Women and strength training: weighty issues
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Strength training for women is a weighty issue.
Despite building stronger bones and providing a metabolic boost that burns fat for hours after a workout, experts say too many women resist it because of a misplaced fear of morphing into the Incredible Hulk.
"People who lift weights are generally leaner," said Lou Schuler, a strength and conditioning expert. "This idea that pounds of muscle are suddenly going to appear on a woman's body because she lifts weights is just a delusion."
Unlike body building, in which the goal is aesthetic, the goal of strength training is to get stronger.
Schuler, the author of the book "New Rules of Lifting for Women," says for most women getting huge is simply not in the genetic cards. But you need a bit of muscle on those bones.
"To get definition you need the muscles a little bigger and you need the leanness," he said. "Women have to lift weights big enough to have an effect on muscle mass and strength. You want to get progressively stronger with heavier weights, fewer repetitions."
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 21 percent of women strength train, despite government guidelines that call for adults to do resistance, or strength training, two or more days a week.
Jessica Matthews, of the American Council on Exercise, said getting women to the weight room is still an uphill battle.
"Most women are really looking for the toned look. That's just general muscle fitness," she said.
Body building, by contrast, works muscles in isolation.
"A well-rounded strength training program is functional and a great way for women to build and maintain lean body mass. It will not lead to that bulky appearance."
For most women, Matthews suggests 8 to 10 or 12 to 15 repetitions using a moderate weight to gain muscle strength.
"The muscle worked should be fatigued at the end of that last repetition," she said. "If we wanted to develop muscle size, we'd be training at higher weight, with fewer repetitions."
By stressing the bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, which the National Osteoporosis Foundation says afflicts an estimated nine million women over age 50 in the United States.
But Matthews said what sells weight training to the young women she has worked with is the afterburn.
"Strength training makes the body more efficient at burning fat," she explained. "It enhances your metabolism even while you're sitting at your desk."
The exact number of additional calories burned varies from one study to another.
"I've seen anywhere from seven to 10 calories a day," she said, adding that form is crucial in strength training, for safety and to ensure that you're working the same muscle you're targeting.
"Even in a lunge. If you want a great butt, a smaller step forward will work those glutes, but a larger step will work the quadriceps," she added.
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.