Resistance Training and Women's Health

The past several years have been an overwhelming amount of evidence on benefits of exercise. Most magazines, newspapers, news cover something on yoga, Pilates, newest and latest fad workouts with the lion’s share of attention on aerobic exercise.

It seems to be the primary choice of exercise, particularly for women. I have been exercise enthusiast most of my life, and a fitness professional for almost a decade and throughout the years I have been noticing the same pattern being repeated over and over again.

Women use variety of cardio equipment, most popular treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals. Rarely do I see them lifting “heavier” weights.

Resistance training has been underappreciated predominately by women. Till this day some women hold the misconception that strength training will make them “bulk up”. Women are afraid that they will look too masculine if they pick up heavier weights rather than the pinkish ones. Don’t mind me ladies. J This couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are few reasons for it.

First of all, women have much less testosterone than men do; therefore it’s physiologically impossible for us to get that masculine look unless other components are in place. Muscular hypertrophy (getting bigger) will not take place at an optimal level unless principles of overload, variation, progression and individualization are implemented. The names speak for themselves.

The least understood is the principle of overload, which would have to be implemented in order to “bulk up”. Meaning, the training stimulus must exceed the current capabilities of what your body can do at the moment in order to elicit changes. The overload can occur through a manipulation of different acute variables, to name a few, volume (how many repetitions and sets you do), rest interval, training frequency, neural demand. To sum it up, you’d have to do a lot of different exercises per muscle group (overload), rest certain amount of time between sets, increase the consumption of lean protein, get a good night sleep. So ladies no you will NOT bulk up.

 As far as the aesthetics go, I am convinced that you’d like to look great and be able to fit in your favorite pair of jeans. Lifting pinkish weights will not help you achieve that because it doesn’t put enough demand on your body.

As far as practicality goes, I am pretty sure you’d like to be stronger, remain physically independent for as long as you can. Might sound pretty dramatic but according to the numbers from Journal of Applied Physiology, 2008, vol.4 muscle loss occurs at a rate of 5 % per decade after the age of 30 years old and speeds up as we age. Resistance training is the most effective form of exercise responsible for slowing the rate at which sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) occurs. Following a comprehensive and effective integrated training program will improve the quality of life in more ways than one.

Taking into consideration more prevalent sedentary lifestyles we lead, it is of paramount importance that we engage in vigorous activity EVERY day.