Strength and resistance training has long held a common, even if subconscious, misconception: that it’s reserved only for men. Despite this historically rooted social norm, however, strength training is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of exercise for women – and for good reason.
Beyond the physical gains, such as increased muscular strength, improved bone density, and enhanced posture, strength training empowers women on a deeper level. It fosters confidence, resilience, and mental fortitude, helping to break through societal stereotypes and redefine what it means to be strong. Strength training has also been found to have particular benefits for women’s health, including prenatal and postnatal care and even PCOS.
In this blog, we provide practical tips, debunk myths, and inspire you to embrace your inner strength. Get ready to embark on a transformative journey of empowerment, unlocking your full potential. Together, let’s celebrate the incredible possibilities that strength training brings to women’s lives.
Breaking Stereotypes: Women Embracing the Power of Strength Training
In recent years, there has been a notable surge in the presence of women in gyms. This challenges the long-standing misconception that weightlifting and strength training are domains primarily reserved for men. Despite this positive shift, statistics reveal that only one in five women currently meet the recommended guidelines of engaging in resistance training at least twice a week.
The benefits of strength training for women extend far beyond the pursuit of a sculpted physique, encompassing physical, mental, and emotional benefits. At Coast Sport, we aim to empower women to approach strength training with confidence, regardless of their life stage. It’s a call to action, encouraging you to break free from societal stereotypes and confidently step into the weights section of your local gym.
Let’s collectively shatter the notion that this space is exclusively reserved for males and discover the empowerment that comes with embracing your inner strength.
Getting Started: Essential Steps for Women’s Strength Training
Embarking on a strength training journey is an empowering choice that can yield numerous benefits. Whether you’re a novice or returning to the weights after a break, here are essential steps to help you start your women’s strength training adventure on the right foot:
- Set Clear Goals: Before you even pick up a dumbbell, define your objectives. Are you aiming for increased muscle tone, improved overall fitness, weight management, or enhanced strength for specific activities? Establishing clear goals will guide your training and keep you motivated.
- Educate Yourself: Understanding the basics of strength training is vital. Learn about proper form, exercise techniques, and safety guidelines. You can seek advice from certified personal trainers, reputable fitness websites, or instructional videos. Gaining knowledge will boost your confidence and reduce the risk of injury.
- Consult a Professional: If you’re new to strength training, consider working with a qualified personal trainer, fitness coach, or Exercise Physiologist, especially in the initial stages. They can design a personalised program tailored to your goals, teach you proper techniques, and provide motivation and accountability.
- Start Light and Progress Gradually: Begin with light weights or resistance bands to acquaint your body with the movements. Focus on mastering proper form before increasing the resistance. As you grow stronger, gradually progress to heavier weights or more challenging exercises.
- Balanced Workout Routine: Incorporate a well-rounded workout routine that includes compound exercises (those involving multiple muscle groups) like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, as well as isolation exercises targeting specific muscles. Variety keeps your workouts engaging and ensures balanced muscle development.
- Proper Nutrition: Nutrition plays a pivotal role in strength training. Fuel your body with a balanced diet rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. Proper nutrition supports muscle recovery and growth.
- Rest and Recovery: Allow your body time to recover between strength training sessions. Muscles need this rest to repair and grow stronger. Aim for 48 hours of rest between training the same muscle group.
- Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience pain beyond the usual muscle soreness, it’s essential to rest and, if necessary, consult a healthcare professional. Overtraining can lead to injuries and hinder progress.
- Stay Consistent: Consistency is key to achieving your strength training goals. Create a workout schedule that fits your lifestyle and stick to it. Even on days when motivation is low, showing up and completing your workout can lead to significant long-term results.
- Celebrate Progress: Celebrate your achievements along the way, no matter how small. Tracking your progress, whether through increased weights lifted, improved endurance, or enhanced body composition, provides motivation and reinforces your commitment to strength training.
Remember, strength training is a journey, and every step you take brings you closer to your goals. With dedication, patience, and a positive mindset, you can embrace the world of women’s strength training and unlock your full potential.
The Benefits of Strength Training for Women
We’ve spoken about how wonderful strength training can be for women, but what are the exact benefits it offers? From increasing lean muscle mass to protecting against osteoporosis, there are many underlying positives to weight training for women aside from the obvious ‘toned’ physique.
Shape Up: Understanding Body Composition and Weight Management
Whilst the focus of performing exercise should not be towards how a person looks, resistance training is beneficial for our body composition for reasons that go beyond looking ‘toned’. Reducing fat mass has health benefits such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving metabolism, reducing inflammation, and regulating hormones that aid in consistent blood glucose levels.
Increasing lean muscle mass also provides the body with more fuel in the tank, which means increased levels of energy. After a resistance training session, the body increases its metabolic rate which means we continue to burn energy even while we rest thus resulting in weight loss.
Resistance Training for Prenatal and Postnatal Wellness
Resistance training can be beneficial for those growing a baby or after delivering a baby. For prenatal women, we can use resistance training to build a resilient body that puts us in a stronger position to give birth and support us post-birth with duties such as feeding, carrying, and holding a baby.
Resistance training aids in regulating blood glucose levels for those who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. We also want to minimise the risk of lower back and pelvic pain which are common musculoskeletal conditions that can come from carrying a growing baby.
Resistance Training in Managing PCOS and Endometriosis
An increase in research and awareness around women’s health conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis highlights the benefits of exercise including resistance training for those with these conditions.
A key characteristic of PCOS is insulin resistance. Strength training increases insulin sensitivity by regulating the use of this hormone and driving excess glucose from the bloodstream into your working muscles. Exercise such as resistance training can also help to regulate female hormones which are commonly altered in those with PCOS or endometriosis. Pain and inflammation can be reduced with this type of training with a release of hormones which have analgesic effects, also resulting in a boost in mood.
Strong Mind, Strong Body: Mental Health Benefits of Strength Training
Speaking of a boost in mood, not only can we feel physically strong for lifting weights but also mentally strong. There’s a great sense of accomplishment when you successfully lift a weight you thought you couldn’t, which is a wonderful boost of self-confidence.
Hormones are also released post-session, which have a feel-good effect due to the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters. These chemicals are responsible for feeling a sense of
pleasure and well-being. This includes reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression to ultimately boost your mood.
Resistance training, just like any form of exercise, is a great stress reliever as it helps to regulate the body’s cortisol levels. Rather than choosing other outlets to relieve stress such as alcohol or unhealthy snacks, a more beneficial option may be to hit the weights!
Healthy Bones for Osteoporosis Prevention
Osteoporosis is characterised by a decrease in bone mineral density which weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to fracture from a fall. This condition is more common in postmenopausal women but can also affect those who take a prolonged dose of hormonal replacements or corticosteroids.
Resistance training places a healthy stress on the bone, stimulating hormones that create new bone growth. This increases the ratio of bone mineral growth to bone mineral breakdown resulting in an increase in bone mineral density. No matter the age, bone mineral density can be increased. Building strength safely through resistance training can also help to prevent falls in the elderly who may have more severe osteoporosis.
Injury Prevention for Female Athletes
While there’s still progress to be made, the presence of women in sports (particularly in previously male-driven sports like football) is steadily increasing. This shift places a greater emphasis on female athletes to cultivate not just performance prowess but also resilience, a key factor in injury prevention.
Resistance training emerges as a powerful tool in this pursuit, with the potential to enhance vital physical attributes like strength, speed, and power. Beyond performance, strength training for women also serves to stimulate muscle growth, fortify tendon health, and boost bone mineral density, thereby reducing the risk of bone stress injuries—a critical consideration for athletes. Notably, women face unique challenges, including differences in joint alignment and hormonal fluctuations affecting joint laxity, which can heighten the risk of injuries like ACL sprains or tears.
It’s worth addressing a common misconception among female athletes—the unfounded fear that resistance training will result in an overly muscular or bulky appearance. In reality, achieving significant muscle growth requires substantial volumes of food, rigorous training regimens, and, in many cases, external hormones like testosterone. So, rest assured, incorporating resistance training into your fitness routine won’t lead to a bulky physique—it’s a myth that deserves to be debunked.
Kickstart Your Strength Training Journey Today
There’s no denying that resistance training can be beneficial for women at any stage of their lifespan. Whilst it is a convenient option, lifting weights doesn’t mean you necessarily have to attend a gym. Rather, effective strength training can easily be performed at home with some equipment purchased from your local retail outlet or sporting goods store.
If you’re unsure of what the best resistance exercises are for you to perform, we are here to help! Our Exercise Physiologists are experts in creating and prescribing exercise programs that are specific to your needs and goals. We also run Strength & Conditioning classes here at our Coast Sport clinics, so get in touch with us to enquire about starting these supportive, empowering, and results-driven sessions.