Fear No Weights: A Guide to Understanding Strength Training for Women
There is zero doubt as to the plethora of benefits that strength training offers to both men and women in either the world of medicine or sport. Unfortunately, many women shun strength-building exercises due to gender-based stigmas, discouragement, or a variety of other personal or societal factors (Vasudevan and Ford).
With Studio Society’s recent opening of our cutting-edge strength studio, we hope that we can dispel some of these harmful stigmas and invite more women to share in the physical strength, endurance, health, and confidence to be gained from strength training.
What exactly is strength training?
Strength training entails so much more than standing in front of a mirror and curling heavy weights. It encompasses a whole range of exercises that rely on external resistance –that’s why strength training is sometimes referred to as ‘resistance training’– to work against the muscles. This causes microtears in the muscle fibres that build back stronger and denser afterwards, gradually building up your strength and muscle mass with repetition.
What a lot of people miss is that this increased muscle mass also indirectly leads to body fat loss, improved cognition, more stamina, injury rehabilitation, improvements in general physical ability, and so much more. With all of these benefits, strength training for women will hopefully become even more popular in the years to come.
1. Everyone benefits from strength training.
The numerous benefits of regular strength training (we’ll look at those more closely later) aren’t reserved for any single group. Male and female, young and old, athletes and couch potatoes – all can live longer, healthier, and more physically capable lives with the inclusion of regular (30-60 minutes per week) strength training.
It’s important to remember that there are dozens of ways to include strength training in your fitness regimen. While repeatedly lifting 100 kg overhead might work for some, it’s unlikely that a 60-year-old will want to do the same. In this case, strength training for elderly women could take the form of resistance (stretch) bands, machine strength training that only allows for certain ranges of movement or even aquatic aerobics that includes resistance exercises for those with weak joints or arthritis.
Bottom line: If you’re physically capable of moving, strength training is good for you, and there’s a way to do it productively and safely.
2. Strength training options for women are rich and varied
Strength training includes a huge variety of exercises and a long list of equipment you could possibly use. Knowing what your options are is a good way to start looking at how you could incorporate strength training into your workout plan. It’s important to note that there isn’t a single best strength training workout for women. Keeping your workouts varied is definitely the way to go.
Some of the more well-known types of strength training include functional strength training that engages multiple muscle groups for all-around physical prowess, free weight training to target specific muscles, machine training, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and body weight training. While these many of these exercises are stereotypically more associated with men, more and more women are getting into functional strength training and body weight training.
Other lesser-known strength training workouts that deserve more attention include isometric training that engages muscles without visible movements such as planks, resistance band training that is easier on joints, HIIT and plyometric training that focus on explosive burst movements to develop muscular power, and suspension training that uses a system of ropes or straps (e.g., TRX) to work against your bodyweight.
Don’t let a lack of options stand between you and strength training. Consult a personal trainer for more information about the best strength training workouts for women.
3. Strength training is great for weight loss
A common misconception is that strength training will add body mass, not help lose it. While this might be true for competition-level strongmen on a 13,000-calorie-per-day diet, for the rest of us, regular strength training is a great way to lose those unwanted pounds. A 2022 article published in the Sports Medicine journal stated that resistance training reduces body fat percentage, body fat mass, and visceral fat in all sexes (Wewege et al.). On average, participants in the study saw a 1.46% reduction in body fat percentage over a period of four weeks. This is comparable to the kind of effects one could expect from aerobic or cardiovascular workouts.
4. Strength training is great for your mental health
Strength training has been proven to help prevent and decrease depression and anxiety. What makes this news even better, is that even very light resistance training can have this effect, making it a suitable way of helping to deal with depression for young and old alike (Haufrect). Above and beyond this, regular strength training makes women physically stronger, giving us the courage, confidence, and motivation to take on life’s physical challenges with greater ease.
5. Strength training can help prevent serious diseases and early death
Strength training for women can have a major impact on reducing mortality. A meta-analysis of 16 studies by researchers from various Japanese sports and medicine universities showed that muscle-strengthening activities were associated with a 10-17% lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD), non-site-specific cancers, and diabetes (Momma et al.). In other words, regular strength training can help you live a longer life with a significantly reduced risk of developing serious or crippling diseases.
6. Strength training can help you get better quality sleep
Struggling to regularly get your 8 hours of sleep? Spending the nights tossing and turning? Strength training might be just what you need to get back into a regular and healthy sleep cycle. Various studies have linked exercise to better sleep in general; however, a study titled The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials published in 2017 focused specifically on resistance training and found that it improves all aspects of sleep, with the greatest benefit going to sleep quality (Kovacevic et al.).
7. You don’t have to do strength training every time you work out
While many of the studies we’ve mentioned so far recommend strength training for approximately 60 minutes per week (2x 30-minute sessions), there’s no hard rule keeping you to this. Even just the occasional strength training session, when part of a healthy lifestyle that includes other types of exercise, can help you prevent disease, sleep better, and lose weight. Don’t avoid strength training because you think you’ll have to do it every time you hit the gym.
8. You can choose your own intensity
Taking on a strength training session doesn’t mean you have to work out so hard that you’re shaky and can’t open your water bottle when you’re done. Beginners especially tend to overdo it with strength training, leading to stiffness and muscle pain that can put one off further training. Any good strength training guide for women should advise you to take it a bit easier the first few sessions as you learn proper form, find the exercises that work for you, and start preparing your muscles for more intense workouts down the line.
9. You won’t suddenly gain weight if you stop strength training
A common misconception is that you’ll suddenly balloon if you stop strength training for any reason. Simply put: this is blatantly incorrect. The only way that you’ll gain weight if you stop strength training is if you also quit all other types of exercise and stop paying attention to what you eat. Provided that your general lifestyle still involves some sort of regular exercise (cardio or aerobic, for example) as well as an awareness of what goes into your body, stopping strength training should not have any effect on your weight.
10. Strength training is fun
I have no source for this other than my own personal experience of actively including strength training in my own fitness regime for over 20 years. Work out with a friend or in a group. Try new and exciting ways of pushing your muscles. See yourself lose weight and build muscle where you want it. Leave the gym feeling tired, but positive and satisfied. No matter how you approach it, the benefits of strength training for women are within reach and a fun way to break up your regular cardio or aerobic exercise routine.
Strength Training at Studio Society
Studio Society has everything you could possibly need to get started with your strength journey as effectively and productively as possible. We offer a wide range of fun and interactive group classes in our cutting-edge fitness studios and our recently opened strength studio that is jam-packed with all the strength and fitness kit you could need.
Learn more about our classes, our brand-new strength studio, or contact us at email@example.com to learn more about what we offer, our facilities, or to get a consultation with one of our expert personal trainers.
Haufrect, Sarah. “The Mental Health Benefits Of Strength Training.” Psychology Today, Psychology Today, 25 July 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-bonds-we-make/201807/the-mental-health-benefits-strength-training. Accessed 8 August 2023.
Kovacevic, A., et al. “The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 39, 2017, pp. 52-68. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28919335/. Accessed 8 Aug 2023.
Momma, H., et al. “Muscle-strengthening activities are associated with lower risk and mortality in major non-communicable diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 56, 2022, pp. 755-763. BMJ Journals, https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/56/13/755. Accessed 8 Aug 2023.
Vasudevan, Aishwarya, and Elizabeth Ford. “Motivational Factors and Barriers Towards Initiating and Maintaining Strength Training in Women: a Systematic Review and Meta-synthesis.” Prevention Science, vol. 23, 2022, pp. 674-695. Springer Link, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11121-021-01328-2. Accessed 7 Aug 2023.
Wewege, Michael, et al. “@artThe Effect of Resistance Training in Healthy Adults on Body Fat Percentage, Fat Mass and Visceral Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Sports Medicine, vol. 52, 2021, pp. 287-300. Semantic Scholar, https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-Effect-of-Resistance-Training-in-Healthy-Adults-Wewege-Desai/674c4bda9cbde72c587e15127c0bc1dbd19f0309. Accessed 8 Aug 2023.