A big mistake people make, especially women, is forgetting to add strength training to their summer get in shape programs. While the treadmill and spinning bikes get consistent use, the barbell and dumbbells are often neglected.
As a trainer, I’ve noticed many women gravitate toward the three-pound dumbbells for 15-25 repetitions. However, consider that according to most studies the average women’s handbag weighs between 8-12 pounds, with one UK based survey in the Huffington Post averaging a whopping 23 pounds per bag, the same weight as a same child. If the body is accustomed to holding 10 pounds all day, it won’t burn much energy grabbing the 5-pound pastel colored dumbbell at the gym.
Many women express that they are afraid of “bulking up” through strength training, however many men have a hard time adding muscle and they have 10 to 30 times more testosterone than most women. Testosterone is a powerful hormone, which among other things tells the body to build muscle. Women have testosterone, just much less than men. What about the female bodybuilders that are very muscular? Isn’t that from lighting lifts? No, any female that looks like that is using replacement hormones, like testosterone.
Engaging in a properly designed strength training program would probably build some muscle on most women. The bigger deal, however, is strength training, especially at higher intensities, promotes something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Referred to as the “afterburn,” it increases your metabolism and allows the body to burn additional calories up to 72 hours after strength training. The more lean muscle mass you have relative to your overall body composition, the greater your potential to burn more calories.
To take advantages of EPOC use heavier weights. Aim for 8-12 repetitions for each exercise. If you feel like you could have done a couple more repetitions then add weight. To get started stick the basics and use total body exercise like squats, deadlifts and pushups. If you have no weight training experiences try starting with some quality core exercises to build your base and boost your metabolism. You don’t need traditional weights, like barbells and dumbbells to strength train, in fact the Swiss ball works wonders. The Swiss ball rollout is a foundational exercise I like to teach all my female clients, similar to a plank, but you get to really feel the abs burns and work on core stability.
How to do it: Sit on your knees in front of a Swiss ball and place your forearms and fists on the ball. Your back should be naturally arched. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to protect your low back. Focus on keeping both areas tight for the exercise. Slowly roll the ball forward, straightening your arms and extending your body as far as you can without allowing your lower back to “collapse.” If you start to feel it in your lower back, you have rolled out too far. Use your ab muscles to pull the ball back to your knees.
As always consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program, and if you are unsure how to properly preform any exercise seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.
Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach that trains at Sierra Athletic Club and a training center instructor at Barton Memorial Hospital. Kyler specializes in adult fitness over 50 and rehabilitation after injury. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.