Friday, 9 August 2013

Why women need muscle, how it can help to burn fat and where to get it!

Many women I’ve spoken to and trained since 2005 have shied away from wanting to lift weights for fear that they will become bulky. After explaining that this is not going to happen, I get my clients lifting weights and becoming leaner and stronger.

Without going into the scientific detail behind the structure of human muscles, women simply do not have the right hormones to build a lot of muscle, unlike men who can build muscle much easier. Instead, when women begin to lift weights, providing they are using the correct technique, they will start to benefit from the following:
  1. Increased metabolism, meaning that your body will begin to burn more calories both at rest and periods of activity
  2. Become stronger and find day to day tasks much easier
  3. Less joint pain, as increased muscle strength begins to support weaker joints
  4. Improved core strength and alignment
  5. A lean, slender appearance without wobbly bits
  6. Decreased risk of certain illnesses and diseases

Although women can choose to “bulk up”, they have to work extremely hard to achieve the look, here’s why women find it harder to gain muscle: 
  1. Women do not have the same level of testosterone as men, the main hormone responsible for muscle gain
  2. Generally women do not eat anywhere near enough to gain the amount of muscle deemed as bulky. To get big and bulky you need to over-eat, as your body requires a lot more calories than normal to repair the damaged muscles.
  3. Women generally do not lift very heavy weights or train anywhere near enough to become bulky. Although lifting heavy weights is still unlikely to result in big arms! Many women I know in the industry lift heavier weights than some men and still have slender limbs!
  4. Further to the above, many weightlifters looking to increase size, often use supplements to help them achieve this, including whey protein and creatine to name a couple.

So how do you get some more of this lovely muscle?

Using your body weight, or additional weights such as dumbbells, kettle bells, barbells will help to increase your muscle mass, and therefore speed up your metabolism. It’s important when you begin weight training that you choose functional exercises that you find easy to maintain good form and breathing. Make sure that you don’t try to lift too heavy a weight to begin with; starting with an endurance plan of between 12 and 15 repetitions and about 3 sets. You should feel your muscles tiring for the last 2-4 reps of each set, but it should never be detrimental to form. You can begin to lift heavier weights once these reps become easier, although you may have to drop reps initially when you begin lifting a heavier weight.

Always breathe out on the hardest part of each exercise, never hold your breath and also make sure you take on board plenty of water before, during and after a workout to avoid dehydration.

When you feel this muscle fatigue, you cause tiny tears in the muscles you’ve used. Don’t be put off by this
though as your muscles grow back stronger. This is another reason that a healthy diet is important when lifting weights as it helps to repair the muscles nice and quickly. Usually after a workout, a meal combining protein such as fish, chicken or lentils (to aid muscle repair) with carbohydrates such as wholemeal pasta (to refuel the muscles) is a good option.

It’s also worth noting that muscle does weight more than fat, and this is another reason women can be put off using weights. Please don’t be, have a look at this picture:

As you can see, both the fat and the muscle above weigh the same, but as the muscle is much firmer, denser and more efficient, it takes up less space in your body. This will mean you lose inches and over time as your body becomes a lean, mean, fat burning machine you will notice your body fat percentage decrease and your toned muscles underneath will shine through. Please never worry about what the scales are doing, look in the mirror, be happy in skinny jeans, check your body fat percentage is in a healthy range, feel supple, healthy and glowing. Feel stronger physically and you will become just as strong mentally.

If you are looking to reduce body fat and become fitter, it’s important to have an all round physical fitness plan. This includes weights, aerobic exercise and flexibility training. Many people who just stick to aerobic exercise find they lose muscle mass, if you can combine cardio work such as running, walking and swimming etc with regular weight training, you will notice your body shape changing for the better.

You may suffer from something called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for up to 72 hours after a hard work out, stretching and increasing flexibility can help to reduce this, but it will ease, and it’s just your body telling you it’s repairing after your weights session. It’s a good idea to wait until the DOMS have receded before working the same muscle groups again.

Good classes which combine cardio and strength training include Boot Camp, Boxercise, Circuits and Kettlercise to name a few and if you would like to learn more about weight training and creating a programme to suit you, contact me for a personal training session. 

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