Strength in you

By First Posted: Nov 10, 2005 Thu 10:30 AM Updated: Dec 7, 2007 Fri 4:45 AM

There is essentially no difference between men and women with respect to exercise technique, training procedures or strength development. Basically, what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. Still women should not do strength exercise because strength training makes women too muscular and bulky. Also strength training is a waste of time for women because they are not capable of developing strong muscles. Apart from it strength training is dangerous for women because their bodies are not designed to exercise with resistance. Of course, none of these reasons is valid and such misinformation is incorrect.

Actually, very few women have the genetic potential or enough natural testosterone to develop large muscles. Firm, fit, functional muscles, yes-large muscles, no. On the other hand, women most certainly can achieve high levels of muscle strength. In fact, our studies show that females develop muscle strength at the same rate as males, and on a pound-for-pound basis are equally strong. It is ridiculous to think that women-s bodies are too frail to perform resistance exercise. After all, childbirth is one of the most demanding physical activities for a woman.

In a study taken with over 900 male and female participants, leg strength of both genders was taken into account. On a muscle-for-muscle basis it was found that there was essentially no difference in male and female leg strength. Both genders performed 10 computer-monitored leg extensions with 75 percent of their lean body weight. Therefore no scientist can distinguish between male and female muscle tissue under the microscope, because there is no physiological difference.

Remember, women who do not strength train lose about 5 pounds of muscle every decade of adult life. That leads to a lower metabolism and a gradual increase in fat weight (about 15 pounds per decade), as well as a less fit, firm and attractive appearance. So, in most cases, the added muscle simply replaces the muscle previously lost through lack of use. And women who start strength training typically lose twice as much fat as they gain muscle. In a study, more than 700 women performed about 25 minutes of strength training (13 Nautilus exercises) and 20 minutes of aerobic activity (treadmill or cycle) 2 or 3 times a week for two months. On average, they added almost 2 pounds of muscle and lost about 4 pounds of fat. They also increased their muscle strength by over 40 percent, which greatly enhanced their physical abilities and performance levels.

So how does such hard training affect the women-s physical appearance? As you can see from the photo of our most recent high intensity trainers, these women in their 20s, 30s and 40s look lean, strong, and extremely fit. While they are certainly muscular, they are by no means big or bulky. What-s more, they feel great and function like teenage athletes. Although these women were already well conditioned when they started high-intensity strength training, they definitely enhanced their physical appearance over the 12 exercise sessions. On average, they added 3.3 pounds of muscle and lost 2.7 pounds of fat, for a 6-pound improvement in body composition.

So strength training is a safe and effective exercise for women. It does not produce bulky bodies, but it does develop strong and shapely muscles that are fit and functional. Both standard and high-intensity strength training programs are time efficient, requiring only two half-hour exercise sessions a week for excellent results. Over the past five years, Shape Magazine has regularly featured our women-s strength training programs (basic and advanced), and the response has been excellent.

Regardless of age or present level of fitness, women are encouraged to begin a strength-training program for life. The South Shore area offers a variety of fine fitness facilities with highly qualified strength instructors and personal trainers. Many offer women-s strength training classes and some fitness centers are exclusively for women. So there is no excuse not to start strength training in 1999. In addition to looking, feeling and functioning better, research indicates that regular strength exercise may also reduce your risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, low back pain, certain types of cancer and depression.

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