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Introduction to Women and Weight Training


By Greg Culver

Weight training or resistance training is traditionally viewed by the community as a pastime for bodybuilders and strength athletes who wish to "pump iron" to increase muscle size. However, resistance training has gained acceptance with a variety of people, from the distance runner who lifts weights to maintain some upper body development to women wanting a change from the exercise to music class. No matter what your age - everyone can benefit from strength training!

There are many positive benefits of weight training:
- develop muscular strength, speed and power
- make significant changes in body composition
(the more toned muscles we have the more energy we burn)
- improve our posture
- increase lean body tissue (muscle shape)
- strengthen muscles for sports performance
- rehabilitate muscles following injury
- improve an individual's self esteem
- increase metabolic rate to help decrease body fat
- creates body awareness, whereby you feel good and look better
- weight-bearing exercise/resistance training is important for
assisting the maintenance of bone density (prevention of osteoporosis).

Weight Training Terminology

1. Repetitions (reps), or the number of times a weight exercise is repeated without a rest.
2. Sets, or the number of groups of repetitions of an exercise (ie 12 repetitions x 3 sets/times)
3. Resistance (the load), or the amount of weight used in an exercise.
4. Repetition Maximum, or the maximum number of repetitions that you can complete with a given resistance (weight).
5. Rest is necessary for the regrowth of muscle tissue after overload.

It is while we rest after exercise that our body will progress and rest periods are dependent on the specific purpose for which the training is being undertaken.

Resistance Training and Women

Women do not have the same capabilities to increase muscular size as men, due to the fact that the average female has ten times less testosterone (male hormone) in her system than the average male. This is parallelled by the fact that female muscle produces less tension per unit volume and has a smaller cross sectional area in each muscle fibre. However, there is always the odd exception that a female who is genetically blessed with an athletic/muscular body type, will create muscle shape and tone more easily than most. Women have the same potential for strength development as men although it is through a different mechanism. Females increase their strength by improving the recruitment of motor nerves rather than altering the contractile structures of their muscles.

Keep Reading

Some research has shown that when males and females are compared using the method of strength per unit of lean body mass, females are in fact slightly stronger than men in certain areas, such as the hips and legs. However, until recently, women have shied away from weight training because of their fear of developing large bulging muscles. There is now considerable research that has allayed many of these concerns. Muscle tone and body shape on the other hand may be significantly enhanced by weight training in women because of changes that can occur in fat/muscle ratio.

Frequency of Workout

The amount of recovery between workouts should be dependent on the recovery ability of the individual. Traditionally three workouts per week (Mon-Wed-Fri) is considered to be optimal. When you commence your resistance training program ensure at least 5 minutes of warm-up is undertaken prior to lifting weights. An appropriate cool down including stretches of the muscles worked is essential . Each workout duration should be no longer than approximately 30-40 minutes when starting out. Ensure you drink plenty of fresh water. Remember to start slowly and gradually build-up the workload!

Particular attention should be paid to safety and to correct exercise procedure. Initially commence with light weights (half kilo to 1 kilo - this may vary according to your natural strength ability). Aim at gradually increasing the number of repetitions or the number of sets as your body becomes more comfortable with the weight being used.

Keep a record of your training and include the day and time you trained; how you felt and the number of repetitions you achieved with a specific weight aimed at a particular muscle group (ie 12 repetitions x 3 sets with l kilo weight for the bicep muscle). Each exercise should be performed with a smooth even rhythm, moving the weights through the full range of joint movement. Ensure that you breathe through the whole exercise and do not hold your breath at any time.

Remember that "Persistence Pays"! Initially you may not see much happening with your bodyshape, but stick at it over 6 to 12 weeks and you will definitely "feel and see the difference". It is also important to understand that if your muscles are covered with body fat then it is less likely that you may see the shape and tone you have created. So . . . aim at eating healthy and nutritious food and avoid the processed so called "food" that is high in fat and sugar. It is the overall kilojoule intake that is important as most low fat foods are high in sugar!

© Greg Culver

 

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