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Strength Training for Women
You can look better, feel better, and be more energetic through strength training. Proper exercise can add years to your life and, just as importantly, it can improve the quality of your life. Those with weaker bodies are more likely to suffer the infirmities of age much sooner. The list of life compromising effects of age is extensive: osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, increased body fat, loss of muscle tissue, loss of range of motion, increased blood sugar, lower metabolism, loss of body tone, decreased cardiovascular function, increased likelihood of injury, and immune deficiencies. There are many forms of exercise but only one effectively addresses all of the above Ė strength training. Yes, even cardiovascular benefits can be obtained with proper strength training.
Strength training was once shunned by women who feared becoming ďbulked upĒ. Only a few men and women have the potential to add large amounts of muscle. Women can increase strength with a much smaller increases in muscle compared to men. Those small increases in muscle add shape to the body, increase tone, and make you look better. The stronger your body is, the more toned you will be. Athletes have incredible body tone because they are very strong. That does not come from lifting light weights several times. It comes for imposing rigorous demands on the body that force it to adapt and become stronger.
Muscle is much denser than fat and will not significantly add to that bulked up look as much as an increase in fat would. Besides, if you are one of the select few women with the capacity to add significant amounts of muscle, the muscle increase occurs very slowly and you can stop increasing the weights you are lifting if and when too much muscle appears imminent. Most will find that they never will reach that point. Often people mistake the bulked-up look to muscle, but more often the real reason is fat. It is much more difficult to increase muscle than fat.
An increase in muscle and strength occurs when muscles are worked intensely. To do this two things must happen: (1) Demands are places on the body beyond a level that the muscles are equipped to handle: and (2) the body is giving adequate time to rebuilt after the exercise stimulus. The strength increases occur during recovery periods not during exercise. Thatís why rest is important and the danger of overtraining is great when too much time is spent strength training.
It does not take hours in the gym each week to get results. Drudgery is not a requirement to increase strength. Just 30 minutes a week can produce remarkable results. To maximize results work intensely. If you are working intensely, workouts cannot be very long. The more intensely you work the more recovery time you will need and the less frequently you will need to workout. More time in the gym will not result in more improvement if the body is not given enough time to recover.
While many exercise for its cosmetic benefits, the health benefits are considerable, and far more important.
Increased bone density. Osteoporosis studies confirm what has been suspected for years. Strong muscles make for strong bones. Women who have undergone weight training have been able to significantly increase bone densities.
Lessen the debilitating affects of Osteoarthritis. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones and as a shock absorber when the body is subjected to excessive forces. Eventually the cushion wears out. You can hasten that process by engaging in excessive high impact exercise. Too much running and improper weight training can produce such unwanted results. Each body is different and some are less suited to this pounding than others. Weight training should be performed in such a manner where excessive force is minimized.
Protection of joints and connective tissue. Excessive force causes injury. This can be caused by a single event such as a turned ankle, or it can be caused by repetitive use. In either case the body has been compromised. If it is not allowed sufficient time to heal the condition often becomes chronic. Once a joint has been damaged the best you can do outside of surgery is to strengthen the muscles around those joints. This is best accomplished through strength training. Running will not make the muscles stronger. In fact excessive running can make the muscles weaker and in some case cause injury. According to Runnerís World 70 percent of those who run regularly for a year will experience an injury. This is not to say that people should not run (There are of course some who should not run.). People should not run to the point of injury.
Increased muscle tissue and range of motion. It is simple, if you donít use it you lose it. As adults we lose about 10 ounces of lean muscle a year after the age of 30. If we donít use the muscles the body has no need for extra calorie burning tissue. As we age we gradually lose the strength to move through a complete range of motion. This loss of flexibility is called adaptive shorting. Your body adapts to the demands or lack of demands placed on it. Proper strength training can reverse this muscle loss better than other forms of exercise and will produce enhanced flexibility. While it is good to be more flexible (safely increase your range of motion), enhanced flexibility is better. Enhanced flexibility is the ability to move through a greater range of motion and have more strength through that increased range of motion. With enhanced flexibility you will be stronger, feel better and reduce the likelihood of injury. There is no need to go through life with compromises in abilities and constant aches and pains.
Lower body fat, higher metabolism, and lower blood sugar. Each pound of muscle lost means a lower basal metabolic rate of 50 to 70 calories. A lower metabolism means less fat burning and a greater propensity to add fat. Muscle aids in the disposition of blood sugar. A more muscular body will burn more fat, control blood sugar, and lessen the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
Protection against injury and immune deficiencies. The No. 1 one reason people end up in nursing homes is due to the loss of strength to carry out daily activities. With decreased strength, balance becomes more of a problem. Falls are more prevalent and injuries result Ė next stop the nursing home. A person with a stronger body is less likely to sustain injuries, less likely to fall, and is more able to withstand the debilitating effects of sickness.
The benefits are huge and the time required is minimal. You should operate from the premise that it is not how much exercise you can withstand; it is how much is required to produce optimal results. Anything beyond that which produces maximal results is a waste of time and counterproductive as your body cannot adequately recover from the exercise stimulus. If you attempt to put in as much time as possible strength training hoping for improved results, the only improvement will be in the wallet of your trainer.
Not all advocates of strength training adhere to the same methods. There is no absolute right way. There are different ways to get stronger. It all comes down to subjecting the body to sufficient stimulus followed by adequate rest. A valid way to strength train is whatever method safely produces real measurable results. They have to be measurable results. If not, how do you know whether you are improving? If you are not improving why bother? Find a method that produces real results. Youíll look better, feel better and be able to do the stuff you did when you were younger without getting hurt. Yeah, thatís the ticket! Exercise briefly and infrequently so there is more time to recover, and then do more stuff.
About the Author: John Kelly is the owner of Ultimate Fitness in New Orleans, LA and Kelly Personal Training in Austin, TX. He has been a personal trainer for 27 years. He specializes in high-intensity circuit strength training designed for safety and maximum impact in minimum time. For more information go to either of Johnís websites http://www.kellypersonaltraining.com or http://www.ultimate30.com or call John at 512-964-8787.