9 BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING FOR WOMEN
Everyday, more women are embracing strength training and the benefits that getting stronger has towards their aesthetic goals, while less women are holding onto their fear of muscle.
Strength is empowering.
But perhaps you’re among those who still question, “Will weights make me bulky?”
It’s still the overwhelming, number one question we receive and reason we get why women are hesitant to pick up a barbell.
While we will absolutely explain the physiological reasons that make natural “bulking” extraordinarily unlikely for women, what we’d prefer to see rather than fear improbable outcomes, are women who are informed and are excited about the benefits that getting strong will have on your physique and overall health.
As we’ll explain here today, the scientifically proven reality is that the benefits of strength training for women are vast.
It is much more effective at shaping the physique than running, spin or yoga. It will improve your body’s ability to use carbs, will boost your metabolism and increase how many calories you burn, support a healthy libido, elevate your mood, and help cure the gym boredom rat race.
So, if you’re an average woman who has struggled to reach your goals and always wondered about the benefits of strength, this article will be for you.
Here are the nine major benefits for you to get liftin’.
1. It Helps You Be More Capable
We love seeing the development of strong women, inside the gym and out, and nothing creates stronger, more confident lives than the foundation of physical strength.
Improving physical strength has carry over in ways other forms of exercise simply do not.
You assert yourself more confidently.
You take more charge of your career.
You are a more confident partner in your relationships.
Your self-reliance and independence increases.
Your health improves and it makes you feel better in all other areas.
Women who embrace strength training seem to be more confident and comfortable in their own skin.
Plus, haul bags of groceries, lower your own carry on bag and lift more than the those who are trying to hit on you in the bar.
Downside: Be ready to raise your standard of dating partners.
2. Opportunity to Inspire
Whether it be embracing functional muscle or physical feats of strength, the opportunity to go against the grain and be an inspiration to other women to change their thinking is what it’s all about.
Getting more women off the cardio machines and thinking they need to shrink, and more into a squat rack with the mindset of building.
While the strength movement is gaining momentum each year, we still live in a society that favors weakness over strength, and the more strong women we have the better.
Plus, it’s just damn fun to showcase your strength and hard work.
3. Better for Physique Building Than Running
“But I’ve lost weight with running.”
No doubt. This isn’t a bash running article, as most everyone needs cardio in some form.
Running can certainly shed a little bit of weight, especially for untrained folks at the onset of a program.
However, it will do literally nothing to build your physique since it has no muscle developing component, and your weight loss experience often quickly plateaus.
Think about this like a person who drinks for the first time. All it takes is a one shot to get drunk at first, but over time, a tolerance is built up and they develop more and more of a resistance to the stimulus.
Skye quit running due to stress fractures to begin focusing on barbells. Over two years, she added 13 pounds of healthy muscle.
Further, the weight loss may occur in a way that will worsen your body composition by stripping you of your precious muscle.
When in an aerobic state such as running, our body has the option to pull fuel from glycogen, fat and if it gets desperate, muscle. A lot of times people think they’ve lost fat running, but when it comes to getting analysis performed it’s often precious muscle tissue.
A real life example of this is the body analysis performed on P360 member Ashley after weeks of long distance running in preparation for a half marathon.
After the six weeks, Ashley’s analysis scan showed no fat loss, maintaining the exact same body fat as before she started. Worse yet, she showed a 1% decrease of her lean muscle mass.
No fat burning. Muscle stripped away. Cardio fail. (And also why the scale sucks and can be misleading.)
No one is suggesting that you ditch all of your cardio and suddenly become a full-time power lifter. We’re not saying that running is bad and never to do it, just that it shouldn’t be your foundation if you have physique goals.
The better choice for cardio is high intensity interval training.
4. Boost Your Metabolism to Burn More Calories
So, why is traditional cardio bad for the make up of our lean body mass and metabolism?
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories your body burns at rest, daily. It is suggested that the more lean body mass you have, the higher your BMR and greater caloric expenditure you have on a daily basis.
For example, a 135 pound woman comprised of 25% body fat will likely have a slower metabolism and burn less calories than a 135 pound woman with 21% body fat.
Because strength training utilizes total body, compound lifts, it is one of the most effective forms of boosting the metabolism (1). It helps accomplish this kind of physique and metabolic re-composition, supports our ability to burn fat and better use carbohydrates.
5. Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Better use carbs? Say wha?
Carbs are a necessary macronutrient for physique goals, and the window following a strength workout primes our body to use carbs to our physique and strength building advantage.
If you want to crush carbs, get in a heavy strength training session first and your body will use carbs as the magical, physique shaping macro that they are.
MJ consumes a high calorie, healthy, high carbohydrate diet because of her strength training routine.
Many nutrition experts argue that getting your body to be more sensitive to insulin is a critical component to the fat loss process. The higher our insulin sensitivity, the better you will be at converting carbs for energy in your workouts, and the less likely you are to use them as fat storage in your adipose tissue.
While heavy cardio may burn more calories, our cortisol can chronically increase if overdone, priming us to store body fat rather than burn it.
Rather than remove carbs, train your body to better use them to your advantage.
6. Make Friends at a Different Kind of “Bar”
The idea of popping in headphones and hoping not get hit on or followed around the gym by bros doing curls is a proposition you shouldn’t have to face every time you enter the gym.
Barbell training is great in the support that it breeds.
Sharing a bar creates friendships and bonds. It brings people together to support one another. We’ve seen lifelong friends be made, roommates be formed, even dating relationships that turned into marriage.
All from the commonality of improvement through physical strength.
Hard work is a common ground for all forms of human relationship.
7. Cure Gym Boredom & Plateaus
Many people go to the gym everyday and hit the same boring movements on the same boring machines, followed by the same boring treadmill or elliptical, and see little to no progress through no fault of their own other than limited knowledge and misinformation.
With multiple skills to learn in the power lifts and Olympic lifts, there is a never ending amount of improvement and technique progress one can make.
The journey becomes addicting and the results you see for yourself never get old.
One of the most rewarding aspects of strength training is to truly surprise yourself with your physical abilities every single day. It provides you the opportunity to track and actually see tangible results.
No more guessing if you’re improving, because numbers don’t lie.
It’s a feeling of accomplishment that’s hard to find elsewhere.
8. Supports Healthy Libido & Mood
Men aren’t the only ones allowed to have a healthy libido. In fact, there are many healthy reasons associated with testosterone that also benefit women, most notably an improved sex drive and consistently elevated moods.
Now, we’re not talking about testosterone in the stigma in which you likely view it. Women produce much less testosterone than men, up to 16 times less by some accounts, making it highly difficult to add too much muscle.
Unless you are taking added hormones and performance enhancers, you’re not going to blow up like the Incredible Hulk and grow a mustache. We know shaving your face isn’t a goal of yours.
In small doses like the amount secreted when women perform compound barbell strength training, the result will be improved lean body mass, more elevated energy and mood, and a healthier sex drive and libido.
9. Build Muscle
Yes, muscle is for women, too. Some like larger amounts. Some like smaller amounts. But adding muscle is both functional and healthy, and too many women make the mistake of thinking that running, yoga or spin class will build their physique.
While those activities are beneficial in their own right, the reality is that they are activities that strip, not build.
Because the squat and deadlift are multi-joint, total body movements, they will build proportionate muscle across your entire body, as well as in targeted areas like the butt, abs, arms and legs.
There is no comparison to the metabolic and physiological effect that a back squat has on developing your physique when measured against holding a warrior pose, going for a run or a Zumba class.
Do not make the mistake of equating sweat to physique progress.
The Science of Strength Muscle vs. Bodybuilding Muscle
Strength training and bodybuilding are two very different entities.
The muscle growth that comes with a strength training protocol has a much different effect on the physique, because of the different fiber types that are targeted.
In a nutshell, bodybuilding causes large muscle growth by tearing of type-I muscle fibers, where weight is 40 – 60% and performed for high reps, usually ten or more.
Strength training is low rep, in the range of 1 -5 and targets type-II fibers, which are more geared more towards athletic performance than they are for muscle growth. You’ll become stronger and faster, but without the emphasis on bulking simply because the muscles don’t grow in the same manner as the Type-I fibers.
Through strength training, your body gets stronger as a result of neuromuscular adaptation, your brain and body working together…not from dramatically bigger muscles.
An additional reason strength training doesn’t contribute to bulk is that it does not yield lactate like high-rep body building, that “burn” that causes muscular fatigue. A 2009 Journal of Sports Medicine study suggests that without lactate, we do not see the release of exercise induced growth hormone (EIGH) in high enough amounts to trigger large muscle growth. (5)
This makes bodybuilding a fine sport for dramatically adding muscle, and strength training a very limited one.
In fact, competitive weightlifters depend on this strength training science as it’s imperative these athletes get substantially stronger while maintaining their weight class.
How Coach Julianne Dropped 28 Pounds
Check out the story of P360 Head Coach Julianne Russell, who has dropped 28 pounds since she moved away from yoga in favor for the barbell.
She also trained for and placed 2nd in a local powerlifting meet, proving that strength and lean body composition do not have to be mutually exclusive.
We continue to support the shift in women becoming strong and taking advantage of the health benefits that come along with it.
Be big, small, fast, slow. Whatever your make or model, strength training is all but guaranteed to provide you benefits to your life.
Muscle is healthy, physical strength is empowering and women who tap into their physicality often see success outside of the gym.
Club Forged proudly welcomes its newest female members: Ashley Geary and Brenna Bandy — Ashley is the 5th strongest women in P360 history, pound for pound. She has a 295# deadlift, 210# squat and a 900+ strength score at a body weight of 122 pounds. In addition, she can perform 7 strict pull-ups and clocks a sub 2:45 800m run. — Brenna holds the 2nd fastest women's mile time at 5:44 and clocks in at 2:42 in her 800m. She also happens to be in Level 4 Barbell Club at a bodyweight of just 126 to accompany her high level endurance. (D: 255# S:185#). In addition she has 5 strict pull-ups under her belt, as well as a 36" box jump. — Both ladies have been with us for two plus years and truly exemplify the standards of commitment, hard work and attitude. They are both incredibly well rounded athletes across every standard that we have. We are extremely proud to have them receive their shirt and reside permanently on the wall. — All smiles here, but these are two killers.
Be unafraid. Embrace your inner savage. Lift with the boys. Get strong, get more confident, drop the 10 pound dumbbells and step away from the ellipticals.
Performance360 was founded in 2011. With two locations in Pacific Beach, P360 has three times been a finalist for Best Gym in San Diego.