We’re all working toward different goals when we exercise, be that fat loss, sporting performance or general health and fitness. While our goals all differ and may change over time, it remains that for an exercise program to be complete, it requires strength training, especially for women.
A lot of women think that strength training is just for men. However, despite gender differences, physiological similarities mean that you can, and should, perform nearly identical training programs to men. Surprisingly, the risk of osteoporosis means that women may benefit more from strength training than men due to its positive effects on bone density.
I’m seeing more women utilize the free weight areas at the gym, which means that the message is starting to get through. Unfortunately, the imagery of very muscular women has turned many off strength training. Most are unaware that those extreme bulking muscles are often the result of performance-enhancing drugs. See PIEDs for more on that.
The fact is that despite gains in strength, women don’t experience much growth in muscle size when engaging in a properly designed strength training program. So you don’t need to fear looking less feminine. Any gender similarities to men are outweighed by differences in hormone levels and muscle fiber; type, size, and composition. The amount of muscle growth attainable by women is typically far less than for men.
Research shows that women adhering to a strength training program tend to become leaner in body measurements rather than larger. This is primarily because muscle mass takes up less physical space than fat.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS
Adopting heavy loading in your strength training program is also essential for recruiting as many motor units as possible to obtain the many positive health benefits. These include improved bone mineral density and connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, and muscle fibers.
THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE
It may be worth knowing that menstrual cycle irregularities are common in women who engage in exercise of reasonable intensity. Often blamed as the reason is excessive exercise, yet it’s usually a secondary issue with the reason most likely being inadequate nutrition or an underlying condition. In either of these cases seeking professional advice would be wise.
When considering body image, women also need to be aware of the risks of self-induced unhealthily low levels of body fat. To learn more, refer to women & fat.
Finally, women engaging in sports that involve jumping and running with pivotal changes in direction are considerably more likely to suffer a knee injury than men. While the causal factors are debatable, it is clear that strength training and plyometrics significantly reduce this risk of injury.