If there is one type of exercise that is still very frequently misunderstood it is weight training programmes for women. When broaching the subject with female clients a frown of suspicion often crosses their faces followed something to the effect of; ‘But won’t that make me big and muscular?’ Well, yes it will; providing you’re taking in enough anabolic steroid to enable you to win the Grand National. If you’re not inclined to wander into the dubious realms of professional bodybuilding then the answer is a resounding no. If you still doubt me then just ask any male gym monkeys that you know. Men struggle and sweat for months to achieve even modest muscle gains and large muscle gains require a huge level of determination and commitment.
The reason that men can achieve this is due the presence of testosterone, the male growth hormone, in their bodies. The average woman has less than one tenth of the testosterone levels in her body as the average man and sometimes it is a lot lower. So fear not Ladies, a ten week weight training programme will not turn you into the Incredible Hulk. If it is difficult enough for men (who often do want to look like The Hulk) then there is no chance for women.
However, there are many huge benefits that women can gain from doing weights. For a start the modest increases in muscle strength will often add considerable tone and shape to the body. The real winner is that muscle is a natural fat burner. To maintain muscle requires energy and the great news is that the body’s fat stores are the most plentiful source, and this process goes on 24 hours-a-day. So by having a bit of extra muscle tone you are actually burning fat whilst you’re sitting on the sofa watching TV. Amazing isn’t it?
Naturally a sensible diet is required and for most people this will require them to reduce their white-carbohydrate (bread, pasta, potatoes etc.) and fat intake and increase the amount of protein that you eat. Protein has the twofold benefits of helping build muscle tone and making you feel full-up.
Another hugely misunderstood concept is bodyweight. The fitness industry is obsessed with losing weight. My first piece of advice is throw the scales out. What people really mean when they say that they wish to lose weight is that they want to change their body shape. What many people find when embarking on a fitness programme is that their weight remains the same (or occasionally increases slightly) yet their dress sizes are dropping. The reason is that muscle is heavier than fat. So your real guide should be the tape measure; if the unwanted fat is disappearing and the notches on the belt are decreasing then who cares if you’ve only lost a couple of pounds.
So go and have fun with those weights!