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Why women need to lift weights and gain muscle

Is looking “bulky” or “manly” a concern you’ve ever had when it comes to strength training and gaining muscle as a woman? If so, you're not alone. It’s something I hear often from new clients. They do want to lose weight, feel fitter and stronger and look toned, but don’t want to gain too much muscle for fear of what they perceive to be an undesirable or “unfeminine” look.

I could write a whole article about how we need to let go of the patriarchal idea that muscle is synonymous with masculinity and that we need to look dainty to be desirable. I personally think strong looking women are no less feminine and are incredibly beautiful and sexy. But that's not the point of today's blog. Instead I want to talk/rave about the importance of strength training as it pertains particularly to women. I want to talk about why you shouldn't be afraid of building muscle and, instead, you should actively seek it as something that's absolutely critical to your health and wellbeing.

Just a few of the benefits of strength training include:

Burning more fat

Our muscles are fat free tissues that are highly metabolic, meaning they need to burn a lot of energy to merely exist. They burn more calories than any other tissue in the body. Strength training is therefore an extremely effective tool for fat loss because as we build more muscle, we’re burning more energy even at rest.

Increasing energy levels

Exercise that gets our heart rate up and gets our blood flowing subsequently releases endorphins - those feel good hormones that make us feel lovely and energized. It boosts oxygen circulation around the body which allows your body to function better and use its energy more efficiently.

Balancing hormone levels

Strength training, in females and males alike, stimulates the release of something called the human growth hormone (HGH) which aids in our building muscle and burning fat. It also increases insulin sensitivity, which helps our bodies to control blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. For females specifically strength training becomes increasingly beneficial as we get older. Commonly, especially as we approach perimenopause, women produce less estrogen which can increase our risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and general hormone dysregulation. Strength training has been proven to stimulate the production of this sex hormone and therefore rebalance hormone levels.

Decreasing risk of disease.

We’ve touched upon this already in the previous point about the hormone balancing benefits of strength training, and how these can subsequently decrease the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. But it doesn’t just end there - research has shown that regularly partaking in muscle-strengthening activities is associated with a 10-17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers and all-cause mortality. And if that’s not enough? It’s suggested that the more muscle mass you have, the better chance of recovery you have in instances of significant illness and/or trauma. Muscle literally acts as medicine and strength training, therefore, can be life saving.

It's a fact that having more muscle mass makes our bodies healthier and more resilient. By prioritizing strength training, and therefore muscle gain, we are facilitating a longer, stronger, and better quality life. How good?! And if all of that isn't enough to convince you, I want to reassure the women who are concerned about looking “bulky” or “too muscular” that this outcome is really very unlikely. Even for women who are strength training 3-4 times a week (my recommended ideal), we’d still find it very difficult to pack on the kind of muscle we'd need to look super muscular. Our bodies just aren’t built to look like Arnold Schwarzeneger without some serious work and - dare I say it - probably a fair bit of steroid usage.

If you're on board with the idea of incorporating strength training into your routine but need a bit of guidance as to how to get started, my inbox will always be open to those seeking advice. Of course, if you need more support and a programme to follow I offer online coaching, and personal training in Weston-super-Mare and Bristol.

Get in touch and let’s start a revolution of strong women who weightlift!

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