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Why Women Should Strength Train

Ladies, are you as strong as you were 10 years ago? Do you notice fat where there used to be muscle? Do you feel older than you would like? Are you finding it more difficult to maintain your weight even though you are eating less? These are just some of the questions that author/researcher Dr. Miriam E. Nelson poses to women over age 35 in her book entitled, Strong Women Stay Young.

According to Dr. Nelson, there is now substantial evidence that women can delay and in some cases even reverse these physical changes with a program of regular strength training.

Do not be deceived by the fact that on average, women are only 2/3 as strong as men. According to William P. Ebben in a 1998 article published in Physician and Sportsmedicine, when strength is calculated per cross-sectional area of muscle, there is NO APPRECIABLE DIFFERENCE between men and women.

Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated that women experience percentage gains in strength comparable to men on a similar weight lifting program. The difference is that strength gains in women are not accompanied by large increases in muscle bulk.

Unfortunately, several myths about women and strength training still exist. For example:

MYTH: All women should lift very light weights many times to tone rather than bulk.

FACT: Just like men, unless a muscle is fatigued to the point of near exhaustion, it will not change in shape or firmness. How often have women been advised to repeat lifting weights as light as 3 or 5 pounds? It is doubtful that women can fatigue their muscle using such light resistance. If muscle has not been exhausted in 15-20 repetitions, it is time to increase the weight.

MYTH: Women interested in weight loss should avoid weight training.

FACT: With few exceptions, women that lift weights generally do not add muscle bulk due to lower testosterone levels. They should, however, experience a decrease in body fat and girth measurements due to an increase in metabolic rate.

MYTH: The elderly should avoid strength training.

FACT: Dr. Nelson was involved in a weight-lifting study using 90-year-old men and women residing in a
nursing home. Following just 8 weeks of supervised strength training the group increased their average strength by an amazing 175%! They demonstrated convincingly that age should not be a barrier.

MYTH: You need to spend hours at the gym and do multiple sets of different exercises.

FACT: There is more than one way to apply resistance to muscles. If you cannot go to the gym, you can always use dumbbells or rubber tubing at home. Be creative with crunches, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, back extensions and dips. At home or in the gym, its possible to complete a well-rounded strength training workout in as little as 20 to 30 minutes.

Other benefits of strength training for women include increased bone density and prevention of osteoporosis, improved joint integrity, enhanced quality of life and improved self-esteem.

Beginners that arent sure where to begin should visit their local fitness center for some expert guidance on how to lift weights properly.

Dave Elger is a well respected authority within the running community having written hundreds of articles on the topics of running and wellness. You can contact him at He also supports the Okinawa Running Club.