If you're sticking to healthy meals, hitting the cross-trainer regularly, and yet, you're just not seeing the results you thought you would, there could be something critical missing. And that something is strength training.
Maybe you don't want to get into strength training because you prefer not looking like The Hulk. Maybe you figure you just wouldn’t like it since you’re not one of those CrossFit types. Despite a prevalent allegiance to cardio machines for things like weight loss and overall health, strength training not only builds muscle but can also prevent disease, improve mood and help you lose weight.
Women now don’t just want to look fit, they want to BE fit, and when they start focusing on performance rather than aesthetics, they start to see their body for what it can do rather than what it looks like. Incorporating strength training into your workouts will make you proud of your body on the good days and allow you to forgive it on the bad days.
Strength training strips away belly fat, stress, heart disease, and cancer and is the most simple and effective way to look hot (and feel confident) in a bikini. Yet women are still hesitant, with only a fifth of females strength train two or more times a week. Jenna McKean at ONE Studio, CrossFit athlete, personal trainer, and rocking one seriously toned body, tells us that “lifting weights helps increase bone density so it makes you stronger going into old age. Also the more muscle you have the more you can eat." She adds with a grin. Because who wants to calorie restrict and snack on tasteless rice cakes?
But what to say to women who are worried about switching up cardio for weight training for fear of ‘gaining too much muscle’ by strength training. Jenna questions, "How much muscle is too much muscle? How strong is too strong? I think that mentality is outdated and it’s time we encourage women to have a healthy relationship with food, their bodies and fitness."
“We need to stop telling women 'Hey, don’t worry, weights won’t make you bulky!’ because it just perpetuates that unhealthy prescription of what women are ‘supposed’ to look like. I mean, what are we supposed to look like anyway? Isn’t strong and healthy what we should all be aiming for?” Unlike men, women typically don't gain size from strength training, because compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy. You will, however, develop muscle tone and definition, and as your lean muscle increases so does your resting metabolism, helping you burn 35-50 more calories all day long.
When strength training, Jenna recommends planks and hollow body holds for core exercises, as building a solid foundation is vital. To strengthen the other areas, complete compound movements such as lunges, squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and press-up variations. By working the muscles through a full range of motion, weight training can improve your overall body flexibility, which in turn reduces the risk of muscle strains and back pain.
When I ask if Jenna has an opinion on whether men and women should workout differently assuming the same goals (getting leaner and stronger), she responds, “There’s a lot of argument about that. But in short my opinion for the general public is no, I don’t think they should work out differently.” Research studies conclude that even moderate weight training can increase a woman's strength by 30 to 50 percent, so perhaps it’s time to ditch the pink 2kg dumbells, step away from the treadmill, and go and pick up something heavier.
If you’re looking to get into weight training, Jenna recommends finding a qualified, credible trainer and give it a go under careful instruction. “Technique is paramount. Make sure your trainer has time for you and understands your concerns and goals.”
features writer & lifestyle blogger and avid shoe wearer.