For women who are looking for muscle tone, definition and weight loss, weight lifting is the best training method to achieve those goals. Many women shy away from weight lifting. Most are scared they will become too muscularly and masculine. This is not true! Women do not have the levels of testosterone like men to develop huge muscles. Some women have higher levels of testosterone than others, so they will develop muscle tone and definition more easily, but most will not be able to increase muscle size or bulk just by weight lifting. It takes a huge volume of heavy weight lifting, positive calorie balance – protein intake, supplements and maybe steroids for women to achieve huge muscle gain.
Women should include weight training as part of their overall programme of conditioning for the following reasons:
- Increase lean body mass
- Improved body image and self-perception
- Enhance joint stability
- Increase bone strength and density
- Improved posture
Increase lean body mass
With weight training, you will burn far greater amount of calories and lose body fat than just doing cardiovascular exercise. Your body composition will become better as you train with weights i.e. you will get lean by gaining more lean muscle and lose body fat. Your metabolic rate (rate at which you burn calories) will be raised much higher and even at rest. When you’re not exercising you are still burning calories. The more lean muscle mass you have on your body, the more calories you will burn at rest i.e. fat burning.
Improved body image and self-perception
If you are interested in body shaping and developing muscle tone and definition, training with free weights is definitely the solution. Many women who are new to weights start off with very light weights but most will never move on from the 3kg dumbbells, as they are scared of becoming like Mr. Muscle. They will never get any results just by using light weights as they will easily plateau and the weights used are far below what is needed to elicit a training effect. In order to get any strength gains and shape in your body, the weights you use must be progressively heavier as you become stronger, to stimulate a training adaptation.
Enhance joint stability
Women are more prone to knee injuries from playing high impact sports such as gymnastics, netball, volleyball etc where they require jumping, landing and pivoting. Women have wider hips than men and so the angle (Q angle) from the hip and knee is greater which causes increase in knee injuries. Therefore, it is important to strengthen the leg muscles to minimise any risk of injury.
Increase bone strength and density
Not only from an aesthetic reason but there are benefits from a health standpoint too. Women are more prone to Osteoporosis (bones become porous, brittle and weak) than men in their later years. Bone loss in women can begin as early as 25 years old. Weight-bearing exercises will help the bones to become stronger and denser and will definitely minimise the risk of osteoporosis.
Females may be at risk of developing poor posture than men due to a variety of different factors. E.g. High heels can cause muscle tightness in the calf muscles, restricting flexion at the ankle, which can cause changes in muscle length higher up the body. Often hip flexors will tighten causing the pelvis to tilt, that will affect the curves of the vertebrae, consequently affecting the shock absorbing capacity and changes occurring in the upper body. Appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises can improve posture.
To conclude, for the average woman, weight training will have a positive effect on body composition, contributing to a reduction in body fat and an increase in strength and power, all without a change in body size.
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