Exercise and Fitness Guide

10 Things Women Should Know About Strength Training

SSuchy Mar 15th, 2013 (updated Jan 6th, 2014)
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You will not bulk up
You will not bulk up

Of all the misconceptions about women’s strength training, this is probably the most pervasive. If you start a weight-training program and you are a woman, you will not become the female version of The Hulk, unless you have significant help from steroids. The bulk you see men get from strength training is mostly due to the abundance of testosterone in their bodies.

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More muscle definition
More muscle definition

Women who regularly strength train will likely see better muscle definition. It will sculpt the muscles that you already have without adding bulk.  Depending on how you strength train, you will also have better balance and a stronger core. 

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Less is more, sometimes
Less is more, sometimes

Strength training is an intense workout! A good strength training session can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes and in this case, quality is much more important than quantity. But no strength training session should last more than 45 minutes. 

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Train the way you live
Train the way you live

The best kind of workout, whether it is a cardio workout or strength training workout, is the kind that gets the whole body involved. One hundred reps of curls will certainly give your biceps a workout, but how often do you do that motion in a normal day? It is best to model your exercises after what you do in real life, and in a way that involve as many muscle groups as possible.

 

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No weights necessary
No weights necessary

If the weights at the gym seem intimidating, feel free to skip them at first. Using your own body weight to strength train is a great way to ease yourself into a good strength training routine. For an added challenge, try using a resistance band or even an exercise ball before moving to free weights. Yoga and Pilates are also great ways to use your own body weight to strengthen muscles. 

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Dumb bells vs. exercise machines
Dumb bells vs. exercise machines

When you are ready to graduate to weights, it is best to reach for free weights rather than exercise machines. Exercise machines will limit the number of muscles you train because they force you to lift in a controlled motion. Free weights, on the other hand, require you to engage stability muscles as you lift, which will end up giving you a better workout. Start with lighter weights, such as five or eight pounds, and work your way up as you get stronger.

 

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Strength training alone is not enough
Strength training alone is not enough

Strength training is definitely beneficial to the body, but cardio is also necessary to keep you healthy. Why? Because strength training does not have the same heart benefits as cardio workouts, nor does it burn as many calories. You need to do both for optimal health.

But, don’t do both on the same day. Experts recommend designating a few days each week to strength training and a few more days each week for cardio workouts, such as running or biking. 

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Creating a routine
Creating a routine

Different kinds of strength training will produce different results, depending on each person’s body. To start a routine, consult a personal trainer or other expert to help assess your needs and goals and then tailor a routine to meet them. Preferably, it should be one you can stick to. 

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The importance of the rest day
The importance of the rest day

Strength training is good, cardio training is good, but remember that the body also needs rest! When you work a muscle, whether through strength training or cardio, you are actually tearing the muscle down so that it can build back up stronger and healthier than before. But the key is to give it time to recover and that requires rest. Be sure to build in at least one or two rest days during the week. 

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What’s in it for me?
What’s in it for me?

We’ve been singing the praises of weightlifting, but what exactly is in it for you? To start, strength training will help you burn more calories throughout the day because muscle actually helps jump start your metabolism and the stronger you are, the more calories you will burn, even at rest.

Other benefits include better sleep, improved glucose control, stronger bones and better balance.