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Why Women Need Strength Training for Muscle

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Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Co-Creator of DVRT Restoration Certification, DVRT Shoulder & Pelvic Control Courses)

Most of my youth was hyper-focused on swimming. It was my love, it was something I excelled in, and it was something that I focused most of my life around. So, for me, worrying about being a woman and having muscle wasn’t something that I was worried about, I relished being strong and having some muscle. However, as I have gotten older and those athletic years are more and more behind me, I can understand why so many women get concerned about having muscle.

Not because muscle is a bad thing, but because we as women are constantly bombarded by images of thin. The thinner you are, our society tells you the more attractive you are, and who doesn’t want to feel attractive? I’m not suggesting your looks are everything, but we as humans like to appear in a positive light. When society gives us images that are not just unrealistic but are actually terribly unhealthy, there is a much bigger issue at hand.

My good friend and nutritionist, Leslie Schilling, has tried to bring how fitness actually encourages dysfunctional and unhealthy habits to people. She supports healthy eating but is part of an anti-diet culture. What is anti-diet? Well, what we often think as fitness diets really express some of these ideas as you see below.

These types of attitudes create eating disorders and very negative behaviors, especially for us women. I see it in my girlfriends all the time and hope that understanding why not punishing ourselves and striving for goals like strength and muscle can be empowering and much healthier ways of using fitness.

What about the fact that women are often scared of developing a body that would be deemed as “unattractive” by society? For one, why don’t we as women start to determine what is healthy, attractive, and appropriate instead of letting it be defined for us?! Second, we need to educate women that the idea that women are going to turn into the Hulk is EXTREMELY unlikely.

Why Women Won’t Build Crazy Amounts Of Muscle

A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology men had an average of 26 lbs. (12 kilograms) more skeletal muscle mass than women. A 1993 in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that men’s size and strength could also be attributed to a larger cross-section in individual muscle fibers. So, just because you work out with some guys doesn’t mean you end up looking like them. That doesn’t mean you can’t be badass and strong, just the idea you are going to be some drugged-out professional bodybuilder because you strength train is not realistic.

sandbag training for women

Women can be strong and build muscle without fearing they will look like a cartoon character as Annmarie Licatese shows.

When you combine this with the fact that women typically have 1/16th the testosterone as men, we can set aside many objections women have to strength training. We shouldn’t look down on women that, like I said the media manipulates us horribly, rather share information and ensure that women have the facts. Plus, when it comes from other women it is more meaningful, especially when we “walk the talk”. We know from psychology the idea of modeling of behavior and that people tend to respond better to those that seem like them. So, I know Josh has told me that for years that he had to try to explain to female clients that they weren’t going to get “HUUUGE” from strength training. The issue though is Josh doesn’t represent (thank god) what most women want to look like. While he may be speaking the absolute truth, it becomes more difficult for many women to accept because he doesn’t appear in any way to relate to what they want to be. The moral of the story, having us women being the voices and role models is very important in having strength training and building muscle be more accepted by everyday women.

Why Women Need Muscle & Strength Training

Just as important to explain to women why building muscle won’t be easy, we also have to share why it is important for so many fitness goals that women tend to have.

ultimate sandbag strength training

Building muscle and being strong should be seen as things we as women strive for like at Fitness Lying Down. 

Fat Loss: Strength training and building muscle is probably THE BEST way to lose body fat. Why? When we strength train and build lean muscle we increase our metabolism, activate positive hormones that stimulate fat loss, and the right type of strength training will burn more calories and result in higher fat loss. While women are told often to focus on more aerobic training, research has shown compared to higher intensity forms of training that aerobic training won’t result in nearly as much fat loss (HERE).

What makes for “proper” strength training? A lot is laid out in our DVRT system, focusing on movement patterns, loading position, body position, different planes of motion, and using more circuit style training tends to promote these results.

What Lina Midla shows above is a great example of bringing these concepts to life.

Health: A 14-year study following over 36,000 women looked at strength training and its relationship with diseases like type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks (HERE). Probably not too surprising they found…

“Women who reported participating in any amount of strength training were more likely to have a lower BMI, more likely to engage in healthy dietary patterns, and less likely to be a current smoker, compared with women who avoided it…

Strength training was also linked to a woman’s risk for the two conditions. Those who said they did any amount of strength training had a type-2 diabetes risk 30% lower and a cardiovascular disease risk 17% lower than those who did none, even after the researchers controlled for other variables like age, vegetable and fruit intake, and physical activity.”

Coaches like Robin Paget show how we can make these principles practical and effective. 

What is additionally important was they found women who performed strength training not only had these risks lowered because of the exercise itself but as is mentioned, many participated in healthier lifestyle choices and were less likely to do things like smoking. The part about smoking I find actually funny because several years ago I was seriously confused.

Living in Las Vegas, the “super bowl” of bodybuilding is typically held here once a year. Bodybuilders and fitness competitors from all over the world come to compete. While Josh and I were out, we saw a group of bodybuilders and fitness competitors walking around. I was confused as several of the women were smoking! Of course, I had to ask why the women were smoking and Josh had to explain to me that it is common in fitness competitors because they use it to reduce their appetite. That was one of the BIGGEST “ah-ha” moments I had that fitness and health aren’t always the same thing.

That is why I love featuring what real strong and muscular women of DVRT can teach about actually being both! Building muscle and being strong are keys that women should strive for not to please others, but to feel what being empowered for one’s own self is all about! It is also why we will keep featuring strong and muscular women like Tina Morin who show that strength and muscle don’t make us less feminine but MORE so!

Don’t miss out on HOW we can accomplish these goals. We are not only offering 25% ALL throughout out DVRT but when you invest in our Ultimate Sandbags you will get a year’s worth of workouts and progressions/regression in our POD program for FREE with code “train” HERE. You can also check out great programming in our DVRT workouts for 25% off as well HERE