the joy of strength training


February 10th, 2008 at 1:40 am

Getting into weight training: a female-friendly guide

This is the first article in the series Getting into weight training: a female-friendly guide.

1. Why lift weights? 4. Exercise technique
2. Types of weight training 5. Training programmes
3. Starting Out
6. Create your own programme

Why lift weights?

Women are often not encouraged to lift weights, or at least to lift heavy. But you are missing out on many benefits if you don’t train with weights:

  1. Developing muscle is a very effective way to drop body fat as muscle burns many more calories than fat.
  2. As we get older, we lose muscle and our body fat percentage thereby increases; weight training will help to reverse this process
  3. Strengthening your muscles and joints will help prevent injury and back pain, both now and later in life.
  4. Weight training improves bone density, mitigating the risk of osteoporosis and weak bones which women are particularly prone to.
  5. Being stronger is useful in everyday life and brings increased confidence in your own physical abilities.

Myth of bulking up

Many women are afraid that weight training will bulk them up and make them look masculine. But this is a myth! Women can get a lot stronger without bulking up because they don’t have the same hormones as men. Female bodybuilders who actually want to bulk up have to resort to drugs in order to achieve the effect as it doesn’t happen naturally. If you watch what you eat and train with weights, you are more likely to drop a couple of dress sizes than get any bigger.

Size zero culture

Women are often put off weight training because it isn’t a mainstream activity for women. For many, the aspiration is to look thin and waif-like rather than healthy and lean, and images in the media and fashion encourage this. But the answer is simple: it’s your body and your health we’re dealing with. Women should train to suit their bodies and lifestyles, not to suit a particular media image which is unattainable and undesirable for the vast majority of people.

The tyranny of the scales

It is common for people to judge their health according to how much they weigh on the scales, using indicators such as BMI (Body Mass Index). But BMI does not distinguish between muscle and fat. This leads to the bizarre situation where athletes who have a lot of muscle and little body fat are classed as obese because they weigh more than the average! A better measurement to use is body fat percentage.

The most effective way to reduce your body fat percentage is to build some muscle. Combined with the right diet, you can reduce your body fat percentage and thus improve your health, even if you get heavier overall. You will also look leaner and have better definition.

Leading the way

Lastly – but importantly – it is difficult to be a trailblazer. Many women don’t know any other females who train seriously with weights and it can be a daunting prospect to be the first woman in your gym to pick up a heavy barbell.

That’s where this article series comes in. This series gives you all the guidance you need to start weight training, whatever kind of gym you are in. So take the plunge: you have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain!

Next article: Types of weight training

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