One of the main fears of many of my women clients that is mentioned during our initial consultation is that they don’t want to look bulky, too muscly or “swollen” and while I understand this as a concern, it is not possible (unless we unnaturally manipulate our bodies) to look this way…. we do not have the testosterone or genetic makeup. Below is an article I wrote that was published in ProTrainer Online-an online magazine for Fitness Professionals. This article addresses this very concern!
I am always amazed at the fact that when I enter into any sort of fitness or industry related discussion with women, their prolific and never-ending search for that “runners high” or the proud moment of walking out of the hour long cardio kickboxing class glistening with sweat – the proof of their accomplishment – seems to be not only the foundation of their workout session, but the four walls that surround it, creating a safe and comfortable haven far away from the weight room.
Descriptions like “big,” “bulky,” and “bulging” are adjectives that seem to float across the treadmills, and wedge themselves between the steps of the Stair Master, creating an ancient and unfounded anxiety that continues to presuppose any strength training gains and efforts. The principles that encompass an integrated approach to training will offer the best of both training worlds: aerobic and anaerobic. Working on both your limit strength as a general or athletic foundation and your explosive strength, or the ability to get those muscle fibers revved up and turned on for a measurable period of time, will yield a training program that builds cardiovascular strength, muscular strength, and will keep your heart rate elevated to help promote caloric expenditure not only during your workout session but long after as well.
In order to break down the barriers surrounding many women’s anxieties regarding strength training, two important scientific principles can be discussed: (1) the SAID (or Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) Principle, which states that your muscles will adapt in an extremely specific manner, based on the demands that are imposed through training, and (2) the Specificity Principle, which further supports this by stating that your body will reach peak performance (determined by your goals alone, which might include speed, type of contraction, muscle group usage, energy source usage, or simply physical aesthetic) depending on the training it has become accustomed to.
Therefore, your weight limits, repetition limits, and programs you develop determine your physical outcomes – and if a toned, lean physique is one of your goals, then strength training will need to be a cornerstone to your training philosophy. Also, the continued work of the metabolism to burn calories and remain elevated is achieved through strength training, and it will continue to persist long after you leave the gym. Consider this: for every pound of lean muscle mass that you add to your frame, your body can burn up to fifty additional calories a day, which will contribute to your weight loss goals! Also, among lean muscle mass, body fat reduction, and overall weight loss, strength training provides numerous other benefits for women, including increasing bone density and, in turn, helping to combat osteoporosis, all while strengthening muscles and tendons, which will aid in injury prevention.
Finally, strength training will help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and will also help to improve balance and coordination by strengthening both your core and legs. Something else to remember is that hormonal responses will vary not only from each individual but between genders as well. Men produce a lot more testosterone than women, so the effects of their weight training will be significantly different.
So let me leave you with this final thought, ladies: you can’t increase one component of your fitness without affecting the others, and an integrated approach to training will provide enhanced performance in exercise, your chosen sporting activities, and most importantly, your lifestyle. So remember, in your house of fitness, a strong foundation is just the beginning!
Fitmark Ambassador 2013