The power of strength training for women 

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By Nick Hewett, Health and Fitness Tutor for The Training Room 

As a trainer, I spend a lot of time in gyms and when taking female clients into the weights area, regularly hear comments such as ‘oh no, we are going into the men’s area’ or ‘I don’t want to get big and bulky like that guy!’

Yet as we know, this just is not the case and there should be nothing to fear for female clients entering this area for the first time.

The gym is a place where clients go to feel better about themselves; whether that’s by getting fitter and healthier, feeling more confident, or enjoying the social element of getting to know fellow gymgoers.

But when it comes to strength training, what are some of the preconceptions we need to be aware of when encouraging our female clients to give it a try?

And what can we as fitness professionals do to alleviate any concerns?

Firstly, they may think they will end up with huge muscles. As much as we as trainers always say this is not going to happen, we are never believed!

Men have 10 times more testosterone than women and this is what helps towards the muscle building.

Not to mention, those big chaps in the gym are probably training six times a week and could be eating enough to fuel a small army.

Female athletes may also be training twice a day, six days a week; this is their job. They may also be on 4000 – 8000 plus calories a day.

But unless your client’s training regime and nutrition looks like this, you can help them understand that it is very unlikely they will be in this shape by training a couple of times a week.

Another barrier could be the intimidation factor. Maybe they are worried that other people in the gym are looking at them using the weights section or they just don’t know where to start when it comes to using strength training equipment.

Research from Sport England, which launched the nationwide This Girl Can campaign to encourage women and girls to get moving regardless of shape, size and ability, found that the fear of being judged, worries about appearance and concerns about ability can all be personal barriers for women and girls to overcome when it comes to taking part in sport and exercise.

Its Go Where Women Are insight report suggests fitness professionals can help clients overcome some of these barriers by training in ‘softer skills’ and understanding the importance of boosting women’s confidence, addressing fears head-on before the start of sessions to ensure clients know that they are safe and supported and, for those clients who relish a challenge, setting goals and giving encouragement towards them.

Having these conversations with clients and talking through their questions and fears can help to break down some of these barriers.

It’s also important to remember to educate clients on why they should be weight training and the many benefits it can have to their health and fitness levels.

For starters, stronger bones.

Lifting heavy weights puts more pressure on the bones. The body then adapts by making the bones stronger and thicker to be able to handle the weight. This means that lifters will be less at risk of breaks and fractures if falls occur.

This is particularly important for women as they are more prone to Osteoporosis due to the hormone changes during the menopause; having stronger and thicker bones can slow this process down.

A big motivator for women to include weight training into their routines could be to feel stronger – both physically and mentally.

Let them know that not only can this be helpful in the gym and any other sports or physical activities they enjoy, but it is also a massive benefit for general day to day activities.

Lifting weights also gets the heart pumping, so can offer a great cardio workout.

This is excellent if your client is someone who doesn’t enjoy pounding on a treadmill!

Research also suggests that strength training may lower a woman’s risk of Type Two Diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

This is even more important in the current climate, as based on the evidence so far, cardiovascular risk factors and heart conditions are thought to increase the risk of poor outcomes from Covid-19.

If weight loss is a goal for your client, then as the output from the body is massive during weight training, the total calorie output can be greater than a lot of cardio-based activities.

As the muscles grow, they require more energy. They also require a lot more energy during recovery, so calories are burned well after the exercise has taken place. This means clients can continue burning calories, even when they are just carrying on with the rest of their day.

Another of the biggest benefits to clients can be confidence building.

The empowerment and pride that comes with lifting weights encourages most clients to set themselves new goals.

Many I have worked with feel an enormous sense of achievement when they have lifted a new personal best.

It’s up to us as personal trainers and coaches to help breakdown any stereotypes and, in turn, show our clients how they can enjoy the many benefits of weight training for themselves.

For more information about The Training Room, its personal training qualifications, and CPD courses, visit:www.thetrainingroom.com/courses/health-and-fitness

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