Strength Training for Women

The way women train needs to be updated!
Hours of gentle cardio in the ‘Fat Burning Zone’ isn’t going to do what you want!
If you want to lose weight, protect your joints, avoid [insert organ] disease have a sustainable improvement in fitness.
You need to start training for strength and muscle.  that is not just my opinion, it’s a position supported by many sports science studies and industry leaders

I’ve worked in the gym for a while now…
I’ve trained a lot of women and observed many more training.
A typical example you’ll see in the gym is the fabled cardio, cardio, abs. Often followed by a variety of arm exercises at very low weights.

I’m not sure I understand why doing lots of reps at an almost meaningless weight has become so common a practice

personal training bristol

I think  it may be down to the magical term ‘toning’.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people and overheard a lot of people talking about ‘toning’ their arms or whatever other body part.
So lots of women end up doing cardio, cardio and whatever body part they’re trying to tone.

Unfortunately that system has been proven over and again to be ineffective.
Not only is it a very time-consuming training method there are several aspects that are known to be incorrect and have been proven so by many a scientific study.

Spot Reduction for ‘Toning’ does not work!

The key problem being ‘spot reduction’. The idea being, if you want to ‘tone’ your upper arms you do lots of work on your upper arms and you will strip the fat away and have a more ‘toned’ arm.
Unfortunately fat is lost across the whole body in whatever order your genetics have already decided the fat will be removed.
Being a fairly typical man when I’m trying to get rid of fat it’s always my belly that holds it. sometimes you can see the line along my hamstrings but I’ve still got a belly.
So I expect you’ve all got some experience of where you tend to lose fat the quickest and where it tends to be held the longest.

The next common issue is the ‘Fat Burning Zone’. The idea that if you train for a long period at a low rate you’re going to utilise fat as your primary energy source rather than the more readily available carbs.
This is typically misunderstood. Your body utilises the more readily available energy source first and then starts to break down fat.
So you need to train hard enough and control your calories to ensure a calorie deficit to lose weight.

If you train your cardio harder you’re going to burn more calories in a shorter time.
There is also additional benefits of higher intensity training. You will gain more physiological adaptations such as more efficient energy systems and ligament strengthening for example.
Keeping on topic of weight loss if you complete intervals, as well as burning more calories in less time your metabolism will be working harder for longer once you’ve completed you cardio.

Why Strength Training.

Strength training will obviously make you stronger but lets look at why this is valuable.
The first and most obvious thing is if you’re stronger quite a few things will become easier, carrying things, getting up and down stairs.

Anything that feels physically difficult will be easier.
If that’s not incentive enough here’s a few more benefits.

I work with a lot of people with postural issues, aches and pains. By developing the strength training in an effective manner its possible to overcome the bad posture and re-train how you use your body. As a result a lot of the related aches and pains will be guarded against.

Putting your back out, between the additional strength gained the awareness and discipline of movement that comes with strength training will make you a lot less likely to hurt your back.

Improved health and prevention of a variety of health issues. There’s a long list of typical musculoskeletal issues that crop up over time in our bodies, by completing strength training you can improve how you use your body and avoid many of these.
There are also age related issues such as arthritis and osteoporosis that strength training will reduce your likelihood of suffering from.

Taking it back to the most common reason most people train, weight management.
If you lift weight your muscle will learn to work harder, and they will get bigger.
As a result you will burn more calories on a daily basis and as a result of training, making it easier to maintain your ratio of calories in and calories out. Therefore weight management will be easier.

Not only that doing a big strength training move, such as the deadlift, will burn a large amount of calories in a short amount of time.

Agility Fitnes Bristol

“But I don’t wont to get bulky!!”

Fine, you don’t want to get bulky. You won’t! to gain the kind of muscle you need to “get bulky” takes years of specific training and nutrition and takes a huge amount of commitment. It’s not going to happen by accident.
On the same point muscle will lead to you looking ‘toned’.
Being ‘toned’ comes down to the ratio of fat to muscle. if you’ve got huge muscles you’ll look reasonably toned even when your holding extra weight and counter to that if you have no muscles you’ll not look toned even when you lose lots of weight.

Nilparna Sen on the left has clearly done some strength training, you can see the shape of the muscles in her arms and legs creating that ‘toned’ look. Would you say she looks bulky?

So like all things in life it’s about a bit of balance, build some muscle get all the benefits of strength training, still get the weight loss and visible benefits of training without becoming ‘bulky’ as well as a good long list of additional benefits.

There’s a huge variety of strength training exercises available.
I typical train my clients to be able to do deadlifts, squats and hip thrusts for the lower body and shoulder press, rows  and pull ups for the upper body. There is plenty of exercises to develop you skill and strength to lead to being able to do these moves effectively and ensure that your building the strength safely.

To be able to lift more than your body weight from the floor is by no means an unreasonable goal. To be able to do a pull up is a good goal.

Every woman I have helped achieve a more than body weight deadlift has been delighted to do so and are excited to continue strength training.
As the for the few women I’ve helped achieve a pull up they have always been proud of themselves to have achieved such a difficult strength goal.

Strength training is not for men, being strong is not for men.
Lets break the stereotype and get everyone benefiting from strength training!

I’ve been told by quite a lot of women that the weights area can be an intimidating area. Don’t worry its an intimidating place for men at the beginning too.
Like everything new to you, going to a place full of people who have been doing it for ages will be intimidating.
So you’ve got to get in there and get on with it anyway!
I appreciate gyms are typically male dominated and there is grunting and sweat patches and that you may well get more attention than you want, but the benefits of strength training will trump all of these.
It is definitely worth trying a few gyms though as some will be more to you liking.
Women only gyms are also an option if that will make training more comfortable for you.
I prefer community gyms as they tend to have a broad age range and people are more personable, they also tend to have smaller memberships so you’ll get to know more of the faces around.
Brunel Fitness Centre
where I do my Personal Training has a range from teenagers at the ‘junior gym’ sessions all the way through to elderly people on exercise referal from their GP’s.
I have been told by several clients that they appreciate the atmosphere in this gym and they find it a very comfortable gym to train in.

Once you’ve got into the swing of your training you’ll have a focus and anything else will become peripheral.
I know for sure I generally ignore the other people in the gym when I’m training, headphones and focus!
You’ll notice that plenty of others are the same so we can find our own little bit of peace when we’re training.

I will be doing other blog posts on strength training, specific movements and exercises to prepare for them.
Once they’re written I’ll add links here.




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