Why is weightlifting/strength training so important for women?
My theory is that strength training and weightlifting is how we keep our bodies from becoming stagnant. Everyone who works out is on their own personal fitness journey; some want to lose fat; some want to have more energy, and some just want to work out to know they are doing what they can to be healthy. Regardless of the reason, it is so important to continue to drive and propel your body forward, so that it never ceases to keep changing.
It is crucial to incorporate lifting weights into your workout regimen. In fact, when it comes to exercise for older adults, strength training actually trumps cardio because preserving muscle is more important than losing fat as you age.
Every decade, starting in your mid 30s, you lose a percentage of muscle, which affects your metabolism, balance, and ability to brace yourself in the event of an injury. By weight training, you build more muscle to protect your body against injury.
YOU’LL LOSE WEIGHT AND BURN MORE CALORIES
While cardio can help you get rid of belly fat, lifting weights helps you build more muscle, which can also help you burn more calories. That’s because muscles are metabolically active, meaning they burn calories even when you’re not exercising. In fact, muscle tissue burns seven to 10 calories per pound daily, while fat burns only two to three calories per pound daily.
YOU’LL PROTECT YOUR BONES
As you age, your bones become more brittle and weaker, especially if you’re post-menopausal, which is due to lower estrogen levels—the hormone responsible for maintaining bone mass. But lifting weights can help you build bone mineral density through Wolff’s Law, which states that bones can grow in response to forces that are placed upon it. In other words, creating pressure on your joints through weight-bearing exercises can help you build stronger, healthier bones.
Strength training involves muscles contracting against the bones they’re surrounding. This force applied to the bones helps improve bone density over time.
Research shows that high-intensity resistance training exercises, like deadlifts, overhead presses, and back squats, can help improve bone mineral density in women with osteopenia and osteoporosis.
YOU’LL MANAGE STRESS AND BOOST YOUR MOOD
Had a hard day at work and need to release some tension? Time to pick up those weights. Just like any form of exercise, strength training can enhance your mood by releasing feel-good hormones called endorphins.
Recent research also suggests that exercise, including weight training, may help protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia. Researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center discovered that the hormone irisin, which is released during exercise, may help promote neuronal growth in the hippocampus—the area of the brain dedicated to learning and memory.
Any type of exercise is a mood booster, but weight training makes you feel stronger, and it builds the back and neck muscles that are most directly associated with stress.
YOU’LL IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
If you have a desk job, chances are you’re dealing with a case of rounded shoulders and a hunched back, which place additional pressure on your low back. This can lead to bad posture and limited range of motion in the shoulders, which are the most flexible joint in the body.
But lifting weights can help reverse this by opening the chest, strengthening the back muscles, and improving freedom of movement. It also strengthens your core, which keeps the back in alignment and upright.
Go for multi-joint compound exercises, which I always incorporate in our BASH workouts, can help you work in different planes of motion and muscle groups, saving you time and effort.
YOU’LL REDUCE BACK PAIN
There’s no one reason for back pain, but muscular imbalances, like weak knees and an unstable core, can contribute, among other things. Most people think aches and pain are due to strains, but sometimes, it’s a result of bad biomechanics. Your muscles work in a kinetic chain, so if there’s a weak link, it can often manifest into a bigger problem in different areas of the body. But by building total-body strength, you can bypass most injuries.
YOU’LL IMPROVE MEMORY AND BRAIN HEALTH
Physical activity can help prevent or delay cognitive decline in people over 50, regardless of their current neurological state. When you’re moving, your body pumps oxygen-rich blood to your brain, boosting neuroplasticity—your brain’s ability to create new neural connections and adjust to changes in environment. By increasing neuroplasticity, you can better handle stressful situations that come with life and stay sharp.
YOU’LL BE BETTER IN TUNE WITH YOUR BODY
There’s nothing like lifting a pair of weights to help you tune into your senses when you work out. Whether you’re doing an overhead press, a plank row, or a goblet squat, lifting weights creates greater awareness around using your breath to help you get the most out of each rep. Plus, doing complex moves can test your listening and cognitive skills—it takes some brain power to process my cues and execute a move properly!
WHY INCREASE OUR WEIGHTS?
It is important to note, that our muscles will constantly adapt to training. In the same way we adapt to changes in climate and altitude, being able to lift a weight that was once completely out of reach proves that if we want our bodies to change, we must find ways of continuing to challenge it, push our muscles, and increase the stress placed on it during exercise. This is also known as ‘progressive overload,’ and can be achieved by altering the amount of weight (volume), and reps you use, so that your body doesn’t adapt to any specific adjustment. With BASH workouts, you can be confident that I am always changing it up!
So, how do you know when you should increase your dumbbell weight? The simplest answer would be when you notice that you can do more reps with the weight that you started with!
Say for example you were doing 10 reps of bicep curls, using 5 LB dumbbells; and now you can comfortably do 12 reps for multiple workouts; test yourself by increasing the weight by 2-5 LBS.
Having said all that, do not try and increase weights until you are able to pull off more reps with any current weight. This can easily lead to injury and/or sacrificing your form, neither of which we want. But by constantly pushing your body to do more reps or use a slightly heavier weight, you can continue making progress! Just make sure you have the proper balance when it comes to pushing yourself and listen to your body’s limits.
We are going to begin introducing heavier weights in the coming BASH classes along with our current weights. Please use these guidelines while at home to gauge your readiness to increase weights. And as always, I am here for you as your trainer, to guide you and answer any concerns or questions.
Let’s go Queens! Time to shake up that body!