Strength training is one of those rare things in life that gives you back significantly more than the effort required.
It goes without saying that strength training is physically challenging and there will be moments when you feel your muscles burn, but the payoff is so enormous in terms of health, athleticism, and appearance that the hard parts are nothing in comparison to the benefits.
It’s very important that all women know about the incredible benefits of strength training. Even though more and more women are picking up weights, the majority of women are still held back by harmful misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding fitness. The goal with this article is to convince every woman to give strength training a shot with these ten incredible benefits.
#1: Lose Fat, Build Curves
There’s a major flaw in the conventional recommendation that women do aerobic exercise to lose weight: It leads you to lose muscle in conjunction with body fat. The result is a radical drop in the amount of calories you burn daily. This is the reason that so many women struggle with losing weight and keeping it off.
On the other hand, when you train with weights, you can preserve muscle mass, maintaining your metabolic rate. This gives you firm curves but it also makes sustaining fat loss so much easier. Additionally, strength training conveys metabolic benefits that aid in fat loss: It increases levels of fat burning hormones, while giving you an exponentially larger afterburn effect so that your body burns calories at an accelerated rate during the 24-hour recovery period.
#2: Protect Metabolic Health
Any time you eat a higher carb diet that includes processed foods your cells become less sensitive to the hormone insulin. Fat storage increases and energy levels will drop because your muscle cells aren’t getting the fuel they need. High insulin also causes inflammation, which leads to accelerated aging and disease.
Strength training is one of the most powerful ways to restore insulin sensitivity. With every muscle contraction, you prime the muscle to bind with insulin so that you can burn glucose. Not only will your metabolism improve, but you’ll be able to handle more carbs without gaining body fat—win-win!
#3: Strengthen Bone & Prevent Osteoporosis
Strength training is overwhelmingly the best activity to build bone mass and density. Studies show former female athletes who included heavy lifting as part of their workouts have much stronger bones as they age. This translates to a 20 percent lower fracture risk in women. Especially important is to start training at a young age so that you “bank” bone early on and keep it strong as you age.
To build bone you want to load the spine with exercises like squats, overhead press, and deadlifts. Jumping, pounding exercises, and wearing a weight vest also improve for bone development.
#4: Increase Your Ability To Handle Stress
Strength training will reset your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and improve the release of stress-fighting hormones, making you better able to deal when the going gets tough. Plus, the physical and mental strength you get from challenging your limits in the weight room gives you a reassuring sense of your place in the world.
The ability to respond to stress with a positive, proactive approach will pay off in a big way: Not only will you have less belly fat and a healthier metabolism, your risk of death drops by 30 percent.
#5: Improve Heart Function & Decrease Blood Pressure
Are you surprised to hear that strength training can dramatically improve heart function and lower blood pressure?
Yep, it’s true. Strength training has been shown to decrease systolic blood pressure (SBP) by an average 6.2 mmHg in 8 studies. This is clinically significant since it is more than you’d typically get from blood-pressure lowering medications.
Weight training also enhances arterial function and decreases inflammation that affects heart function. One review showed older women who weight trained had lower C-reactive protein, an oxidative stress marker that causes an inflammatory status. The combined effect of lower SBP, less inflammation, and better blood flow will reduce cardiovascular disease risk by more than 14 percent.
#6: Improve Coordination & Reaction Time
A strong neuromuscular system means your body works more efficiently and it’s a primary predictor of longevity and well-being. It also means you’ll react faster and have less risk of falling or getting caught in a sticky situation on the road.
#7: Increase Immune Function & Survival During Trauma
Studies consistently show that strength training boosts the immune system and raises levels of hormones involved in fighting off illness and disease.
Additionally, any time your body is threatened, whether due to injury or illness, you rapidly lose lean tissue, compromising organ function. Strength training offsets this, improving your percentage of lean mass, which increases you ability to endure physical trauma. For example, female breast cancer survivors have much better long-term outcomes when they perform resistance training and other forms of vigorous physical activity.
#8: Improve Sleep Quality & Quantity
Studies show that strength training can significantly improve sleep patterns in women. Women without sleep problems can expect to wake up fewer times during the night, whereas women with insomnia may benefit by getting to sleep more easily. Studies suggest that regular training is especially important during times of stress such as menopause or during the pre-menstrual phase because it improves hormone balance and lowers cortisol.
#9: Improve Cognition and Mental Health
It’s no surprise that strength training makes your brain work better and can improve your daily mood since just about every form of exercise has been shown to reap some mental benefits. Strength training leads the pack: It decreases inflammation in the brain that is linked with psychological disorders and dementia but it also improves memory in learning in women of all ages. Best of all, women and girls who train with weights get better grades and this translates into higher salaries once they hit the job market.
#10:Ease Pain & Discomfort
Lifting weights is one of the best ways to solve most physical problems that women experience, including pain due to muscular imbalances, tight muscles, and arthritis.
Training can also do wonders for psychological health since it improves neurotransmitter levels, raises endorphins, and helps the brain build new pathways that improve learning and memory.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that strength training can reduce pain and discomfort. However, research shows that strength training has the power to change how you perceive pain, reducing women’s perception of pain by 43 percent. The change has to do with adaptations in the body that raise the pain threshold.
How Can You Start Strength Training To Achieve All These Benefits?
Here are a few key pointers to get the most out of your training time.
Most important is to train in a way that meets your specific physical capabilities: It shouldn’t be too hard or too easy.
This means that if you’ve never squatted before, you’re going to start by learning proper technique for the squat. You’ll probably want to simplify the squat by doing single-leg split squats at first. This will allow you to increase your strength and work on range of motion in the knee, hip, and ankle joint to improve your form.
Same goes for choosing your weights: You need to train with weights that are relative to your maximal strength ability. As a novice, this will be low, but as you progress, your strength will increase rapidly and it will be very important that you increase the amount of weight you lift in order to continue to challenge your muscles so that you get stronger and leaner.
One factor will make or break the success of your training: Consistency. Studies show that the factor that sets the successful female trainees apart is showing up and doing the workout. Therefore, you need to pick a training frequency that easily fits into your schedule (you’re not double booked or needing to rush off to pick up the kids).
Also, don’t schedule workouts when you’re completely exhausted and just want to pass out on the couch with a glass of wine. Of course, there are times when we have to train when we’re tired, but do everything you can to set yourself up for success.
If your goal is to lose fat, be aware that paying attention to what, when, and how much you eat will make the process a LOT easier. Studies show that when people start exercising to lose fat, they often end up compensating by eating more and eradicating their energy deficit. Avoid this by developing eating habits that allow you to avoid cravings and uncontrollable hunger.