Weight training or working-out with weights was once considered solely a male domain. Even today, only male fitness buffs or wanna-be boxers would dare to venture most into this territory. However, more and more women all over the world are realising the potent benefits of combining weight training with their regular exercise regimes. The age-old myths that initially prevented women from weight training are now finally being questioned, explored and expelled.
Break the myth
Earlier, women kept away from weight training because of an irrational fear that they may unintentionally end up adding bulk to bulk or looking like one of those unsightly body builders on TV, but recent research has proved beyond doubt that it is impossible for a woman's body to bulge with biceps like a man's. This is simply because she does not possess enough of the male hormone, testosterone which aids in building rippling muscles. The muscular women weight lifters you may have seen on TV have, in most cases, used anabolic steroids and ate a very specific diet to recreate that look of bulkiness, so you don't need to worry about that happening to you!
Also, weight training isn't just meant for younger women, but can be equally effective for women of all age groups. The only difference is that women over 45 should be supervised at all times by a personal fitness instructor who can effectively set a healthy pace and monitor their progress.
Let's take a look at how working-out with weights can affect your over-all health and wellbeing.
It is common knowledge that muscle mass requires a great deal more energy to sustain itself than fat or flab and, therefore, by building a more muscled body, you are equipping yourself with the long-term potential of burning more calories. According to weight training expert and researcher Wayne Westcott, the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for a period of eight weeks gains 1.75 pounds of lean weight or muscle and loses 3.5 pounds of fat!
For each pound of muscle you gain, you'll burn 35 to 50 extra calories daily. So, not only are you effectively doing away with fat, but you are also increasing the number of calories you burn every single day! This results in singular and most effective weight loss without even a hint of deprivation. Since you can also eat whatever you like - in moderation, of course - so long as you continue your weight training, you'll find that the pounds will melt away like magic and, more importantly, stay off for good!
Building muscles is also your weapon against AMO [arthritis, menopause problems, and osteoporosis]. As a women ages, she is terribly vulnerable to these three most debilitating conditions - osteoporosis, or the weakening of the bones through loss of calcium, arthritis and related joint pain, and hormonal fluctuations and problems, caused due to cessation of the monthly reproductive cycle. Weight training has been proved to provide great relief in these conditions. The average woman loses about one per cent of her bone mass each year after age 35.
Lifting weights can drastically slow down the rate of bone loss and may even reverse the process. With strong bones, you won't become hunched as you age, and you'll lower your risk of life-threatening fractures.
No matter what your age, it's never too late to start strengthening your bones. According to Dr Stephen M Pribut, muscular strength declines approximately 5 per cent per decade for the untrained individual — be it male or female. And, ironically, your body strength isn't calculated by how thin or how fat you may be! "You may weigh less at 45 years than you did at 35, but body composition testing might show you that your body fat percentage has increased and the weight that you've lost is lean muscle mass, not fat," he says. This is also the reason why people who are of the same weight and build may intrinsically differ - with one looking and feeling more fit than the other.
Apart from increasing one's stamina and providing protection against brittle bones, weight training will keep debilitating conditions like arthritis at bay by building up more muscle and increasing joint flexibility. It will also help women combat the changes to their systems brought about by menopause.
"The strengthening of the ligaments, tendons and connective tissue can benefit everyone and reduce stress to the joints," says Pribut.
If you've never weight trained before, it is always best to consult your physician before beginning. Bear in mind that pushing your body too hard, too soon, or training with very heavy weights can be dangerous and counter-productive.
"Exercise is like medication," says Edward Laskowski, MD, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and co-director of the Sports Medicine Centre at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, US: "It has to be prescribed and taken appropriately. Incorrect technique, like an incorrect prescription, can hurt you." "Forget the old adage, "no pain, no gain." It doesn't ring a bell. If you are experiencing cramps, or lower abdominal pain, it indicates bad posture, incorrect technique, or too much strain. Ignoring these symptoms will only heighten your risk of injury.
Doing it right
- Select weights that you are comfortable lifting
- The weights you choose shouldn't be too difficult or too easy for you to work with
- They should offer your body just the right amount of resistance for best results
- For women, dumbbells may be the best equipment
- Light stretching and warming up with floor exercises is recommended before any vigorous work-out.
Here are some simple exercises that should help you get started.
Seated Dumbbell Lift. Seat yourself in an upright position on a flat bench or chair, and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Hold the dumbbells slightly wide than shoulder width apart. Slowly carry the dumbbells over your head keeping your back and head straight.
Pause with the dumbbells positioned over your head and lower the weights back to your shoulders. Repeat for 10 straight sets.
Front Dumbbell Heave. Stand and grasp the dumbbells firmly with your palms facing downwards. Keeping your arms straight, raise each dumbbell alternately, so that it reaches a point at eye level. Pause briefly and slowly lower. Repeat 10 times with each arm.
Ceiling Raise. Stand with your arms extended before you, palms and dumbbells facing downwards. Bring the dumbbells to your torso, so that your balled fists face each other. Lift the dumbbells slowly above your head and gently stretch your arms to maximum capacity.
Military Press. Get a good grip on the barbell and pull it from the ground to shoulder level, keeping the spine and back straight at all times. Now, extend your arms, raising the dumbbells straight up. Repeat pattern backwards till the dumbbells are once more at ground level. Do a set of 10.
Bicep curl-grasp the dumbbells and keep your arms straight and close to your body. Slowly lift the right arm bending at the elbow, so that the dumbbell is parallel to your shoulder. Repeat the activity 10 times with one hand before moving onto the other. For most effective weight loss, combine an aerobic activity with weight lifting. For instance, walk briskly on your treadmill carrying light dumbbells.
Move on to heavier weights when you feel comfortable. This way, you can work all your major muscles - abdominals, chest, back, shoulders and arms. The only precaution you must take is to ensure that your manner of holding the weight is correct and your posture is good. Do not stoop, or else you will end up placing undue strain on your ankles.
Weight training will ensure that you grow fitter as you grow older. It is the secret to youth, independence and longevity. Use weight techniques to change the shape of your body and alter the very course of your life!
Why Should You Work-out?
Studies show that regular exercise considerably increases life expectancy, overall health and wellbeing. Regular physical activity also reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Not only that. Physical exercises can reduce, or improve, symptoms of menopause, PMS, diabetes, as well as many other disorders: of the mind, body, and spirit. The best advantage is - exercise helps improve not only your self-image, but also your energy levels. It also helps:
- Lower body weight
- Decrease risk of diseases
- Lower body fat
- Reduce symptoms of menopause
- Improve "good" cholesterol levels
- Sleep better
- Reduce risk of injury
- Improve physical appearance
- Reduce depression
- Build positive self-esteem
- Maintain better sleeping patterns
- Improve energy and stamina.
- Team CW
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