The importance of strength training for women by Elle Linton
Her Spirit Coach Elle Linton talks about why strength training is important for every woman no matter your age or stage of life
As I write this article, we’re currently in week 5 of the inaugural Her Spirit challenge – Couch2Kilos. Couch2Kilos is a free strength challenge designed to help EVERY woman get stronger in 6-weeks and whether you’re keen to jump in, or aren’t too sure, I figured what was important was to cover the “why” of strength training.
As one of your Couch2Kilos coaches, I’m eager to get as many women involved so you can benefit sooner, rather than later, from working on your strength. You don’t need to have reached a certain level to take part, nor do you need any fancy equipment as the challenge is suitable for all levels and starts using bodyweight.
The Benefits of Strength Training for Women
So let’s cover some of the benefits of strength training that you can get from taking part in Couch2Kilos.
It boosts your metabolism
Muscle is more metabolic than fat, so strength training is key to encourage a higher metabolic rate. Increased metabolism means that your body converts calories into energy faster and disposes of waste more efficiently. Boosting your metabolism can help you burn more body fat and maintain a healthy weight.
Strength training can increase your metabolism for up to 36 hours after finishing a session. And over time, a higher muscle-to-fat ratio can increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR), the base calories that your body requires to just function and stay alive.
It helps in other areas of life
The purpose of strength training isn’t only to lift heavy weights at the gym. Building up your strength can benefit you in many other areas of life too. Her Spirit community members tell us that strength training has helped them build body confidence and feel more able to cope with daily life.
Strength training can also help improve performance in many other sports through increased mobility and endurance, improved posture, enhanced coordination, and so much more. Functional weight training can also help you perform other daily activities, such as moving heavy furniture, lifting children, or carrying your luggage through the airport.
It can reduce your risk of injury
Strength training improves the strength of your muscles, tendons, and even the ligaments and bones, as well as enhancing flexibility and balance – all things that can reduce your risk of injury in daily life, and when taking part in other sports and activities.
It’s great for mental health
It’s not only your physical health that will improve with strength training. It can have huge benefits for women’s mental health too. Resistance training releases endorphins, while seeing progress can help you feel more powerful and confident with your body.
Several studies have also shown that regular strength training can reduce anxiety levels and help manage the symptoms of depression in women.
It can help protect you from certain illnesses and health issues
Weight training can offer some important long-term health benefits too.
As women, we are much more susceptible to developing joint and bone conditions as we age, with peri-menopause and menopause not helping the situation. Performing regular weight-bearing exercises can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis (weakening of the bones). Strength training can also help manage arthritic pain by building stronger muscles around the joints.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, studies have also suggested that strength training can reduce your risk of developing type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can help rebalance hormonal health in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) too.
Tips for Getting Started with Strength Training
Getting started with anything is always the hardest part, right? If you’re newer to strength training, you’ll want and need expert guidance. If you’re more experienced, it could be the inspiration and accountability you’re looking for.
Learn the different ways to strength train
If you think that strength training only means deadlifts and bench presses, think again. Strength training refers to any exercise that uses resistance to work your muscles. There are many different ways to strength train, ranging all the way from bodyweight workouts to barbell squats, all of which you’ll find in Couch2Kilos with 3 different levels being catered for.
Most beginners to strength training start with bodyweight exercises. These are movements that use your own natural body weight rather than external weights. Squats, burpees, lunges, push-ups and planks are all great bodyweight exercises. They can help you to build up power, practice your form, and understand movements patterns. You’ll cover these in Level 1 of Couch2Kilos.
From bodyweight exercises, you can build your way up to using free weights and machines. Free weights include dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells which can be used in a number of different exercises. Machine weights such as the leg press are fixed to a particular movement. In level 2 of Couch2Kilos, you can use light dumbbells (1kg-5kg), resistance bands or tins of beans if that’s what you have. Moving into level 3, you’ll work with a barbell and these days, you can get one to have at home.
Focus on your form
Nailing your form is one of the first things you need to do when starting out with strength training. The correct form ensures that you’re targeting the right muscles with each movement. Your form also prevents you from getting injured when lifting heavy weights.
When following along with the live Her Spirit Couch2Kilos workouts, you’ll be able to see your coach perform the exercises and share important teaching points to help you understand what the correct form is and how it feels. You can also connect with your coaches via the Her Spirit community forums to ask any specific questions and share your journey.
Warm-up and stretch it out
A proper warm-up and cool-down are essential elements of strength training. A dynamic warm-up helps to get your muscles ready, increase your range of motion, and reduce your risk of injury. Stretching after your workout is also important for reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery time. Foam rolling can also help to massage out your muscles in between workouts.
Train with a friend or community
Weight training may seem like something you do alone. But strength training can be much safer and more effective when done alongside others which is why we created this challenge for the Her Spirit community. Outside of Couch2Kilos, this might be having a friend spot you in the gym, working with a personal trainer, or you can join the wonderful Her Spirit community! We might be biassed there!
Remember to rest
Feeling achy or sore the day after a heavy weights session is completely normal. It’s a sign that you worked hard, and challenged your body. However, you don’t want to feel so sore that you write yourself off for several days or end up injuring yourself. Taking rest days is key, especially as that’s where you reap the benefits of your strength training, when your muscle fibres repair and come back stronger! Particularly at the beginning of your training.
Personally, I’ve loved delivering and taking part in the Couch2Kilos challenge and the feedback so far has been positive. It’s never too late to take part either as all the sessions are recorded and accessible to be repeated through-out the week.
So download the app now, have a look around and get ready to feel strong!