By Andries Lodder
As a guy, it gives me great pleasure to write this piece on weight training for the ladies without them getting bulky. Not all guys out there like girls that have a better physique than what they do. The majority of us like the opposite sex to be small and feminine with a hint of some well-toned muscles, just like most magazines portray their cover models to be. Maybe with a little more meat on them will make them more natural and almost perfect. I say ‘almost’ because you can’t see, by just looking, if they are a gourmet chef or not. Just kidding ladies. Back to the topic, before I put my foot too deep in it.
Most women rely solely on cardiovascular exercises and their diets to try and change their body and think that weight training will make them bulky, unfeminine or some other terrible thing. The truth is the only real way to change your physical shape without drastic plastic surgery is through weight training.
Weight training exercises increase bone density and strengthens your joints and decreases the risk of osteoporosis. It also boosts the metabolism helping to reduce body fat quicker and easier. This is due to the intensity and workload your body comes under, causing you to burn more calories, as your body needs more fuel than normal. The increased muscle size also assists with jump-starting your metabolism as they consume more energy. The other important factor to muscle size is all to do with your weight training diet. You will gain muscle and lose fat through weight lifting, but unless you start eating more your body weight will remain the same. Therefore it is more than just a means of sculpting a lean body, it will also give you the confidence to be your best and live your life to the fullest, and look good naked too, obviously.
Now lets get the misconception of weight training out of the way. High reps with very low weight do not tone. They do not strengthen. They pretty much just waste your time. Now get over any pictures of female bodybuilders you have seen and scared you out of the weight section. These women don’t look masculine because of strength training; they look masculine because they take male hormones. If you don’t want to look like them, don’t take androgens. It’s that simple.
When it comes to a weight training program for women, it is similar to a men’s one, consisting of lifting heavy enough weights to fatigue the muscles and stimulate proper growth. Working to muscle fatigue or failure means to the point where you are no longer able to physically lift the weight while maintaining proper form and technique for the exercise. Remember this is the only way you are going to achieve muscle tone and shape and get the full benefits of your weight training routines.
Okay, I’m not going to lie to you. If you are weak and have never done any real strength training, you will see some changes pretty quickly. For example, you’ll need stronger forearms just to hold onto enough weight. The gains you’ll experience will not continue forever. Do not freak out about them or trick yourself into thinking that you will turn into a gym monster overnight. Unless your parents were the weight lifting Olympic champions, the odds are far lower than you think.
Strength training exercises can fit into any lifestyle and don’t need to be complicated and take up all of your time. Improving muscle strength, definition and endurance happens quickly and takes as little as 20 – 30 minutes, 2 – 3 times a week for results to show. The exercises can easily be performed with a variety of equipment including free weights, machine weights and best of all, your own body weight.
It’s essential to workout all major muscle groups so muscular and postural imbalances don’t occur. Compound exercises like squats, bench press, deadlifts, shoulder press and push-ups are some of the best. These exercises target multiple muscles and joints at once, speeding up results. They are the foundation to any effective weight training program.
If you are a first timer, it is advisable to begin a simple full body workout no more than 3 times a week. This will give your muscles enough time to rest and recover from your workouts. Use a weight or resistance that creates muscle fatigue within around 8 – 12 repetitions, aiming for the recommended 1 – 3 sets per muscle group. It’s important that you maintain proper form and technique throughout each exercise to avoid injury and obtain the maximum benefits. Having an expert for the first month or so to take you through your paces and teach you correct techniques and show you a variety of exercises is well advised.
Remember, by staying weak because of how it might make you look is the same as staying uneducated for fear of appearing geeky. Now start hitting the weights!
My name is Andries Lodder and I am a Biokineticist in trade, and a sports junkie in nature and spare time. If I don’t participate in either cycling, running, swimming, squash, golf, tennis, rugby, cricket or xbox, I love watching ALL sports on TV. I started studying Physiotherapy and later changed to BSc in Exercise Physiology and HMS at WITS University where I had to do all sorts of jobs (like spinning classes, pilates, personal training, massaging, promotions and bartending) to pay myself through varsity and obviously have a great social life. After I passed I went to the student life capital of South Africa, Stellenbosch, where I somehow passed my Biokinetics Honors degree. After only 1 year is Stellenbosch, I moved back to Johannesburg where I started working as a Biokineticist. Along this road I was very fortunate to make some good acquaintances that gave me the opportunity in 2008 to become a fitness instructor for all the SAFA and CAF referees, which gave me the opportunity to travel to Egypt for a fitness instructors course. Later that same year I did the fitness testing of the African referees that qualified them for officiating at the Beijing Olympic Games. In 2010 I started my own Biokinetics practice in Design Quarter, Fourways, called BIO4Me, where I work with athletes, rehabilitating injuries or performance enhancement testing and training. I’m also part of the team ‘Ask an Expert’ for Modern Athlete Magazine and write articles on a monthly basis on exercise and sports specific training for TriAthleteSA Magazine. To be part of my world visit www.bio4me.co.za or check out facebook (Bio4Me) and twitter (AndriesBio4Me).