Strength Training for Women: Gym Virgins
In most cases, the first gym trip turns out to be intimidating to the ladies, who have picked the non-diet approach, without purchasing any workout videos. Newbie girls have no idea how it works and thus avoid exercise equipment (let alone dumbbells and barbells) like the plague. The TOP list of gym phobias that women have includes the loss of femininity, getting Too big and bulky arms, door-wide shoulders — all rolled into one and right after the first time in the gym. However, such claims have nothing to do with truth and sound like total nonsense when said by some chubby girls and plus-size women who strongly believe that fat can magically turn into muscles. In fact, once an acquaintance of mine tried hard to convince me that her fat had been converting into muscles during morning jog. Apparently, after hearing the words like 'barbell', 'dumbbell' and 'strength training' women imagine nothing but Ms. Arnie T-800 of sorts.
When you come to think of it, you see that as a result of strength exercises you get not only slim built but also ripped and cut physique. Flat belly, sexy thighs and butt — isn't it a dream of an average girl next door who wants to be a fitness chick? So today, ladies, we are going to bust some of the most common strength training myths which you might have had on your mind.
The worst myth is about getting bulky after lifting weights so that a woman looks too 'masculine'. In order to prove this heresy (it doesn't pass the laugh test, let's be honest), the authors of such statements offer the pictures of professional female bodybuilders after multiple courses of steroid use.
As a matter of fact, women are genetically predisposed to gaining less muscle than men, not to mention bulking up. Firstly, in women estrogen affects the rate and way in which you put on muscle so that the muscle building process goes smoothly and takes quite a long time.
The huge ultra-shredded ladies strike fear into an average girl's mind, though it is merely a result of testosterone injections used only by the professional athletes since it's part of their job. Normally, in women testosterone is very low.
Secondly ... no offense, but women have twice as much subcutaneous fat as men. Most of this fat is stored in the pelvic region and hips. In men, the body fat percentage is about one third of the total body weight, while in women it is 10 to 12 percent more. Therefore, such constitutional peculiarity of the female body prevents even the most manlike ladies from turning into a musclebound iron pumper.
Pros and Cons of Strength Training
We have a lot to say about strength training, and that's what we are about to do. Indeed, it can provide increased muscle mass (and, as a result, the increased total body weight). But along with this process the size of fat cells decreases as well, so that you get an athletic figure without flabbiness and stretch marks.
Strength training not only affects skeletal muscles but also strengthens the heart muscle and smooth-muscle tissue, whereby you get a muscular and well-defined core that holds your spirit tightly right where it should be. Just imagine it, even the heart becomes stronger through strength training! And finally, last but not least, the bone mineral content increases, cartilaginous tissue and bone joints strengthen and become resistant to straining and injury.
However, it should be mentioned that workout routine is different for men and women. Women do not take aim at gaining tons of muscles (on the other hand, I knew a lady at one time; being in love with CrossFit she would nail 100 kg (220.5 pounds) effortlessly, so who can tell?). Workout for women aims at getting in shape and targeting the problem areas of the body. The only way to make it is to start a strength training routine. As for being on a diet and doing aerobics: leave it to the losers.
Home workout and body shaping exercises can't provide an athletic look. It's not a secret that some ladies prefer doing their workout at home: one would think that they even lose weight, though there is no abs, toned muscles or anything but saggy skin. Yuk! Never say die, though. Everything can be put right. You are always welcome to a gym!
Strength training ethics and essentials
So it's your first gym trip and there is one thing that strikes your eye —an army of gym equipment, which is especially mind-blowing to those who started out with old school training and free weights in some garage gym. As for the choice of this very gear and equipment, it depends on your overall objective.
Unfortunately, one of the top common misconceptions about strength training is that it only deals with pumping iron. As a matter of fact, strength exercises and workout also include crunches, sit-ups, push-ups and press-ups. Another peculiar fitness tool is Body Bar, a chrome-vanadium steel bar that weighs 3 to 5 kg (6.7 to 11 pounds), which can be used at home, until is thrown in lot with exercise bike, turned into a clothes horse, neglected and forgotten.
When choosing the type of equipment, you will have to say good-bye to all your sissy-girly stuff like 'OMG! This kettlebell does not harmonize with my pink sport bra and blah blah blah!' That's a crying shame. The type of gym equipment should be chosen according to your anthropometric characteristics and body composition only.
Picking the right weights at the gym
If you want to get in shape through your strength training routine you need to use lighter weights doing 15 to 25 reps with 1 kg dumbbells (2.2 pounds) per exercise for each muscle group. If you want to reveal your abs you do fewer reps (10 reps for each exercise) with heavier weights (2 to 3 kg or 4.4 to 6.6 pounds).
If it is your first time at the gym ever, and if you don't know what weights you need, do not hesitate to consult a gym trainer since consulting is in his job description. If it happens that there is no gym trainer at the gym (which is hardly possible), do not snatch the first barbell that catches the eye. Multiple reps with heavy weights lead to blood circulation disorder and exhaustion.
And by the way, prior to lifting weights and doing die-hard workout, reaching muscle fatigue with the warm up routine is necessary to get your body prepared and toned.
When you follow the instructions and observe safety procedures at the gym, you reduce your risk of injuring others and getting injured. Always remember... safety first!
NOTE: When lifting weights, keep your back straight and don't twist like a dog shitting razor blades. The loads on the spine during weight lifting makes your muscles stronger but less flexible, so that injuries tend to occur in the lumbar region. So your each and every movement should be supervised and controlled by the trainer.
The best time to work out
Since after the strength training exercises your body needs a couple of days to recover, the most effective schedule for workout would be 2 or 3 times a week for 1 hour. Yet, the hot button of the topic is the best time of day to hit the gym. While some people are up at the crack of dawn to work out, others can’t fathom the thing before noon. Some time ago we posted an article on this subject on our website, so this is a must-read.
Forget texting your besties on your smartphone during exercise if you want your workouts to deliver the results you want in a couple of months. Indeed, it feels like an eternity, though Rome was not built in a day, as well. Nothing really happens in the short term. However, when you skip the gym for more than a week, you simply throw your fitness level into rewind. After that, you'll have to start over at square one.
It is a good idea to live a fit life and combine strength training with other sports and physical activities like running, swimming, ice skating and inline skating. Just FYI.
The next step after choosing a fit life is planning your workout nutrition. There's just no two ways about it. Your goal is to provide your body with a balanced nutrition to supply energy and build muscles. The right menu will also help some ladies to lose weight, so that the abs could be seen from beneath its fat-shelter.
Being on a calorie restricted diet (as used herein, the term 'calorie restricted diet' means fasting, malnutrition and other food deprivations) is harmful during strength training. Nutritional deficiency poses risk of losing muscle protein which results in stretch marks and unfirm skin. In fact, after losing weight through caloric restriction, weight gain is inevitable when you go back to adequate nutrition. For more information, check out our '8 Common Myths about Fasting' article.
On training days, a higher calorie diet with small portions is necessary. Carbs build muscles, unlike saturated fats (lard, margarine and spreads of all sorts), which is totally evil. Fatty and lardy meat is not very good idea, ass well. However, you shouldn't refuse eating meat at all, since animal protein is the key element in building ripped and cut physique.
For more information, go to 'Food and Nutrition' section on our website. Plus, check out the new section for recipes. For sure, all you fitness chicks reading this are gonna find something yummy to cook.
Muscular training safety precautions
Before hitting the gym make sure to contact a health professional for spinal assessment, then consult with an endocrinologist. See, such conditions like scoliosis, lordosis, kyphosis and thyroid disorders restrict gym activities. Along with that, there are quite a few issues that only women deal with, and it also restricts gym activities.
Strength training exercises are contraindicated in high blood pressure, arrhythmia, asthma and the first days of menstrual cycle. And, I guess, it's clear that pregnancy is in the list, especially the second or third trimesters.
That's pretty much it - the key aspects for those ladies who want to get fit in the gym. And remember: it's not a shame to ask for help when you want to do everything right, it will be regarded with favor. It is much worse when a gym virgin tries to look like a pro, which is ridiculous.
Good luck, ladies, with building your perfect body!