October 24, 2011

Common Misconceptions Of Strength Training For Women

Recent studies counter several widely held beliefs that may limit the physiologic and psychological benefits of weight training for women.


Myth 1: Strength training causes women to become larger and heavier
The truth is, strength training helps reduce body fat and increase lean weight. It also increases your metabolism and allows you to burn calories around the clock. Muscle is dense and takes up less space in your body. In fact, since it takes 1/5 the space of fat, the addition of muscle usually creates smaller measurements in addition to strength gains.

Myth 2: Women should use different training methods than men.
Women are often encouraged to use weight machines and slow, controlled movements out of a fear that using free weights, manual resistance, explosiveness (high velocity, low force), or exercises that use body weight as resistance will cause injury.

In fact, no evidence suggests that women are more likely to be injured during strength training than men. Proper exercise instruction and technique are necessary to reduce the risk of injuries for both men and women. All strength training participants should follow a program that gradually increases the intensity and load.

Furthermore, sport-specific exercise should closely mimic the biomechanics and velocity of the sport for which an athlete is training. The best way to achieve this is to use exercises that involve multiple joints and muscle groups and the ranges of motion specific to the sport.

Myth 3: Women should avoid high-intensity or high-load training.
Women are typically encouraged to use limited resistance, such as light dumbbells, in their strength exercises. Often such light training loads are substantially below those necessary for physiologic adaptations and certainly less than those commonly used by men.

Most women are able to train at higher volumes and intensities than previously believed. In fact, women need to train at intensities high enough to cause adaptation in bone, muscle, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. When exercise intensity provides insufficient stimulus, physiologic benefits may be minimal. To gain maximum benefit from strength training, women should occasionally perform their exercises at or near the repetition maximum for each exercise.


William P. Ebben, MS, MSSW, CSCS; Randall L. Jensen, PhD. THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE – VOL 26 – NO.

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