By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
I don’t want to look like a man,” “I want to trim down, not bulk up,” or “weights are for men” are just some of the comments you hear from your girlfriends who stick to the treadmill, zumba, or spinning classes. While these types of exercise are great, it is time to remove the stigma of strength training and see its benefits too (it’s not just weight loss, mind you)!
Weight a minute. What is the difference between strength training and weight training? Strength training is any physical activity that means using any type of resistance to build muscle mass, such as using weights, machines, or your own body weight, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. A quick look at social media hashtags #girlswholift or #girlswithmuscle with more than a million posts may be enough to convince some to lift weights or add strength training to their exercise routines, but if you’re one of those ladies still skeptical and afraid to #bulkup or look like a #bodybuilder , read on.
What are the benefits of strength training?
It is natural that muscle mass and function declines with age—also called sarcopenia. In fact, one can lose as much as three to five percent of his body’s muscle mass in every decade from the age of 30, according to Harvard Health. This is why men and women may also notice some parts of their body that start to sag and feel their muscles weaken as well. According to certified American Council of Exercise instructor and fitness trainer Ruel Enerio, a decline in muscle mass also lowers one’s energy, making one less active. This domino effect leads to less calorie burning and an increase in fat. All of these physical changes can thus make one look noticeably older.
This is why Coach Ruel echoes the recommendation of other coaches and health practitioners on the benefits of strength training as it makes one stronger, builds muscle mass, keeps the weight off, improves flexibility and endurance, and increases energy. Not to mention the improvement in muscle tone and posture that makes one actually look and feel younger!
Which is better, strength training or cardio?
Coach Ruel says strength training has more physiological benefits than cardio alone. Gaining more lean mass, increased strength, weight loss, and better flexibility are almost guaranteed as opposed to cardio. Moreover, while cardio burns more calories than strength training, calories burned post exercise are higher in strength training. This is not to discount cardio entirely, however. Cardio also has its own benefits as it maintains cardiovascular and respiratory health, so it is best to change up your routines and try both.
Can you lose weight with weight training alone?
Yes, says Coach Ruel, but he still advises that at the end of the day, it is still about how many calories you consume and burn. Hence, one should still control his/her food intake. Keeping calories at a minimum while hitting your basal metabolic requirement, coupled with strength training, will still make one lose weight.
Do women really bulk up with strength training?
“Never worry ladies,” says Coach Ruel. It is almost impossible to bulk up or look like males because women do not have the same testosterone level as men. This is why it is harder for females to increase their size naturally with strength training, yet they can still reap the benefits with an improved posture, toned muscles, and increased strength. Even bodybuilding women need special diets and aids to achieve that kind of physique.
Can one perform strength training on his own?
If you are a beginner, it is safer and better to invest in a personal trainer or a professional to help you guide your workout, advises Coach Ruel. According to him, too much workout may result in injury, and too little resistance may yield poor results. Plus, possible injuries may arise without proper guidance, at least at the beginning. He suggests guidance from a trainer in the first three months for the client to be able to learn the right form, ensure safety, form a regular habit for the client, and maximize results as they provide the right program. “But ultimately, the responsibility or the goal of a trainer is to change the lifestyle of the person, not just to reach his target weight or fitness level in a certain amount of time.” “And when hiring a personal trainer, get someone with credentials, one who has both knowledge and experience,” he adds.
How young can one start with strength training?
For high-intensity weight training, Coach Ruel recommends teenagers at 15 or 16 years of age, or when the body is more developed and mature. Otherwise, for children, low-intensity exercises are allowed. Cardio is recommended for all ages.
What is a good strength training workout for beginners?
Coach Ruel says that machine workout provides better safety and correct form and speed. It also isolates certain parts of the body. Once the right form is realized, once can try free weights as it is a compound workout, that provides multiple physiological benefits and targets multiple areas. One may also try working out at home using one’s body weight or improvised weights. But as you gain strength, investing in proper equipment may be needed to maintain or achieve better results. “High-intensity weight training is lifting weights to the point of failure or fatigue.”
No type of exercise is better than another, so how do you know what is best for you? It all depends on your fitness goals, says Coach Ruel. From running a marathon, looking good in a swimsuit, or for overall health, discuss these with a certified trainer and your physician so that they can recommend the best program suitable for your age, your health, and your goals. Start small and be consistent. Weight training, as with any other exercise, does not deliver results overnight, but they benefit your body and your health in the long run.