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Strength Training Offers Numerous Benefits for Women

By Karalee Evenson, YWCA of Minneapolis Personal Trainer
August 23, 2013
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Strength training has long been shown to have numerous benefits for all women, including building muscle, losing fat, keeping bones strong and improving overall health. Many women know about the benefits that strength training can offer them, but are intimidated by the thought of going to the gym or coming up with a program that will help them meet their goals.

Start with a trainer. As a trainer, I like to recommend that women add weightlifting to their exercise routine three times a week, performing eight to ten exercises that work all major muscle groups. A good way for a beginner to start a strength training routine is to get comfortable with the machines available in the fitness center. These machines are great for beginners because they are simple, easy to use, and work to isolate the muscles being targeted. As these machines become easier, more weight can be added and, eventually, free weight exercises can be incorporated that require more balance, stability and core strength.

It’s great for runners too. Strength training is also a great and necessary supplement to regular cardiovascular, aerobic exercise. I have worked with many long-distance runners who have suffered from injuries in the past or who have struggled to increase distance and speed as they continue to train. When they have added a couple days of strength training per week, injuries decreased and their running performance vastly improved. Balancing strength training with a consistent cardio routine is the best way for women to increase overall fitness and reach previously unattainable fitness goals.

Don’t worry about getting big and bulky, ladies! Many women fear that when they begin a strength training routine, they will get the opposite effect of their goal, but if you can perform an exercise with weights 12 times for three sets, you will only gain strength and tone up, not bulk up. Women do not produce enough testosterone to build heavy muscle mass the same way men do, so lifting moderate amounts of weight will only make you stronger and leaner. Also, if you start a strength training routine and notice a slight increase in your weight the first month or so, that is typical and nothing to worry about. Most people who add weights to their workout routine gain a few pounds initially as the body starts to build muscle. Muscle is more dense and heavier than fat tissue, but gaining more muscle will lead to an increase in metabolism, and eventually those pounds will start to melt away.

I have had many female clients who are concerned initially about this increase in weight, but I always ask them, “Are your clothes fitting better?” and inevitably, the answer is yes. They may have gained a few pounds, but they are leaner already due to increase in muscle mass and change in body composition. Also, as women age, muscle naturally decreases, so it is even more important to keep those muscles strong to prevent injury and maintain physical fitness later in life.

So, if you have been on the fence about adding weights and strength training to your fitness routine, you can see now that there are many benefits, and you don’t need to spend all day in the gym to see results! Just two or three days of training each week for about 30 minutes will greatly improve your health and fitness level, giving you more energy and strength to live life to the fullest!