How To Resistance Training for Women: Is It Too Much of a Risk

Resistance training provides a variety of health benefits and is as effective for obesity treatment as aerobics. This is a fact proven by multiple studies, as you can see here, here, and here. However, the idea that lifting weights is bad for women persists and is promoted by a variety of bigoted people and sources like some women’s magazines, which propagate the idea that bodybuilding makes women “too bulky”.

Resistance exercise doesn’t mean resistance to exercise! Instead, it’s a type of exercise that has gained popularity over the last decade or so as researchers discover the many benefits it has to offer. It’s so mainstream at this point that the American College of Sports Medicine, the governing body for exercise in the United States, has included it in its recommendations for all Americans since 1998. In this article, all that you need to know about resistance exercise will be presented: what it is, how it works, how to prevent injury, some of the most popular resistance exercises, and a general resistance-exercise plan.

What Is the Real Level of Danger You Face?

There is no denying the fact that resistance training, like any other type of exercise, can cause some injuries. The most common of them are:

  • Muscle strain
  • Back pain and accompanying nerve damage
  • Herniated disc
  • Tear to the rotator cuff
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome
  • Patellar tendonitis

Those injuries mostly occur due to poor technique. However, there is a far bigger danger associated with resistance training. That danger comes from overworking your body due to excessive strength-building exercise. Unfortunately, this happens quite often due to people becoming too enthusiastic or even “obsessed” with bodybuilding.

Health problems that this kind of overload might cause include but aren’t limited to lower immunity, weakened cardiovascular system, and, for women in particular, damaged muscles of the pelvic floor. This kind of damage can become extremely serious or even permanent. The immunity, for example, can be restored by reverting to a healthy lifestyle and letting your body recover. However, you might need to undergo specialized therapy to restore pelvic floor muscles and it might be impossible to undo the detrimental effects of routine overexertion on your heart. The good news is that some research indicates that stopping with the exercise should help your heart recover on its own in many cases.

You need to be aware, however, that all existing reviews come to the conclusion that the benefits of resistance exercise severely outweigh its possible dangers. In fact, those dangers are the same you would expect from any type of physical exercise. And you can minimize them simply by working out under the supervision of a professional who will train you in the proper technique and help develop a workout plan that won’t overstrain you.

How Does Resistance Exercise Work?

Resistance training works by causing microscopic damage or tears to the muscle cells, which in turn are quickly repaired by the body to help the muscles regenerate and grow stronger. The breakdown of the muscle fiber is called “catabolism,” and the repair and re-growth of the muscle tissue is called “anabolism.” You’re probably familiar with the term anabolic when used with steroids. Anabolic means to grow, and that’s exactly what happens after you break down the muscle fibers with resistance exercise. In fact, many biological processes of growth in the body require some breakdown, or catabolism, prior to re-growth. For instance, bones must be broken down first before calcium and other growth factors repair the bone and make it stronger. With muscles, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, growth hormone, protein, and other nutrients rush to the muscle after a resistance-exercise session to help repair the muscles to make them stronger. Importantly, your muscles heal and grow when you aren’t working out, and so that’s why it’s necessary to leave time between workouts for recovery.

What About Being “Bulky”? Will Weight Lifting Turn You into a Meat Tank?

It’s a fact that bodybuilding has the power to make you bulk up. In fact, the majority of people who start to actively engage in resistance training do it for the exact purpose of bulking up.

However, this doesn’t mean that doing a strength-building workout with weights every other day will turn you into this. In order to bulk up to the point where you’ll be able to break down doors with your shoulders, you’ll need to work out for a very long time. Moreover, you will need to develop a personal training program designed to achieve that specific goal. And that program will need to be brutal and borderline dangerous.

If you only stick to reasonable workouts and keep them at a set level after you achieve your fitness goals, there won’t be any threat of bulking up. You will, however, need to put in some effort to maintain your form. Never forget that muscles require regular exercise in order to stay toned.

Why Do Resistance Exercise?

  • It builds muscle strength and tone. Humans lose 5 pounds of muscle every decade after age 30.
  • The number of muscle fibers declines with age. From age 30 to age 70 we can lose more than 25% of the type 2 muscle fibers in our bodies . Resistance exercise can slow down or even reverse the aging process by building muscle mass and strength.
  • It’s been shown to build bone. Osteoporosis, a condition of accelerated bone mineral loss which leads to fractures, can be a crippling disease, particularly in women , and research on resistance exercise suggests that it can build bone even in the elderly.
  • There is some evidence that resistance exercise helps lower moderately high blood pressure.
  • More strength can lead to fewer falls in the elderly.
  • Resistance exercise can raise metabolic rate, an important factor in maintaining body weight.
  • It’s never too late to start. In one study of elderly men and women who lifted weights three times per week for 10 weeks, strength increased a whopping 113%! The improvement in strength enabled the elderly participants to also walk faster , climb 28% more stairs, and it even caused the muscles in their thighs to increase by more than 2.5%.

Should Women Lift Weights?

Women definitely should do some weight lifting regularly because resistance training, when done right, is extremely good for your health. It’s a challenging type of exercise and it will require careful planning and precision in order to reduce its health risks. However, once you develop a suitable training regimen and learn how exactly to perform the many exercises, you will be able to boost your health as well as reshape your body into something stunning.

How Much Resistance Exercise Should I Do?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that resistance training should be progressive in nature for example, follow the principle of progressive overload – see below for an explanation, individualized, and provide a stimulus to all the major muscle groups chest, back, shoulders, arms, abdominals, and legs. They recommend that beginners do one set of eight to 10 exercises for the major muscle groups, eight to 12 repetitions to fatigue, two to three days per week multiple-set regimens may provide greater benefits if time allows. For older and more frail people approximately 50-60 years of age and above, they suggest that 10-15 repetitions may be more appropriate.

But you shouldn’t forget that too much of a good thing creates a problem. That’s why you should never overwork yourself with resistance training, or any other exercise. Even if you feel like you are going too slow with your weight loss at the moment, you shouldn’t rush. Resistance training makes you grow more muscles, and they burn calories most efficiently. Therefore, you should lift weights at a healthy rate and let your body work on changing its shape at a sedate pace. The results of this approach will last much longer.

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