Some women still fear the weight room. The existing myth is that women who lift weight will end up with big bulky muscles and look too manly. Ideas like this are giving resistance training a bad name. We as trainers have to remember that men and women are physiologically different in the fact that the increase muscle mass that is acquired by men is due to testosterone. Yes, women secrete and deliver testosterone just like men do, but at much lower rates and volume. This allows for women to build tone lean muscle and increase metabolism to enhance weight loss. Many times the main objective for women to start an exercise program is to lose weight and look better, but there is more to it than this. We have to remember that resistance training has various benefits that will help women’s health, both now and in the future. Looking tone and fit is great, but what else can exercise do for women? Looking great now is always a plus, but resistance training may also decrease day to day stresses from our fast paced lifestyles. Stress is a very important factor that may lead to decreased motivation and eventual increase in body fat storage. Studies have shown that proper exercise can reduce stress dramatically. Another important factor for women is bone mineral density (BMD). Because of a higher level of estrogen, women are at a higher risk of low bone mineral density than men. A consistent moderate resistance program can increase BMD in women and dramatically reduce the possibility of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis. The proper resistance training program can also increase posture, balance, flexibility and stability for all ages. These are all very important aspects to our daily lives, but for many women, it becomes all about looking better. How is exercise going to do this?
What is Metabolism?
Sure, running on the treadmill will help women lose weight, but so will every other daily activity we are engaged in. Whether it’s walking, eating, or even sleeping, our bodies are using calories to function properly. Losing weight all depends on the intensity and duration of what we are doing each day. like I mentioned, running on a treadmill will help us lose weight more than walking, and walking will help more than sleeping, but if there were an easier way, we would do it…right? Luckily there is. It’s all about our metabolic rate. Our metabolic rate (or basal metabolic rate BMR) is closely related to resting metabolic rate (RMR) and measures the total amount of energy expanded while at rest or sleep. The term thermogenesis refers to the measure of total energy exhausted as heat disposal. As we age, a decrease in BMR will coincide with the amount of lean body mass that we possess. New scientific research has shown that aerobic exercise alone doesn’t correlate with an increase in BMR, but anaerobic does due to maintaining lean body mass.
Cardio vs. Weight Training
In the last paragraph we discussed the physiological differences that cardio (aerobic) and resistance training (anaerobic) play in exercise via metabolism. Anaerobic exercise may contribute to an increase of metabolism, but aerobic exercise is important too. Aerobic training is very important for the cardiovascular system (“heart health”). Some people have trouble combining the cardio and resistance training. There are important factors that a trainer must know before incorporating cardio and resistance training together. First, if the trainee wants to increase power and strength then including cardio exercises can be detrimental. This is due to an increase the muscle capillary density, increased number of mitochondria (both help in oxygen consumption to keep the muscle going), and a possible change in fiber type (type IIx to type IIa to type I). Inversely, a trainee that wants to increase their aerobic power can achieve this by combining both cardio workouts with resistance training. This will allow for an increase in aerobic power due to an increase in VO^2 Max. VO^2 Max is the amount of oxygen exchange within a muscle for adequately supplying and keeping the muscle cells functioning properly (contributing factor may also be stroke volume SV). For weight management the optimal goal is to combine both types of exercise by using circuit training. Circuit training will allow a trainee to increase their aerobic and anaerobic power by incorporating moderate to high intensity (keeping the heart rate up) exercises with resistance training.
Frequency of Weight Loss
Weight loss can vary. Some people go on extreme crash diets and lose 8, 10, or even 12 pounds a week. Depending on the trainee, losing this much weight this quickly will almost certainly be put back on in the long run. Furthermore, some may be able to safely and effectively lose 4 pounds a week, while another may only be able to lose 1 to2 pounds a week. This all depends on the trainee’s starting weight. A good table for measure can be a 1% rule (1% loss of starting body weight per week). If a trainee’s starting weight is 150 pounds then a maximal weight per week should not exceed 1.5 pounds a week. Whereas, someone with a starting weight of 300 hundred pounds may affectively lose 3 pounds per week. The 1% rule can adequately allow for weight lose without becoming macronutrient deficient. Macronutrients are the three essential nutrients that consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats). When people attempt some of these “fad” crash diets they ultimately fall short in the proper percentages of one of the three essential nutrients. This may put the body in a particular nutrient deficiency that may change the body’s physiological chemistry.
Women’s Resistance Training Program Design
A proper program design should be specific to the person being trained. Each trainee will begin at a different level based on their condition, so a tailored exercise program is crucial with the adequate amount of progressions for optimal results. Each exercise program should begin with some sort of active/dynamic warm-up to help promote proper muscle activation for the following workout. To circuit train affectively, three to four multi-muscle functional workouts can be grouped together to optimize increased heart rate and aerobic and anaerobic power output. Between 2 to 4 sets and 10 to 15 reps of approximately 3 or 4 exercises should be performed in a continuous cycle with little rest (30seconds to 1 minute after completing each cycle of the 3 to 4 exercises). Each group of three to four exercises may primarily target different areas of the body. After the warm-up, the first group of exercises may focus on legs. The second group may focus on the upper body, and the third may focus on the core muscles. This exercise structure can help save time and effort with a busy schedule and may also maximize overall fitness results. Ending each workout with a form of static stretching may also be a good idea. Static stretching AFTER exercise can keep the joints from getting too tight.
Mike Mcgrew, BS, CSCS