Shape Up: Weights don't turn women into Popeye
Instead think lean muscle, strength, weight loss, better bones and a sharper brain!
Published 08/02/2010 | 05:00
As people age, the purpose of their training may change from aesthetic reasons to more functional ones. Regardless of your goal, it is important that you choose the right tools to accomplish it.
One of the biggest myths of the fitness industry is that weight training is not good for weight loss, it's dangerous, makes you big and bulky, or that it will not improve your fitness levels. The reality, however, is somewhat different.
If you are brave enough to leave behind your Jane Fonda-inspired aerobic workouts you may experience a few pleasant surprises. Women do not become big and bulky after a few weeks of doing weights. The fact of the matter is that, physiologically, it is much harder for women to gain muscle in comparison to men.
This is because women's testosterone levels are 20 to 40 times lower than men's. This means they have less of the raw materials needed to build muscle and they also have about 40pc less of the muscle fibres needed to absorb the hormones that are available.
Weight training does build muscle in women but not to the extent that the Chinese whispers will lead you to believe.
Female clients will tend to build most of their muscle in the first six weeks of their training and then it plateaus dramatically.
After time, your body slows down its gains in muscle and the adaptations become more neural, in that the brain becomes more efficient in communicating to the body how to perform the exercise.
The more frequently you train, the quicker you recruit the fibres needed to lift the heavier weights which change your body shape.
By increasing your weights or by altering your exercises you encourage your body to make more physical adaptations.
So as you get stronger and lift heavier weights, you speed up your metabolism and you can lose more pounds of body fat.
Like any type of learning, frequency is essential. Females should start with a minimum of three weight-training sessions a week.
Don't worry, lifting heavy weights does not suddenly make you start looking like Popeye. Your physique will become more toned and defined, though, as a result of challenging yourself.
A study in 1996 on 56 post-menopausal women who did weight training for one year showed that their bone density increased when they lifted heavy weights.
By comparison, it did not increase when women did three sets of lighter weights for 20 repetitions, so if you are participating in Body-pump classes forget it.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation says that almost a quarter of people over 50 who have hip fractures die within a year. Unintentional injury, which most often results from a fall, ranks as the sixth leading cause of death among people over 65 years of age and muscle weakness has been identified as one of the biggest potentially modifiable risk factors for falling.
If it's long life you're after, Tufts University found that the greater your amount of lean muscle mass the greater the longevity potential: you could live longer!
It is, in fact, the number one biomarker of longevity. It is a far better predictor than cholesterol or blood pressure.
For women, strength is empowering. So your goal should be to begin a weight-training programme so that you can enjoy the benefits listed above.
Physiologically, there are a number of differences between the genders that can affect sports performance, work capacity, body size and composition, but the training potential and methods of training should be similar for each.
This was confirmed by a 1968 study which confirmed that muscle is muscle, regardless of whether it is male or female muscle.
Although females can get very strong it is important to note that there is a tendency for them to lose strength faster than males in off periods such as holidays.
The question is, are you willing to do the work required that is the price demanded for success?
There are many people who want to go to heaven, but don't want to die! What price are you willing to pay for your health?