Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Working out with weights is a great way to burn fat, build muscle, increase stamina, improve heart health, avoid injury (because stronger muscles protect your joints) and build a lean and strong body.
The benefits can be huge, and the challenges your body will encounter along the journey offer long lasting health gains, while putting brain and body to the test.
So, of you are a complete beginner, or haven’t trained using weights for a while, here is a brief breakdown of what you can expect when you start strength training?
THE BEST THINGS ABOUT STRENGTH TRAINING YOU WILL SEE AND FEEL
1. Newbie gains! If you’re brand new to training with weights, you’re likely to see serious strength and definition gains quickly – even within the first few weeks. These ‘gains’ in lean muscle are a result of your body adapting to a new way of moving.
2. Strength training can transform your shape quite quickly, especially if you are also monitoring your diet. Obviously, depending on your focus, you may find you develop more filled out and defined glutes, a flatter and more defined stomach, improved leg and shoulder definition, as well as feeling stronger and more powerful in daily movement. HOWEVER, if you don’t see physical changes immediately, do not despair! Every individual is different, and every body responds to training at a different pace. Focussing on the way strength training makes you feel, rather than the way it makes you look, is a far better approach and will keep you motivated to sustain the training.
3. Within a few weeks, you will probably notice that some everyday movements, such as carrying shopping bags or picking up a child, for example, feel easier and you should notice that your endurance has also improved.
4. Some people also experience an easing of chronic pain as supporting muscles get stronger. For example, lower back pain may be eased by stronger glutes and core, while knee pain can reduce when your glutes, hip and leg muscles are strengthened.
5. Don’t forget the mental benefits! It’s not just the ‘me time’ that a workout gives you – many women talk about how confident and strong resistance training makes them feel, often reporting enhanced self esteem and a reduction in the prevalence of depression as a result.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF FEMALE STRENGTH TRAINING
The list of health benefits of strength training for women is very long, especially as we get older.
1. One of the biggest reasons to lift weights is for your bone density. Sarcopenia is the natural reduction of bone density/mass that occurs as we age, increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis. Studies show that weight-bearing and resistance exercise over a period of time can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and may even help build new bone.
In one study, postmenopausal women who participated in a strength training program for a year, saw significant increases in their bone density in the spine and hips, which are areas affected most by osteoporosis in older women.
2. A consistent weight training program can also help improve the lipid profile of your blood, which in turn can reduce the risk of increased blood pressure and the many other heart health and disease risks that come with it.
3. Improve cognitive abilities and mental health. A study featured in the Review of Ageing and Physical Activity,(16), Herold, F., Törpel, A., Schega, L. et al. found that resistance exercises and/or weight training, which contribute to the preservation and augmentation of muscular strength and muscle mass, may trigger beneficial neurobiological processes and could be crucial for healthy aging that includes preservation of the brain and cognition.
Furthermore, and a topic that I will be addressing in greater depth in my next blog, while the process of menopause plays a direct role in the cognitive deficits women experience in their 40's and 50's, the positive impact that exercise and resistance training have on the female brain cannot be understated. According to Dr. Pauline Maki, there is still a lot more to learn about cognitive function during the menopause transition, but women can take heart in the findings to date that indicate memory function appears to be most affected – and in only a subtle way – during perimenopause, but then rebounds in latter postmenopausal stages and are directly affected by physical activity ad mental acuity training.
4. Improvement in insulin sensitivity (the relationship within your body between the production and release of insulin and blood sugar levels). Being insulin sensitive is a good thing. The converse; insulin resistance is a risk factor in the development of Type II diabetes.
STRENGTH TRAINING CHALLENGES YOU WILL OVERCOME We're not saying it’s all easy, but the results you get from pushing through will be worth it!
1. Yes, you’ll likely experience some DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in the beginning. But don’t worry, you will feel less sore as your body adjusts to the training.
2. If you’re not used to holding weights, you may have sore hands or calluses when you get started. If this is problematic, there are plenty of workout gloves on the market that will reduce friction and offer some cushioning.
3. You may not have full mobility when you start, which can lead to some soreness. It’s important not to push yourself into uncomfortable positions – only go to a comfortable depth on exercises (such as squats) and use the modifications where necessary to avoid injury.
4. You might find that you apetite increases. Do not despair, and do not ignore this. Make sure you are getting your pre and post-workout snacks and meals in; (ideally, complex carbohydrates 1.5-2hrs before training and protein within 30-40mins post workout) to avoid overeating. For more information of workout nutrition and a whole host of recipes that support muscle gain and fat loss get in touch.
5. After the initial gains, you will hit a plateau – where your visible progress slows and stabilises. Don’t get discouraged! This is the time to stay focused on your goals and your ‘why’ to push through. It might also be a sign that you’re ready to increase your weights.
STRENGTH TRAINING MYTHS
Here’s what WON’T happen just because you start lifting weights.
1. It’s not just for guys. The myth that strength training is a male-only pursuit couldn’t be further from the truth!
2. You won’t get bulky. There’s nothing wrong with the visible ‘bulky’ muscle mass that bodybuilders rock, but building that kind of muscle takes concerted, focused effort – especially for women. It won’t come from training with this type of program.
3. You won’t mess up your weight loss goals. While cardio can burn more calories in a 20-minute session than lifting weights, building muscle will boost your metabolism, help you burn fat more efficiently, and help you to maintain lean muscle (which creates the defined look). In fact, research has shown that the muscles of someone who regularly lifts weights can burn up to 50% more calories than the muscles of a regular runner or walker! So if losing fat is your goal, strength training is for you.
So, if you are female and either new to strength training, or you would like to kick start a new regime, Breeze Sports Therapy Group & Personal Training Services can help.
BST provides a full schedule of weekly classes that specifically target women's health and fitness requirements, in a safe, supportive and positive way.
Perhaps you would prefer some 1:1 training to get started and familiarise yourself with some of the exercises and training methods used, before joining the classes, or maybe you are up for really achieving some specific goals, and you would like a full programme of Personal Training.
There are a variety of examples of Personal Training plans to view on my website, but what is important to me, is to help you achieve your goals, so please Get In Touch and we can discuss what will be the best fit for you.
Visit BST Fitness Programmes for full details and choose you plan to kick start your training today!
Herold, F., Törpel, A., Schega, L. et al. Functional and/or structural brain changes in response to resistance exercises and resistance training lead to cognitive improvements – a systematic review. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act16, 10 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s11556-019-0217-2