to Tone, But I Don’t Want to Get Too Big”
Weight Training is Important for Women”)
by Sasha Meshkov, MS, CSCS
If you are reading this, you are probably
already reaping the benefits of resistance training. If
you have not yet begun to incorporate
weight training into your exercise program, you may find
some of your concerns addressed below.
Common Reservations Many Women Have
Regarding Lifting Weights:
Fear: “I don’t want to get too
big and look like a guy - or those women in the muscle magazines!”
Apart from highly dedicated training and dieting,
it takes a substantial amount of pharmaceutical enhancement and cosmetic
surgery to achieve that look. Several sessions per week of resistance
training alone (even with immaculate nutritional habits) won’t generate
extreme muscularity gains for most women.
Fear: “Once I stop exercising,
won’t all that muscle turn to fat?”
Muscle and fat are chemically different substances.
A table won’t turn into a chair without some major structural reorganization.
Muscle cannot alter its composition and turn into fat. Muscle can, however,
atrophy from lack of use. Excess calories can be stored as fat.
The body can’t “store” fitness; it is designed
to move! We don’t say, “Okay, I have breathed enough for a while.
I am bored with breathing” and expect our bodies to continue to function
for a significant period of time after our last breath! Its no different
with resistance training. Exercise, including resistance training
(which does not have to consist solely of gym workouts), is an integral
part of a healthy lifestyle.
Why would you stop exercising? Ideally,
it is fun! If not, find a way to make it enjoyable! Worst case:
learn to love it!
Fear: “I don’t want to build;
I just want to tone.”
A toned muscle is a muscle with significant
endurance and strength.
Women have estrogen in much greater abundance
than testosterone. Estrogen has an atrophying effect on muscle, whereas
testosterone has a hypertrophying effect. For a woman to gain substantial
size in most cases, they will have to spend money on more than just a gym
membership and a personal trainer...
There is, excluding liposuction, no such thing
as “spot reducing.” Just because you have emotional distress over
a particular area of your body does not mean that your body will magically
recruit fat from that region to fuel whatever exercise you have selected.
For example, if you have large fat deposits on your thighs, doing hundreds
of side-lying leg lifts won’t necessarily “trim n’tone” your thighs.
Why is Weight Training Essential
of Weight Training:
Increased lean mass
Increased bone density (and resulting decreased
risk of osteoporosis)
Increased connective tissue strength
Increased muscular strength
Increased muscular endurance
Increased muscle capillarization
Increased physical capacity
Improved muscle balance
Decreased body fat
Decreased risk of injury
Psychological Benefits of Weight
Enhanced kinesthetic awareness
Improved body image
Improved physical appearance
Improved quality of life
Decreased isolation (much-needed in these
“Dilbert “ days of cubicles and computers)
Decreased symptoms of clinical depression
Ideas to Consider:
Since women lose bone mass at a greater rate
than men, weight training is especially crucial. Typically, after
age 35, women lose 1.2% per year, whereas men lose 0.2% per year.
For optimal bone remodeling to occur, significant resistance must be used.
Ideally, this means progressing beyond the light weights used in group
Additionally, the increase in lean mass associated
with weight training strongly correlates with a faster metabolism.
This means that women will burn more calories twenty-four hours a day,
not just during or immediately following the exercise sessions. If
you consider that a pound of fat contains roughly 3,500 kcals, exercise
alone is not the most efficient mechanism to reduce that fat. However,
generating significant metabolically active tissue (muscle) will cause
an increase in the basal metabolic rate, thus burning off those excess
calories more efficiently!
The bigger question is why DON’T more women
weight train? Most women are stronger than they might suspect.
After all, many women carry babies, kids, groceries, luggage, briefcases,
bikes, push lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners, dig up gardens, etc. They
are engaging in some resistance training already! All that’s left
is learning optimal biomechanics, how to use the equipment and how to train
to obtain the results they are after! Plus weight training improves
grip strength, so we can open that very important jar of peanut butter
If you have any questions, please feel
free to email me !
For further reading on this and related
topics, check out our website’s bookshelf!
Sasha Meshkov, MS, CSCS
is Triple Gold Certified through the American Council on Exercise, and
is an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer. She has a Master’s Degree
in Geophysics. Sasha is a Continuing Education Provider for ACE and
the NSCA. She is a longstanding member of the ACE Faculty, and is
the Program Director of one of the original programs accredited by ACE
to prepare students for the ACE Certification Exams almost a dozen years
ago. Sasha was a member of the ACE Aerobics Instructor Certification
Exam Committee, and was a Reviewer for the ACE Aerobics Instructor Manual.
She also served as a Reviewer for the National Health Club Association’s
Strength, Weight & Cardiovascular Training Certification Manuals.
Sasha owned two fitness studios for nearly a decade, and served as the
USA Team Coach for the World Aerobics Championships and as US Head Judge
for the National Aerobics Championships. She is an NPC Bodybuilding
& Fitness Judge & Emcee.
Sasha started powerlifting in 1995. She competed in the 1997 IPF
Worldmaster Powerlifting Championships (9th), the 1997 USPF Senior Nationals
(Bronze Medalist in the 60kg) and was the 1996 ADFPA Colorado State Overall
Women’s Champion. After an extended post-World’s dessert festival,
she recently competed in a whole new weight class at the 1998 USAPL Women’s
Nationals (2nd). Back down to her normal weight, she discovered that
the monoab is not for her.
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in whole or part, for any purposed other than personal use is prohibited
without written consent. Copyright 1998 Sasha& Company, Inc.