By: Michael Simmer BS CSCS LMT FST
It is a tale as old as time, women who believe they are exercising and gaining results and benefits using those pretty pink and purple 2-pound weights. Well… I hate to break up this fairy-tale, but that’s not doing anything. You are not working toward toning up or avoiding being “bulky”. The reality is, you are doing nothing except for maybe socializing or giving yourself the ability to say well I went to the gyms in Scottsdale, so I deserve this Starbucks.
We all know that exercise is important. We know that nutrition is a major part of living a healthy lifestyle, and a key part of reaching desired goals. This article is not about the benefits of exercise. This is strictly about why women need to strength train, perhaps even more so than men do.
Women get put in a hard place almost from the get go in life. Seemingly, no matter what time period we are in, body image issues seem to be part of every generation. I have witnessed it with family, friends, and clients. Women often tend to go to extremes when it comes to losing weight. They go on extremely low-calorie diets, they do cardio everyday for an hour a day, they step on a scale every day and freak out if the scale has not dropped by 10 pounds every day. And then – the cycle starts over again. Diet, cardio, scale and repeat.
We need to stop that cycle. Juice Cleanse, HCG Diet, Apple Cider Vinegar Diet and Grapefruit Diet, just to name a few, are all examples of crash diets that put extreme stress on the body and often can be more harmful than good. Sure, you will lose weight. It’s almost impossible not to lose weight on these diets. But, the question we need to ask is, “what weight are we losing?”
If your goal was to drop 20 pounds, and you hit that goal, but you lost 15 pounds of muscle and 5 pounds of body fat is that really good? Your Body Fat % would not have changed, and in-fact, may have even gone up due to the drop-in muscle.
It is a known fact that the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn during an exercise program. So, why are you working on getting rid of that calorie burning powerhouse? Strength training helps in so many areas and weight loss is, of course, one of them. But, it is not always the most important one – especially for women.
The reason I stated earlier that strength training is more important for women than men has nothing to do with your weight or your body fat percentage. It has more to do with your long-term health and safety. More specifically, your bone density. As we age, it is inevitable that we will also lose bone density. This is just the way of the world. Women; however, are far more at risk of losing bone density than men are. And in return; become much more at risk of breaking a bone than men are.
Osteoporosis is a disease that attacks one’s bone density and one’s ability to make bone, thus causing a person to start losing too much bone over time. This results in leaving them very susceptible to injuries likes fractures and breaks. Now, going back to what we started talking about with those diets – why those diets can be so harmful is because when a diet is extremely low-calorie, it is often low in nutrients. This, coupled with no real strength training can start you down the road to osteoporosis.
A drop-in bone density is something that can be slowed and, in some cases, even reversed. It is possible to start to see an increase in bone density, with proper diet and a strength training program that taxes the body. Picking up 5-pound weights for every movement, every training session will do nothing beneficial for you. It will not help you lose that body fat mass, and it certainly will not help you gain muscle or bone density. While men run around lifting heavy things and putting them down, and then look in the mirror to see how big their biceps look, women lifting heavier weights has much more value and, in the end, much more importance.
Performing a safe exercise routine, with appropriate weight, and challenging yourself in a safe manner, knowing when to try and push heavier can make all the difference when it comes to protecting yourself down the road. So, put down those pretty pink weights and go push yourself to new limits and once you reach those limits push for a new limit.