In recent years, it has been observed that there is a growing trend of individuals being concerned about their health and wellness. The rapidly rising obesity rate throughout the world has let to a huge increase in the number of people engaging in various sorts of exercise in an attempt to lead a healthier lifestyle. An increase in the number of people exercising is a good thing but what are these people engaging in?
For majority of the population, one of the top few things that come to mind when embarking on a exercise regime to get fitter, lead a healthier lifestyle or lose weight is to go for a jog/run; but is that good or is that enough? Contrary to popular belief, you don’t run to be fit but rather you needing to be fit to run.
If one is embarking on an exercise regime, chances are that they are overweight and/or weak. An average person takes about 1,300 steps per kilometre of running. Multiply that by the average person’s mileage of 3-10km a week, add an overweight and/or weak individual and you have someone that has a very high likelihood of developing knee/ankle/back pain. The muscles are not strong enough to maintain a proper running gait and properly absorb the thousand upon thousands of impact from the runner’s foot striking the ground; this is exacerbated if said runner is carrying excess fat.
What can you do if you wish to lead a healthier lifestyle/get fitter/lose weight or wish to run better and faster while lowering the chances of getting injured? The answer is Strength Training. When we talk about strength training, we are talking about training with the sole purpose of getting stronger, not gaining size. The best way we can do so is by training with barbells. Training with machines do not yield the same results as training with barbells although it might be deemed as “safer” by many. The human body functions as a complete system and demands that it be trained in that manner, not separately or isolated, which is the case with machines. Machines forces the body to move the weight according to the design of the machine predetermined by the manufacturer while barbells allow the body to make minute adjustments to suit everyone’s anthropometry while moving the bar the way the body is designed to move it. Since the body is determining the movement of the bar, the individuals’ stabilising muscles, balance and proprioception are also trained, enhancing body-brain (neuromuscular) efficacy. The only downside to barbell training is that the vast population do not know how to perform them correctly. Continuing professional education in this aspect is not widely available and time consuming, hence, finding someone to teach the specific mechanics of these lifts and how to perform them efficiently and safely can be an arduous task.
Strength training is an often overlooked aspect of fitness, especially by females. Mention strength training to a female and they usually conjure up images of males with huge muscles grunting loudly while lifting heavy weights; this often puts them off into trying it for themselves. Almost all females would also mention the fear of them “bulking up” if they ever so much as lift anything above 5kg. This is the biggest misconception with regards to females and strength training. Testosterone – the main component in muscle building/strength building is about 10 times lower in females than in males, making it is extremely hard, if not impossible for a female to put on “bulk up” like males do. Countless scientific research have been done and articles written to prove this but even with science to back this up, many females do not believe it and avoid strength training at all cost for fear of looking “bulky”. To quote famous Astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson “ the good thing about science is that it is true, whether or not you believe in it”.
The main concern for these females if they avoid strength training is that they lose out on the many benefits that it provides. Strength training can improve the quality of life for every lady at any age and here 3 reasons why you should include strength training in your fitness regiment now!
Physiologically, females are about 4 times as likely to get osteoporosis as compared to males due to the lower amount of bone mass they possess. As females ages, they are at greater risk of losing both bone (osteopenia) and muscle mass (sarcopenia). Postmenopausal women are at the greatest risk for osteoporosis, losing as much as 25% of their bone mass within the first 10 years of menopause, due to the sharp decrease of estrogen, the hormone in women. This increases the likelihood of you suffering a debilitating fracture if you happen to fall, compromising your quality of life.
Strength training is an excellent way to combat the loss of bone mass, acutely slowing down the rate of bone loss and preventing osteopenia and osteoporosis. When you strength train, not only do your muscles get stronger, your bones get stronger and denser as they adapt to the stress placed on them. Many studies have shown that postmenopausal women experienced an increase in bone mass and density after participating in strength training; the earlier you begin training, the greater chance you have to maintain bone health later in life.
Stronger is better
Getting stronger would make activities of daily life easier – everything from climbing stairs to carrying bags to lifting your kids would be easier when you are stronger. Even activities that are predominantly cardiovascular such as running, cycling can benefit from strength training. As your maximal strength increases, a smaller percentage is used to produce the same amount of force, improving your running economy and allowing you run longer and harder.
Aches and pains such as lower back pain can be attributed to a variety of reasons. Poor posture and/or weak muscles might be the reason why you are getting that chronic ache in your lower back. Strength training not only builds muscles but also strengthens connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments. The strengthening of these components act as reinforcement for the joints, increasing its stability and aiding in prevention of injury.
Get your womanly curves
If your current exercise regime consists only of cardiovascular exercise and eating right, you are missing out on the impact strength training has on fat loss. Adding a weight training program to your current exercise regime will yield the best results in fat loss.
Your body adapts to weight training by growing muscles, which will not only enhance your physical performance but also your appearance. The hard work will show when your body has melted away the fat to show a shapely, curvy body only possible by lifting weights. If your exercise regime consists of only doing slow, long distance runs, you will still lose fat albeit at a slower pace but end up with what is known in the fitness industry as “skinny fat”. That is when you appear to be slim but have deceptively high body fat and low muscle mass. Usually, these individuals have high visceral fat as opposed to subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is fat located in the abdominal cavity, packed between the organs. Storage of fat in this area is associated with a host of diseases.
When you engage solely in cardiovascular dominant activities, you not only burn fat but lose muscle mass, which lower your resting metabolic rate and you can end up losing your lovely curves. Look up the body of a marathoner and a sprinter. Which would YOU rather look like?
Take away points:
- Ladies NEED to engage in strength training. Not lifting 3-5kg dumbbells for 20-30 repetitions but the progressive loading of weights at a low repetition range to constantly challenge her
- There is NO WAY you will end up looking “bulky” or “like a bodybuilder” lifting heavy weights as a female. That is only possible with the introduction of extraneous substances and impossible naturally
- Lifting weights is beneficially for both health and aesthetics
- Barbells over machines
- Train the body as a unit, not in isolation
To know more about strength training with barbells and how it can positively impact your life, contact Shaun at Hygieia now.
In the next article, I will be discussing the positive effects training has on women who are trying for a baby or are pregnant.