In order to create a well-rounded exercise program, elements of strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness are necessary. There are limited studies on the benefits of strength training for women despite the known benefits for physiological and psychological health. Women participation in strength training is low due to the limited research on its importance and the barriers that women often face when entering the strength training setting.
The benefits of strength training for women
Improved muscle mass/body fat ratio: Women that participate in weight training increase their lean muscle content in relation to their fat content. Females have significantly less muscle-building hormones than males, that’s why the female body requires strength training to avoid muscle hypertrophy. Women who strength train will gain muscle without becoming bulky and have a healthier muscle to fat ratio.
Less back pain and risk of injury: Anatomical structures of females are different to males. These differences place women at a greater risk for injury, especially lower back pain, hips and knees. A greater Q angle causes this by pushing forces through at different angles (i.e. more laterally on the meniscus). It is important to be trained and strong in specific areas for injury prevention.
Strength training increases muscle strength along with connective tissue and joint stability, acting as reinforcement to help prevent injury. Back pain is also associated with weaker hips and knees, due compensation of lower back muscles. Therefore, strengthening of glutes and thigh muscles can help reduce lower back pain. The best method for this is strength training.
Lower disease risk: Strength training improves cardiovascular health and decreases markers of disease such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Also, the forces placed on joints during weight training provide sufficient overload to enhance bone structure. This is particularly important because women are susceptible to osteoporosis (decline in bone density) as they age.
Enhanced mood and confidence: Women involved in strength training have increased functionality for daily tasks and can achieve greater life satisfaction. It also allows everyday activities to be less tiring and improves self-esteem.
How to start strength training?
Fit Education recommends completing at least two days of strength training, working all the major muscle groups. However, that does not mean two days is the maximum amount you should be training. Additional benefits come from more training. Remember that recovery is just as important. Rest at least 24 to 48 hours to allow adequate time for muscle repair. It is also important to keep a balanced exercise regime, with at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise, to keep a healthy heart.
You should start by learning the basic technique of strength movements from a trained professional before experimenting with more advanced exercises. Focus on major muscle group movements at first before targeting isolated body parts. Finally, remember that the key to progression is consistency!