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
Congratulations, Sarah and Paula, you’ve succeeded in pushing some emotional buttons. If all you do is get folks to THINK about our assumptions and values, you have done a valuable service.
I do agree with some of the comments about not wanting to aspire to the lean woman look. I’ve been reading some Paeo blogs and there is talk of how people tend to be “more chill” and happier when they are slightly heavier than they want to be. Obviously, there is a threshold and no one wants to be obese. To achieve the look on the right for some people might require overtraining, and that raises the risk for all sorts of nasty inflammatory conditions.
I also know the beautiful young woman in the photo on the right. She is in no way, shape or form “masculine”. She is a hard worker and a smart, strong determined person. This blog post was meant to be positive and informative. It was not a dig at the person on the left. We should all realize that we are beautiful and not put down others. Did the “Negative Nancys” ever stop to think the woman on the right is real person and might see the hurtful things you say? She worked hard on that body!!! And she’s still working hard to maintain it. I just think we shouldn’t be so rude while giving our opinions. Her back is sexy and she knows it!!
We have a saying in the cattle business – cows should look like cows and bulls should look like bulls. I don’t think the fit woman looks horrible by any means. Yet, men are to have a V-shape, whereas women are to have more of a figure 8 shape – that’s how God made us. She has a more masculine v-shape. AND it is her body & if that is what she wants, then I am happy for her!
I think there is a tendency to over-exercise & cause more damage; I’ve done it to myself (adrenal issues) & have a dear friend who has ruined her back on weight machines and now has severe issues. I don’t think that is a good thing at all. I doubt I will ever use them again, though perhaps (light) free weights. I have scoliosis, so must be very, very careful. I try to keep my activities to more “natural” ones – working in the yard, garden, around the house, and do “bursts” of activity (rake, rest, garden, rest, etc.) along with some walking, rebounding, and short duration aerobics (I have given up running – for now & perhaps forever). We are each individuals with our own issues & concerns and goals.
Amanda, did you actually READ the post, or did you just look at the comparative pictures and decide it was shallow and to get outraged? Paula spoke extensively of the mental, emotional, and life-changing benefits of being strong and healthy. She did not – and if you read any of her other posts, DOES not – focus solely on appearance. She also gave advice on how to achieve better health and fitness for ourselves.
What exactly is offensive about that?
Like it or not, appearance IS an indicator of inner health (not a perfect one, but still an indicator). There is no getting around that. It isn’t “shallow” to visually acknowledge that one woman looks healthier than the other.
Your husband sounds like a smart man. People come in many shapes and sizes and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; but whenever I hear people lashing out and making unkind and ridiculous comments such as suggesting that woman looks “masculine” is when I suspect the jealousy or insecurity motive.
Traditional man frequently performed “blasts of interval training” when hunting and running for his life.
I have to say at neither body looks ideal to me, and when asked, my husband said he would prefer the heavier woman on the left to the more masculine-looking one on the right (lucky me!) I am surprised at these extreme fitness posts on this blog, which seems to have a focus of more traditional health….. “blasts” of interval training isn’t really very traditional.
As for being jealous…. I would like to be a little thinner, like many women pushing 40, but mainly because of media images. I am a size 8 and lead a reasonably active life as the mother of five sons. But to say at all of us with more “womanly” (read: curvier) bodies are jealous because we dont have the drive to get as “fit” as the lady on the right is simply making untrue assumptions.
I enjoy the HHE blog, but maybeI will skip the “fitness” posts in the future.
I just want to add that we as women/mothers need to watch our tongues and our message because little eyes are watching. That’s why when a Mother stands in the mirror and say’s “I’m fat, my butt is too big, my thighs are huge” – what message is that sending to our children. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that our society is in so much trouble. While at one end we have people who are obese at the other end we have children as young as 6 and 7 stealing their mothers diet pills. We have an epidemic of teenage girls cutting themselves and starving themselves thin because of the messages from the media that their whole identity is wrapped up in how they look. We objectify ourselves thinking it’s the only way to a man’s heart and we’re loosing big time. Please think before you make posts like this – while you’re message of exercise was wonderful; you’re tone with the comparable pictures was disgraceful. Especially coming from a community that promotes wholeness. I’m not in any kind of denial, I see the deep wounds women inflict on themselves over body image. And someone needs to stand up and say enough. I’m not gonna get into an internet debate with you. If you don’t agree with my words, please delete them. But, I hope in the future, you think about a person as a whole and the much, much bigger picture.
Amanda, you’ve misconstrued the intended context of my post. The pictures were meant to make a statement not demean women in general. The predominant goal of healthy eating and exercising is internal rather than external in nature; looking better is merely a fringe benefit. We did not show extremes here but rather a woman at a healthy weight and one at an unhealthy weight.
More importantly than external benefits of exercise is how it makes you feel on the inside both physiologically and emotionally. The woman on the left (when I met her) was having problems conceiving, on anti depressants, thyroid issues, low energy and a few other health problems. She is now 6 months pregnant, 30 lbs lighter, off anti depressants–thyroid and gastric issues resolved. She is basically a new woman. When she gives birth to her daughter she is determined to encourage and promote these behaviors from birth so her daughter will not go through what she did. What does she attribute her success to? Eating the right whole foods and moving–be it in a gym or on a farm. Her aspirations are not to be a fitness competitor.
Children learn in the environment in which they are raised. As parents we must practice what we preach and set the example. No wonder the 6 yo reaches for diet pills if she sees her mother or father doing that. Why is the 6 yo overweight anyway? Because they were not fed the right foods and encouraged to play and move like nature intended.
Making a blog about all the wonderful internal and external achievements would have been a wonderful story to read! But, you solely focused on the external – a very shallow external. This is exactly the environment that a (skinny) 6 year olds lives in that reach for her Mothers diet pills. Maybe so she doesn’t get fat one day? Maybe because she “thinks” she’s fat because she already has a distorted self image. Which IS the norm for children in america today! I’m so sorry that you can’t see that. Have you ever been in a room full of women who just pick on themselves? It’s the most socially acceptable thing to do between women and you’re just playing right into that. Women need to learn to love themselves just as they are, right now. Only then will true, whole healing happen that is sustainable and LASTS over a life-time.
I don’t think I misconstrued anything. Given the only facts in this post, you showed 2 pictures of the same women and told any other women (gentlemen) reading, that if they didn’t think the second picture LOOKS better than they’re in denial or need confession!!?? Your writing AND tone were invoke our shallow senses – ONLY. How is that misconstrued? THAT very attitude is what keeps this society sick. I would have LOVED to read a blog about how you inspired a mother-to-be to save her life and live again! Stories like THAT will create whole healing.
This is my 1st time visiting your website. I just spent 1 hour watching your wonderful videos on youtube. Coming to your website and seeing this post leave a bad taste in my mouth. As a former beauty queen and model, I understand on how focusing on the outside is down right shallow and unfulfilling. While I totally understand your emphasis on exercise and health, I think you’re pushing away a huge audience that could use your information the most. I’m actually so appalled at your tone that I’m so sorry I shared your blog with my family and friends tonight. When focusing on health, you can’t just focus on what you eat and how you exercise AND especially how you look. If you’re gonna share health and wellness information in an effort to make a PERSON WHOLE then people look into Gene Roth and Marc David because you’re missing the mark big time with posts/tones like this. What kind of average American mother looking for ways to feed her family and start a healthy lifestyle would look at this post in a positive way?! And I never usually comment on anyone’s blog, but I felt so impressed by your Youtube videos and now am just ashamed of the information you’re pumping to women. Good luck on your journey. The people who really need to hear what you’re teaching will never get to because of such shallowness like this.
This post wasn’t actually written by Sarah, as you may have noticed. If you go back and read some of Sarah’s own posts, I’m sure you’ll find the sort of information you’re looking for!
Thanks Fiona! I did notice, but this IS Sarah’s blog. Sending people to get information and learn from her would be meant with a post that she allowed on her blog. I personally think it would cause women starting from 0 to run the other way. This isn’t something I would be comfortable sharing with family and friends. Thanks anyways!
It’s easy to make these assumptions when one is not willing to put their own pics out there. She looks lean and fit and most representative of a young primal healthy woman who has not yet had children. The most important thing is she will continue to be able to do sport, life and could run a farm all in one day!
Don’t let not having time to go to the gym stop you. Get trained in kettlebells and you’ll have a fantastic workout program at your fingertips. I have a video of my kettlebells training on YouTube under healthnutnation. Hitting the “iron” does not have to mean bench presses and pull-ups! I swing kettlebells while I fold laundry, while writing my blog or when my little one is napping.