Strength Training for Women: Benefits of Endurance and Strength

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The new year is here, and you’ve committed to working out, and better yet, you’ve decided to start strength training. Kudos to you for already making it through the first three stages of fitness change, landing you right in the Action Stage.  So now what? You’ve seen other women at the gym lifting weights, some are lifting heavier weights with lower repetitions, and others are lifting lighter weights with higher repetitions. What’s the difference between the two, and what type of workout(s) should you be doing to help you reach your healthy lifestyle goals?

The good news is that you don’t need to choose between either type of training, there are benefits to both. The types of  key training modalities you need in your life are muscular endurance, and muscular strength.

Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of your muscles to exert force against resistance over a sustained period of time. This translates in the gym as lifting lighter weights, with a higher amount of repetitions. The benefit of training for muscular endurance is that it better prepares you to complete your everyday activities easier. Not only will you be able to get more tasks completed, but you will get them finished more easily, and with less fatigue. Let’s say it’s time to complete your spring cleaning, and you are bending over, cleaning out boxes, loading items in the car for donation, and all the while you are using your muscles to complete these tasks. If you haven’t been training for muscular endurance, you would be taking more frequent breaks to complete your tasks, or maybe if you haven’t been training, you wouldn’t be able to complete your tasks at all.

Muscular Strength is the ability of a muscle group to develop maximal contractile force against a resistance in a single contraction. This means that you are lifting heavier weights with lower repetitions.  The benefits of muscular strength are surprisingly not that dissimilar to muscular endurance in that it makes everyday tasks easier.  Strength training improves the size of your muscles, so that you can see that highly coveted definition on your body.  It’s also important to note that muscle definition is also dependent on body fat percentage, but we will save that for another blog article. In simple terms, are you one of those people who prefer to carry every single grocery bag from the car in one trip? If so, you should be training to build strength. How about opening a jar of peanut butter? Let’s not hand that over to our partners anymore, with strength training you open your own jar of peanut butter.

Although training for muscular strength does increase your overall muscle size, it does not make you “bulky”, as some women have been led to believe.  As stated in Molly Galbraith’s blog post, Does Lifting Make You Heavy: Find Out The Truth Here, “Women don’t have the same hormone profile as men, and therefore cannot gain enough lean mass to look bulky”.  Since women have a small amount of testosterone compared to men, it is virtually impossible for women to bulk up, unless they are genetically different, or are using supplements to facilitate that growth. So, I urge you to be bold, and not shy away from lifting heavy, and you will see results with the right program.

These training modalities also carry other health benefits, such as building strong bones, increasing joint stability, and building strong connective tissues. Training for both will also increase your lean muscle mass, boost your metabolism, improve your overall body composition, and may lower your risk of developing some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, back pain, and arthritis. 

Muscular strength and muscular endurance training work hand in hand in providing you with a balanced approach to your fitness that will give you the confidence and strength needed to live a self-sufficient lifestyle.

If you are looking to get started on a program, reach out to Ladies Workout Asheville and ask about our small group and personal training sessions.

 

Heather Anne Meyer

National Academy of Sports Medicine, CPT, GPT

Precision Nutrition, Level 1 Coach

Kim Hreha