12 Nov 5 Top Benefits of Strength Training for Women
The first post that jumpstarted this blog discussed the dangers of mainstream media when it comes to women’s fitness. It also displayed my hatred for useless articles like “534 Ways to Kiss Your Man.” Albeit a hard push in the past two years to progress women into the empowering realm of strength training, some of us are still being detained in the world of 5 pound dumbbells, pretty little pilates moves, and the fallacy that we can actually build long lean muscle.
*punches wall again*
But really. Can we please stop with the long and lean crap??? Maybe we are misinformed that muscles have an origin and insertion, and are attached to bone. So here’s a lesson of tough love: the only way to *actually* make muscles long and lean is by getting a very painful surgery, or by pulling a Dr. Gordon from the movie Saw and sawing off your leg and figuring out true anatomy for yourself. #goodluck?
All blood, guts, and saws aside, when true strength training entered my life, a whole host of things happened for my physique. Dead lifts, heavy kettlebell swings, push-ups, pull-ups, and incredible core progressions all have molded me into the durable woman I am today, both mentally and physically.
So what will strength training do for you, beyond just physical appearance? Without further ado, here are 5 top reasons why lifting the iron will save your life:
1.) Gain confidence.
The first response my female clients get from a strength training program is how much their confidence increased. There’s just something empowering about seeing what you’re capable of and watching your body do things you never imagined. A couple years back, I remember nailing my first bodyweight pull-up. And when I finished, the only man who witnessed it came up to me and fist pounded me. Pushing past a previous self-imposed limitation was true magic, allowing me to realize the immense capabilities of my body.
2.) Live life with ease and enthusiasm.
Many of my older female clients have reported walking better, carrying groceries without breaking a sweat, running their kids around and never short of breath, or being able to shovel snow like never before. ‘Sorry husband, but I got this.’ Since I started, I’ve been able to play soccer against South American men without being knocked down, feel even more prepared to be an extra in the next Stars Wars movie, and be able to do awesome shit like climb a rope:
Or crawl up a hill backwards like Spiderman:
In summary, more strength = more playtime 🙂
3.) You will want to see more of what you’re capable of.
I had a 72 year old client (female) the other day get 5 perfect form push-ups for the first time. Sure, we started her three months ago doing push-ups elevated against a wall, but as the months passed, we progressed, and progressed, and progressed. Then, the glorious day arrived: she couldn’t believe she finally accomplished REAL push-ups. What surprised me even more was she looked at me and said, “So what’s the next goal?” For her, being able to do 5 perfect form push-ups was a huge milestone, but she craved more challenges to see what she was further capable of as a 72 year old woman. So we started doing push-ups with a weighted vest, feet elevated on a bench, and suspended in a TRX. Talk about a freakin’ powerhouse!
4.) Lean physique.
Lifting heavier weights —> Increased lean muscle mass —> Increased calories burned at rest —> More shapely physique. I wrote another post on 5 Unique Ways to Shape Your Physique. And guess what? They ALL have to do with resistance training in some capacity – the effects of the amount of force (work, power, speed), force vector angles, and varying biomechanics we place on our bodies to sculpt our durability. You see, with weight training there are sooooooooo many creative possibilities and ways to use progressive overload so you’re constantly adapting to new stimuli and actually excited for workouts.
5.) Increased cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal health.
As we age, we experience muscle atrophy primarily because of physical inactivity, but also sarcopenia – a significant loss in muscle mass. Okay, we all probably knew that. So, instead of playing to the plight of the old folks, how about some good news? According to Peterson et al., strength training can actually increase strength in older adults by about 30%. Other health-related factors include increased bone density, reduced risk of fractures, increased fat free mass, improved glucose metabolism, reduced risk of falls in senior citizens (Powers and Hanley, 2007). So if a person is sedentary, resistance training has the power to entirely reset their bodies, allowing them to gain back control of their lives.
In a nutshell: iron is mighty damn powerful. And you know me…I could go on and on about the myriad of internal health benefits that stem from resistance training, but I don’t want to bore you with a post that contains copious amounts of PubMed and Strength and Conditioning Journal references. This is my kind gesture of a short and sweet version. I hope you feel inspired to start lifting some heavy things.
Peterson MD, Rhea MR, Sen A, and Gordon Pm. Resistance exercise for muscular strength in older adults: a meta analysis. Ageing Research Reviews 9: 226-237, 2010.
Powers, S., & Howley, E. (2007). Exercise physiology: Theory and application to fitness and performance (6th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.