As we now approach the on coming summer, the cardio bandwagon is in full flow, hitting the airwaves, inches and every advert possible to tell you to run, Run, RUN with little or no science to why you should and the long terms benefits of it.

This article is taking a different tact. Why, as a woman you should strength train and weight lift for health, weight management, vitality and longevity.

Firstly the elephant in the room, yes strength training does increase your basal testosterone levels, however, genetically women have 15-20 fold lower concentration levels of testosterone compared to a man’s. (i)

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So, if muscular growth were to occur, it would still be at its lowest regardless of training phase.

In some studies (ii) it has been shown to increase basal testosterone rates. This adaptation in hormone increase allows for more efficency within contraction sensitivity, PCr count and ultimately affecting the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate. (The rate at which the bodies uses fuel as an energy source in a resting state).

Testosterone will have a direct and indirect effect on the body. Firstly, through strength training it will facilitate the release of growth hormone (GH) (iii).

What does Growth hormone do?

In the short, GH will have an effect on the following:

– Reduces the needs for glucose.
– Increases the bodies’ ability to adapt.
– Increases recovery rate.
– Increases protein synthesis.
– Increases lipids used as energy sources.
– Increases lipolysis.
– Increases collagen synthesis (breakdown).
– Retention of nitrogen, sodium, potassium & phosphogens.
– Regulates oestrogen secretion.

strength training for women

WHEN to train, WHAT to train, HOW to train

The menstrual cycle is usually a taboo or embarrassing topic to think and talk about, however with regards to training it is vital, important and beneficial to know the details and rationales.

Women naturally have higher levels of (GH) during their menstrual cycle (iv) this implying further that their testosterone levels will be elevated also. Thus leaning towards the idea of increased fat utilisation as an energy source during this period.

Therefore, the training regime in the menstrual cycle should have a rep range of 8-10 at 75% the 1rm with a rest period of 90-120 seconds.

Out of the menstrual window, the athlete can return back to their current training macrocycle and proceed with training as normal with achievements outweighing losses.

When walking into the gym it can be daunting, the biggest issue with using the weights area I have found with my female clients is usually the “arrogance of man” assuming you’re a woman and so don’t know what you’re doing. Prove them wrong!!

Start with your big compound movements always (Dead lifts, Squats & Olympic lifts) – these exercises are the main ones that will allow for initial hormone release. This will then allow you to lift with more intensity throughout the rest of the session. Maintaining 10 by 5s with correct weight and rest periods will be a solid platform from which to start your training macros.

If you are unsure of these exercises, speak to a professional at your gym and ask them to help with coaching and technique points.

Hydrating well & maintaining a homeostatic balance with BCAAs will aid to the growth, recovery, repair and strength of the body.

This all tailoring towards correct & well periodised strength training, in tandem with correct application of individually designed diet (NOT; 1 size fits all or if it fits your macros) enables the body to utilize fat as an energy source more efficiently.

“Creating a fitter, stronger, healthier you”

References:

(i)                 Baechle, T.R; Earle, R.W. Essentials of strength training & conditioning, NSCA. Human Kinetics 2012

(ii)               Constable, S.H., Favier, R.J., Mclane, J.A., Feil, R.D & Chen, M. . Energy metabolism in contracting rat skeletal muscle. American journal of physiology 55: 316-322. 1987

(iii)             Hunter, G.R., Culpepper, M.I., Knee extension torque joint position relationships following isotonic fixed resistance and hydraulic resistance training. Athl Training. 23(1): 16-20. 1988

(iv)             Kraemer, W.J., Marchitelli, L., McCurry, D., Mello, R., Dzadios, J.E., Harman, E., Frykman, P., Gordon, S.E. & Fleck, S.J. Hormonal & Growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise. Journal of applied physiology. 69(4): 1442-1450. 1990

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