It is not easy for women to add muscles like their male counterparts(Shutterstock)
It is not easy for women to add muscles like their male counterparts(Shutterstock)

Fit and fine: Strong is the new skinny

Contrary to popular belief, strength training is not about bulging biceps but fitness
By Kamal Singh CSCS | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON SEP 07, 2019 10:29 PM IST

Its heartening to see that more and more women, young and not so young are venturing in the free weight section of the gym nowadays. Earlier most of the female members would just stick to the cardio machines and would derisively be labelled “Cardio Queen”, “Cardio Bunny” etc. But now, I regularly see female trainees loading the bar, squatting and deadlifting too. Positive women role models in the media have really helped to bring about this change! But, the myths still persist. As a trainer, I have to reassure my female clients that lifting weights is good for them and they would not turn in to a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger just by adding strength training!

Most women seem to think that gaining muscle is easy. And they would also gain muscle at the same rate as men, if they train with weights with any intensity. But they are probably not aware that it is the male hormone, testosterone, which enables men to put on muscle. Women do have testosterone in their bodies, but it is minuscule in comparison to the men. In fact, even the well-muscled competitive female body builders, cannot put on as much as muscle as the men. I have to constantly reassure my female clients that putting on muscle is not easy. Even for the male trainees, very few can actually put on bulk easily.

Women who lift weights tend to be more toned, shapely and very fit looking (Shutterstock)
Women who lift weights tend to be more toned, shapely and very fit looking (Shutterstock)

Muscle has shape – that’s why, women who have lifted weights tend to be shapely without being overtly muscular. The reference I give is of Halle Berry in the James Bond movie, Die Another Day. Toned, shapely and very fit looking. This reference has helped me convince some of my female clients. Muscle also improves Basal Metabolic Rate. The more the muscle, the higher the resting BMR. Theoretically you are burning more calories at rest if you have more muscle.

How should women train with weights:

•Most women tend to use tiny weights and do endless repetitions – the exact opposite of what they should be doing! More repetitions give you a temporary pump which would go down in a few hours.

•If you can do 20 or more repetitions with a weight, its too light for you!

•Progressive overload is the name of the game. If you easily got 20 repetitions today and then continue to use the same weight for days on end, then there is no improvement happening – either in strength or in muscle development. So stop wasting your time, up the weight!

Once women get over the hesitation of lifting heavier weights, then there’s no stopping them (Shutterstock)
Once women get over the hesitation of lifting heavier weights, then there’s no stopping them (Shutterstock)

•Do not be afraid to load the bar! This ties in with the earlier point, but I see a hesitation in my female clients to move to “heavier” weight! There seems to be a cultural/psychological barrier to lifting a heavier weight. But once they can cross this self imposed barrier in their heads, there is no stopping them.

•Women, on an average can handle volume better then men. So it is better to do more sets with slightly higher repetitions. Women recover much faster than men on a higher volume training program. That’s probably why you see so many women gravitating towards cardio training.

So ladies, hit the weights without fear and get strong, because strength is functional and being physically strong is truly empowering!

Author bio: Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years

Follow @KamalSinghCSCS on Twitter

From HT Brunch, September 8 , 2019

Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch

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