How often do you see girls pumping iron in the weight room in the lower level of the Student Recreation Center? The ratio of guys to girls is uncanny compared to the same ratio upstairs, which is mainly cardio with some nautilus resistance equipment. Women have gotten this “stereotype” that lifting weights is a masculine activity, yet we are only preventing ourselves from discovering the numerous benefits and health improvements that come with regular strength training. Strength training benefits anyone who participates, but women have an additional motivation specific to our health needs as we age.
Strength Training Defined
Strength training is a type of workout that requires you to perform movements against some type of resistance, whether it is from dumbbells, machines or even your own body weight. The overall concept is that as you perform the movements against resistance, your muscles become overloaded, fatigued and suffer from minor tears. Don’t fret! These tears are miniscule and a normal part of building muscle. The muscles heal, adapt and grow, which allows them to better handle subsequent strength training sessions. As you progress and keeping adding or building upon your strength training routine, you get stronger as you put on muscle.
Yes, cardiovascular fitness is the primary exercise type when it comes to burning off fat, but strength training is essential for increasing metabolism on top of strength. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, women should incorporate strength training into their exercise routine for 2-3 days/week. During each session, aim for 8-10 exercises with 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, while focusing on working large muscle groups. It is best to strength train every other day so that your body has a day to heal and avoid strain. Typically, twenty minutes is an adequate amount of time to strength train. Though we are super busy as college students, setting aside twenty minutes is not a huge sacrifice to make!
Strength training has numerous benefits such as strengthening muscles, ligaments and tendons, which subsequently affect the ability to perform daily activities. It improves balance and self-confidence. As stated before, it leads to a metabolism boost as a result of the increased muscle mass from consistent strength training. This means that more calories are burned per unit of time, even while at rest! This facilitates body fat loss and promotes a healthy body weight. Lastly, it increases bone density. Because of hormonal differences, as females get older, they naturally lose density in their bone. The stress that lifting weights places on bones slows deterioration and causes bones to grow stronger. As a result, this reduces the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that women are especially prone to. The peak for building bone mineral density is your twenties. So, we need to get on this NOW!
Most women are reluctant to participate in strength training because they’re afraid of developing big muscles that many consider unattractive (the last thing we want). However, it’s important to know that women are physiologically unable to build large muscles like men unless they possess an abnormal amount of testosterone. Unless you are resorting to artificial means, cough-steroids, then you have nothing to worry about! So, take a chill pill and start lifting! Take it from me, strength is the new skinny!