By Fitness Editor Paula Jager, CSCS
Seriously ladies (and gentlemen if you’re reading) are you really going to tell me the woman on the left looks better than the one on the right? If so you either need to go to confession or you’re really in denial. Don’t get me wrong I love fatback–in my turnip greens.
Being a woman of what I call sound mind and body at age 52 I attribute this greatly to the fact that I have strength trained for over 17 years. Not only has it made me stronger physically but also mentally and emotionally. It has helped me overcome many challenges in my life that would have otherwise broken me.
It enables me to deal with life more effectively because I am more capable in both my physical and mental capacities. Getting under the steel is far more empowering than a leisurely walk around the block. Although that also has its place.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of strength training . . .
- Increased Metabolic Rate: Muscle is more metabolically active than fat; your body will burn more calories at rest. That equates to fat loss (provided you eat the right foods and amounts).
- Improved Hormonal Output: Heavy compound lifts will trigger your hormonal response systems.
- Increased and Restored Bone Density: Reduced risk of osteoporosis. Yes, I know walking is a weight bearing activity but that will only take you far. You must also lift heavy things. Walk with a sandbag or heavy object for shorter distances to add some resistance. Carry it on your shoulders, by your side and over your head.
- Increased Lean Body Mass: Forget light weights and high reps. I know, you just want to “tone”; you don’t want to get “big”. Then stop eating so much. We’re women–not men we are not hormonally able to pack on muscle mass like our male counterparts unless we take anabolic steroids. They have 15 to 20x the amount of testosterone we do and that is the magic muscle building hormone. You must also lift heavy enough to elicit a response in the muscle. Those 5 lb pink db’s used for endless repetitions just aren’t’ going to cut it.
- Injury Prevention and Recovery: Strength training will build up the muscles that support the spine and joints. Many of the general aches and pains people have especially lower back concerns are from weak, atrophied muscles and lack of structural support. If one does sustain an injury strength will aid in recovery and rehabilitation.
- Better Insulin Sensitivity: That translates to better glucose control and lower rates of diabetes.
- Improved Balance: Especially as we get older. With a strong foundation (the wheels and core) you’re going to have more coordination and better balance.
- Aging Well: With stronger muscles and ligaments less falls and injuries, less sagging body parts. Lean and toned bodies create a vibrant and strong persona and improved quality of life in our “mature” years.
- Looking and Feeling Better: Let’s face it–we all want to look better. When you look better you also feel better. Strength training plays a vital role in both of these.
While strength programs are varied and many and have been written about in detail in past posts my advice on the matter is the same: keep it basic. Stick to the tried and true methods that work.
For most of the training population (advanced athletes an exception in the details) 3x a week on alternate days to allow for recovery is adequate. Lower body exercises should primarily include squats, lunges and their variations. Pushing movements should include overhead presses, bench presses and dips. While pulling movements should consist of deadlifts, rows and pull ups. For the general populace lift with loads in the 5 to 7 rep range after proper form, technique and base conditioning have been established.
It’s as simple as that and all you need. If the above reasons aren’t enough to motivate you to start hitting the iron and you just want to be skinny–don’t worry about what you eat or lift and run fifteen miles a day. But if you want to control the reigns in your life looking and feeling your best then get back ladies–to the weight room!
Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar in Tampa, FL