For decades, cardio has been a major focus for most women in the fitness world. As a means to a healthier heart and increased weight loss, women gravitated toward regimens like running, ellipticals and step classes, often neglecting any intentional strength development. Recent years have put a spotlight on female strength training, dismissing the idea that a woman who lifts weights will look manly. Most women in the CrossFit community understand that building muscle mass is hugely beneficial, and in combination with high-intensity interval training, it can provide amazing physical results. We hear that “strong is the new skinny” and “strength is beauty,” but there’s so much more to it than exterior transformation and a healthy appearance. So what real benefits can the average woman expect from incorporating strength training into her regular activities?
Women talk a lot about weight loss, but they’re really talking about fat. We all have it (and have to have it to survive), but none of us are huge fans of having an excess of it. It’s common to hear that muscle weighs more than fat, which is technically not accurate. Rather, a pound of fat takes up four times the space of a pound of muscle tissue. So not every woman might expect major weight loss with a strength program, but what she can expect is fat loss. An increase in muscle mass brings with it an increase in metabolism. A female who has significant muscle mass burns more calories (and fat) even while she isn’t working than a woman with minimal muscle mass.
It seems obvious, right? If you’re strength training, you should see improvements in strength. But it’s not limited to your major muscle groups. Strength training also improves bone density (thus increasing bone strength) and improves overall strength in connective tissues. And though we often forget that our heart is a muscle, it too gets stronger and healthier through the incorporation of strength training.
It might not be exactly what you had in mind, but strength training can serve as a bit of magic when it comes to staying young. At about age 30, muscle mass begins to deteriorate. As we get older, our cells require more time to repair, which is why people seem to get smaller and shorter and weaker as they approach their later years. Building muscle can slow that loss, plus it can reduce the risk of injury, which keeps those cells happier and healthier. Lifting can serve as a killer method for prevention, if you’re into keeping your youthful functioning and look.
There is no one way to define beauty. But there’s also no denying that a healthy body (regardless of shape or size) is a beautiful body. Muscle mass, derived from strength training, is the only tissue with the ability to shape and tone one’s body. So building that muscle mass gives any woman her best bet at achieving the shape she was made to rock.
Regardless of your goals, it’s evident that strength training builds a stronger foundation for living life to the best of your ability. So grab those barbells, ladies, and begin (or continue!) the pursuit of your potential.