivey, F. M., Roth, S. M., … & Hurley, B. F. (1999). Strength training normalizes resting blood pressure in 65-to 73-year-old men and women with high normal blood pressure. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 47(10), 1215-1221.
Mayhew, J. L., & Gross, P. M. (1974). Body composition changes in young women with high resistance weight training. Research Quarterly. American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 45(4), 433-440.
Schlumberger, A., Stec, J., & Schmidtbleicher, D. (2001). Single-vs. Multiple-set strength training in women. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 15(3), 284-289.
Tracy, B. L., Ivey, F. M., Hurlbut, D., Martel, G. F., Lemmer, J. T., Siegel, E. L., … & Hurley, B. F. (1999). Muscle quality. II. Effects of strength training in 65-to 75-yr-old men and women. Journal of Applied Physiology, 86(1), 195-201.
Trujillo, C. M. (1983). The effect of weight training and running exercise intervention programs on the self-esteem of college women. International Journal of Sport Psychology.
Winett, R. A., & Carpinelli, R. N. (2001). Potential health-related benefits of resistance training. Preventive medicine, 33(5), 503-513.