Leeds Krav Maga Instructor Mike writes about the importance of Strength Training for women
My role with Leeds Krav Maga is to teach self-defence but I am also a qualified Personal Trainer with years of experience, in that role it is my job to find the most effective way to help my clients achieve their goals, 90% of my clients are females and their goals largely fall into the same sort of areas (I want to tone up, I want to be stronger, I want to lose weight and reshape my figure), in my opinion the very best tool for the most common female goals is strength training for women.
One particular client (who shall remain nameless), tends to work with me once a month, she works extremely hard in sessions and is surprisingly strong for her size. She enjoys working with weights and understands the benefits they will bring. So you could forgive me for being surprised when, after crafting her a fantastic program to address any postural issues, increase her strength & fitness and help her shed weight and sculpt exactly the type of body she wants, to consistently find her hopping straight back onto the Elliptical trainer and carefully avoiding my gaze whenever she is not in a session with me!
I finally managed to corner my client, before she fled the gym after a cardio session, to ask her why she wasn’t following the programme despite enjoying it very much when on session. My answer? “I don’t feel confident enough in the weights area to use weights when you’re not around”.
I decided to ask various other female clients if they felt the same and many of them answered that they did indeed feel hesitant at first to do weights, particularly when there are lots of men around. Fear of doing exercises wrong in front of the opposite sex, fear of being intimidated by grunting meatheads and a general sense of feeling like a Gazelle surrounded by a pack of lions when in the weights area are the sorts of answers I received from whoever I questioned.
I often hear females complain that it is so much harder for them to lose weight and shape up than it is for men and to some genetic extent this is true, but only to the extent that it is far more difficult for ladies to build muscle mass than it is for men. Could it be that the reason men lose weight and shape up quicker than ladies is because they tend to favour the best tool for the job?
Why strength training for women??
Firstly let me dispel the myth, You won’t get big and bulky, I REPEAT YOU WILL NOT GET BIG AND BULKY – We’ve all seen the monstrous she-hulks paraded around on Channel 5 freak show style documentaries, but have you ever seen one walking down the street?
The reason for this is plain and simple, professional bodybuilding is a niche industry in which only the very elite compete, and female bodybuilding is rarer still. As with male professional bodybuilding, steroid use is rife. Simply put, steroids mimic the effects of the male hormone testosterone to encourage muscle growth, but it still takes a huge amount of training and eating (Sometimes 5000+ calories per day) to pack on just 1lb of muscle per week! I myself have only managed to put on 10lb of muscle in the last 13 months and that is someone who is trying to do it! ITS JUST NOT THAT EASY, I wish it was.
Testosterone & Women
As mentioned above we now know that steroids mimic Testosterone, we also know that the she-hulks are the elite (i.e. 0.0001% of the female population) who have naturally elevated testosterone levels for a female but you’re still worried you’ll get huge Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque muscles after breathing the same air as the gorillas in the weights area. Let’s have a look at the difference in testosterone levels in men and women at both ends of the scale. Normal male free testosterone values are between 270-1100 nanograms per decilitre compared to only 6-86 nanograms per decilitre in females.
What does this mean? This means that a woman with very high free testosterone levels for a female will still have over 3 times less testosterone than a male at the very low end of the spectrum (a male who would probably look very thin and struggle to put on muscle even with a diet and exercise regime in place). Simply put, without the use of Steroids and/or an excellent programme and diet plan specifically geared towards putting on muscle YOU WILL NOT GET BIG AND BULKY, however you will get a stronger, leaner and more feminine physique.
Still not convinced?! Let me take you through the major benefits of lifting weights for women:
Benefits of Strength training for women
Independence: Being strong makes everything easier. That furniture you need moving? Well, now you can do it yourself. What about your 10 bags of weekly shopping? One trip from car to home
Confidence: Knowing you are strong breeds confidence. When you know you can lift heavy and lift well in the gym you begin to feel very confident in the gym and that confidence will leak into every other aspect of your life (Do we think this would pass over to defending yourself also??)
Your metabolism will sky rocket: As women age, they lose muscle mass. This slows down your metabolism, meaning that spare tire you may be carrying will be significantly harder to shift by the time you reach your 30s. When you do resistance work, your metabolism will soar and it will keep burning up to 48 hours after your session.
You’ll burn fat: Muscle tissue is more “active” than fat tissue and it takes more energy to sustain it, each pound burns about 30 extra calories a day! This means even if you’re sitting on your backside watching telly or fastened to your desk for eight hours a day, the muscle mass you have developed will burn calories, helping you keep weight off!
Your body will get tighter: While cardio is important and will help melt fat, weights sculpt your body, creating curves and definition right where you want it. They also help fight the effects of gravity, making you much less likely to have arm jiggle in your upper arms.
You’ll fit into your skinny jeans: One pound of fat takes up much more space than one pound of muscle. So even though muscle weighs more, what do you want all over your body? Something that’s bulky, like body fat, or something that’s lean, and takes up less space, like muscle?
You’ll reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes: Curbing age-related muscles loss isn’t just good for your looks; it can protect your heart and help ward off type 2 diabetes, too. Muscle helps remove glucose and triglycerides (Glucose stored as fat) from the bloodstream, which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as hardening of the arteries.
Your blood pressure could drop: Strength training lowers blood pressure for 10 to 12 hours after each session, which gives your heart a break. How strength training does this is not completely understood, but it probably has subtle effects on everything from hormones to nervous system regulation.
You can do it anytime, anywhere: You don’t need a lot of space or a lot of special equipment to get a great strength workout. Simply using your own bodyweight through the use of pushups, planks, chair dips, squats, and pull-ups is enough to tone and strengthen your entire body. You can also do it indoors, which means you don’t have to weather the cold, freezing temps of winter or the scorching heat of summer (Leeds Krav Maga undertake gruelling workouts without any equipment involved regularly, ask any of my guys!)
You’ll burn vast amounts of calories: Plyometric strength moves (think squat jumps and Burpees) and kettlebell workouts skyrocket your heart rate, which boosts the calorie burn of regular strength training routines. These types of workouts give you cardio, strength, and sculpting all in one, which is a great timesaver.
It’s good for your bones: Strength training is one of the 12 best ways to break-proof your bones. Lifting weights can help counteract age-related bone loss. Strengthening your muscles also improves balance and keeps you as strong as possible which lowers your chances of a fall-related fracture.
Maybe I’ve convinced you. Perhaps now, you’re thinking you’re going to toss your 3 pound weights, jump off the crosstrainer and give this whole strength thing a shot. Where should you begin? Well My Strength Training for Krav Maga is a great place to start, find out more HERE