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It's also a very clear path to happiness.“
- Sheryl Sandberg -
When it comes to weight training, many women think of bodybuilders, giant muscles or even heavy weights. Today we want to change this picture a little bit, because especially for women, who are mostly "weight shy", this form of training is especially important and useful. You don't have to rush into a bodybuilding career, but simply take advantage of the benefits that strength training offers you. Let us first correct a little misconception.
Women become Arnold Schwarzenegger the moment they touch a dumbbell!
Far too many women believe that they would become too masculine and muscular if they start working out with weights. That's pure superstition. If they don't plan to lift weights 6 times a week for the next 3 years and have an enormous calorie surplus, not much will happen except that the muscles will define themselves, the booty will become firmer and the shape of the body leaner. The best way to get into good shape is to work with all your muscles. This applies to both women and men. Training is an important way to prevent illnesses, posture- or cardiovascular problems and of course it also helps you to lose weight.
So you really don't need to be afraid that strength training could have negative effects. This is simply because women produce less testosterone than men and therefore the development of large muscles is not possible to such an extent. The only way to build really big muscles is by adding anabolic steroids.
Is strength training for women pointless if they cannot build up large muscles?
No, of course not. Otherwise there wouldn't be this article and not so many women would go to the gym. The benefits of training with weights are incredibly versatile for the whole body.
Examples: Stimulation of the nervous system, building up new brain cells, removal of harmful substances in the body, building up strong bones and of course the aesthetic part. A woman with a well-trained body is not only sexy, but overcomes a new limit with every workout. This increases self-confidence. But let's take a closer look at a few advantages and clear up a couple of myths.
1. Female curves and body-shape
Please don't think that your curves would simply disappear when you train with weights. It is exactly the opposite. Your muscles will become rounder and firmer, which will give you a beautiful feminine shape. For example, if you want to have a rounder butt, you can train your gluteus maximus with specific exercises such as squats, deadlifts, leg press.
The way to a round butt and firm thighs is to train with weights. Of course you can always concentrate on the abs, legs and bottom region, but essential are exercises for the back. Thereby posture problems can be eliminated. So you can improve your health and appearance together if you do a balanced weight training at least 1-2 times a week in addition to your other sports or activities.
If you build up a little more muscle, your body will also burn more calories. Especially the afterburning effect is very high after weight training. And muscles in general consume more energy. So you can replace your fat pads in your problem zones with tight muscles.
So if you don't starve yourself down, or like female bodybuilders, strive for an extremely low body fat percentage, then you don't need to worry about your female curves such as breasts or butt. If done correctly, your belly will only be flatter and your butt will be rounder.
Check some fitness models on Instagram, to get a confirmation of this!
2. Compression of the bones and stop of aging
At first you may think, "What do I care about my bones", but in fact osteoporosis is a common problem among older women. And you can counter this by lifting weights. A bone is so structured on the inside that it has many empty spaces, just like a sponge. This allows it to be stable and yet light.
With age these hollow spaces become larger and larger and bones become more fragile. By lifting weights, the body has to adapt and it densifies the bones, so it reduces the cavities. In this way you can hope for a stable posture and a good retirement plan.
Sport in general makes us about 10 years younger than if we didn't do any sport. And weights not only train our muscles and bones, but also our entire locomotor system plus the nerves. So also tendons, ligaments, fasciae etc. The earlier and the longer you train, the longer your body can live off it. If you start to build a good base today, your body will be able to prevent some diseases in the coming years.
This is precisely why more and more orthopedists and physiotherapists are prescribing a balanced weight training. It is not about building up huge muscles or lifting enormous weights, but about exposing the body to a healthy stimulus to make it more resistant and healthier. Your body always adapts to what you do. Challenge it a bit and you will soon feel the benefits for yourself and look better than most people in the years to come. Just because you are over 40 doesn't mean that you have to give up. It always makes sense to train your body and mind until you really can't do it anymore.
3. Stress reduction and sleep improvement
Weight training is scientifically proven to reduce stress. Not directly during training, but afterwards. There are two simple reasons for this. You are completely exhausted and your body releases endorphins, or happiness hormones. This automatically makes you feel good. You have overcome yourself to do something for yourself. In the long term, you also increase your self-esteem. Especially the happiness hormones can be addictive, because it just feels great to have completed a workout. So it helps with worries and also with depressions. Your general well-being is increased.
During strenuous workouts your central nervous system is always trained. Especially with complex exercises that address several muscle groups. Afterwards your body needs rest. The post-workout composure is mainly due to the adrenaline that the body gets rid of through training. If you rarely exercise, this hormone accumulates and makes you lethargic, tired and even aggressive. So off to the gym!
So when you're exhausted, you'll sleep better. Your body (muscles, nerves and brain) needs the rest to recover from the workout. You sleep better, longer, deeper and more restful because your body needs to get used to your workout during sleep and rest phases. This is called supercompensation. Your body adapts more and more to the things you put it through.
A healthy sleep is very important for the regeneration of all your cells. So pay attention to a healthy beauty sleep!
4. Back- and posture problems
There is almost nothing better to counteract the aging process than strength training, as we have experienced in section 2). Especially for back- and posture problems, which are often caused by a malposition of the spine, a strong and supporting musculature helps enormously. A trained back and pelvic musculature relieves at least the spinal column immensely.
With specific exercises for your back you can either solve many problems completely or at least improve them considerably. For example, a rounded back, where the upper back and especially the head fall forward, can be corrected by regular training of the upper back muscles. Who wouldn't like to have a straight and fit posture and a pain-free back?
A tip from me is to combine a good strength training with mobility training. For example, 2 x a week training with weights and 2 x yoga would be optimal. That would be the perfect combination for an athletic body, with which you'd look and feel flexible, energetic and fit.
5. Coordination and power
I am not talking about power, as a force of how much weight you can lift, but as power in everyday life. You will feel much fitter and with more energy. Strength training demands all your muscles if you do it properly. The body adapts to the effort and strain of the workout. This increases the size or number of mitochondria in your cells. They are responsible for the energy production in your body. So if you often feel lethargic, you will get a noticeable energy boost after a few weeks in the gym!
The great thing about complex weight exercises is that your brain also has to adapt. You have to learn new movements and a correct execution, otherwise there is a risk of injury. This way you learn to get a better feeling with your body, coordinating through exercise, weight and execution. In fact, strength training builds brain cells!
6. Fat reduction
One of the most important points is of course fat reduction. This isn't necessarily specific to women, but significant enough to mention. Since women often don't want to build up great muscles, there is still the desire to be athletic and lean. And this can best be achieved through weight training. The advantage over cardio and why you burn a lot more calories with weights is mainly the afterburning effect.
If you've been running, it's been exhausting, but then it's as good as over. After a workout with weights, your muscles were strained. This causes micro fissures in the muscles (this is totally normal). In order for these to regenerate, the body first needs proteins (they are the building material) and energy, which in turn leads to a long-lasting afterburn effect.
Another reason is that muscles, besides the brain, burn most of the energy and therefore calories in our body. The more powerful your muscles are, the more calories are burnt automatically. So if you want to become lean, strength training is the perfect solution.
Especially when you start working out, everything is exhausting and maybe you lack a little discipline. Therefore, you should have a clear goal in mind that you want to achieve. Start with simple and short workouts and increase with time. A coach is an enormous help. It is important to do exercises correctly.
If you grit your teeth and keep going after a few weeks, a routine will develop and you will keep going. You shouldn't necessarily think of weight training as just a sport that's exhausting, but rather as a life-long therapy that keeps you healthy and fit. Just as you brush your teeth every day to keep them healthy and not fall out at 30, you should integrate complex strength training into your life about twice a week to celebrate long-term success. You want to be fit for life not just the beach.
So when a routine is established with your workouts and it will, you can apply this pattern to all the other things in your life. You become more disciplined and happier. Even if you go on vacation or get sick. Just start over and over again without blaming yourself. It's a lifelong process. Imagine if you were still doing your exercises well when you were 70. Maybe with less weight and speed, but just imagine how fit you can be until old age. And look amazing, of course!
Recommendations and FAQ:
Do I have to give up other sporting activities?
No, of course not. If you like to dance, run, swim or do yoga and pilates, then keep doing it. You can combine all these things wonderfully. As mentioned above, strength training is a means to an end. A purpose to stay fit and healthy and to counteract many symptoms of aging. No other sport helps so much with back problems or with the consolidation of bones. But the nice thing is that it also has many positive side effects such as: Fat reduction, a great and toned physique, more energy, stress reduction and and and and ...
How often do I have to train?
In order for your body to adapt, it needs at least 48 hours of rest. But if you choose the pauses too high, you will always start over again. So it would be highly recommended 2-3 times a week. The more intensive your workout, the longer the pauses. If you can only do it 1-2 times a week, you still will be able to enjoy all the benefits in the long run. It is much more important to train consistent than 3 weeks a lot and then not at all. So I recommend 2 times a week as the perfect amount.
What exercises do you recommend?
The basics: Because you don't need isolation exercises for your biceps or calves. Compound exercises that involve several muscle groups burn more calories and help you to better exploit all the above benefits.
Legs & Glutes: squats, lunges, hip-thrusts
Back: rowing, chin-ups, deadlifts
Shoulders: shoulder press, reverse butterfly
Chest: bench press, push-ups
For all exercises you can use these basic exercises. But there are also a lot of alternatives. E.g. goblet squats or kettlebell swings instead of deadlifts, chin-ups with rubber band etc. Ask a personal trainer for more information. A correct execution is the most important thing. An injury is not desired and comes faster than you might think.
Which workout routine is recommended?
As a trainer, I have noticed that a fast workout with an increased heart rate has more advantages, especially for women. The stimulation of the metabolism and the dynamic activation of the muscles is more effective for women than pure strength and mass building. So make sure that you do 3-4 sets per exercise with about 10 repetitions per set and only leave 30-60 seconds rest between those sets. This way you burn more fat and strengthen your cardiovascular system. Enormous strength, unless it is desired, doesn't need to be built up, by very heavy sets with long pauses. This won't bring so much success in the long run. But it depends on your goals.
Example: Lunges with dumbbells in each hand
Warm-up set with 20 repetitions without weights
1st set: 10 reps. with 8 kilos (18 lbs) each - 30 seconds break
Second set: "repeat"
Third set: "repeat"
Do I have to go to the gym?
You don't have to. All you need is a pair of dumbbells with adjustable weights at home. A bench on which you can bench press or hip-thrust for example would be an advantage, but even this is not a MUST. In the gym there is a lot of equipment and you can bring a lot of variation into your training. If you train at home, you should only know how to do it. Watch videos, or get information in a gym about the execution of certain exercises.
What do I have to eat?
Mainly healthy food and avoid excessive sugar consumption. Eat normal amounts and portions, just less or no soft drinks, chocolate, white bread. Leave out the pasta every now and then and take brown rice or potatoes instead. Just by doing this, plus strength training twice a week, you will see progress within a few weeks, without having tormented yourself. The whole thing should be fun too.
Proteins are important because they not only help you lose weight and satiate longer than fat and carbohydrates, but they are the building blocks of all your cells and are essential for adequate regeneration.
How much protein do I need?
On average, athletes should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilo (2.2 lbs) of body weight. If you want to train more or build muscles and look fitter, 1 gram per kilo (2.2 lbs) of body weight is recommended. Everything above that is really more for people who have clear muscle goals and train 4 times or more in the gym.
That means if you weigh 60 kilos (132 lbs) you should consume about 48 grams of protein (60kg x 0.8 = 48).
If you don't want to eat a lot of meat, eggs and dairy products or are even vegan, it helps to get a suitable protein powder. Just make sure that they are not full of sugar or sweeteners. So better buy a good quality product.
You should drink a lot, especially water and unsweetened drinks. It should be 2 liters (0.5 gallon) a day. Then remember, you can't do anything without protein. You don't have to overdo it, but you won't see success without it. Your body needs them for the muscles and all the other cells in the body. During workouts, stick to compound basic exercises that use several muscle groups, and you will get the most out of them.
A whole body training 2 times a week is optimal. Combine it with cardio training once a week. This can be a bodyweight workout or any other endurance training. Especially Yoga and Pilates are an extraordinary addition, because they stretch the body and loosen the muscles. After all, you want to continue to be stretchy and active.
Start with light weights and first learn how to perform the individual exercises. This takes some time, but is worth it. You don't want to overstrain your muscles. Success comes with time, not overnight.
I wish you good luck! The key to your dream figure is in your own hands.
I hope this article was helpful for you. If so, please share it, so others like you can benefit from it. I wish you the best.
- LdR -
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