Women avoid strength training because they are afraid they will develop big muscular bodies. They are satisfied with being skinny because they do not know they can have strong lean bodies without looking like Miss Olympia. So, most women choose to follow pathetic training programs lifting 1kg pink dumbbells or sticking to body weight exercise that do not bring them the desired results 99% of the time.
Strength is the ability of our nervous system to engage and control our muscles using tension. Strength is mistakenly made equal to having big muscles. Getting strong is training your ability to strain at highest muscular tension.
To get strong you need to:
- Train at high intensity 75-85% of your maximum (sets of 5 reps, never to failure)
- Exert maximum muscular tension (regardless of the intensity, squeeze the bar)
- Perform the movements in a controlled and precise manner (avoid using inertia)
- Minimize fatigue (feel refreshed and sharp after training, not exhausted)
- Make best use of the neurological phenomena and reflexes (stretch reflex)
The muscle definition comes mainly as a result of shredding the extra fat and 60-70% of this depends on your nutrition. Strong athletic girls with body fat under 14% have defined muscles when they contract them, but look just fit, lean and healthy when their muscles are relaxed. They have functional strength, not muscle volume.
Cardio? High-Intensity Interval
Unenlightened and scared of strength training, most girls go for the traditional safe cardio activities to get some sweat out. They jog, walk or run on a treadmill or the elliptical for 30-45 min in low-to-medium intensity. This is inefficient in provoking muscle adaptation and achieving your overall fitness goals to build a lean, strong, athletic body. In addition, with incorrect ankle-knee-hip alignment you can easily harm your joints and ligaments while running.
Cardio training is already incorporated in a high-intensity interval strength training program. Your heart is racing after a set of 5 reps of lunges or lat pull-down/pull-ups at 80% intensity.
But if you want to add some traditional cardio to your training program, do it in a high-intensity interval protocol. In terms of actual training, this means 10 sprints uphill for 12-15 seconds each, followed by a 60-90 seconds break to bring the heart beat and breathing back to normal. An alternative to running is climbing stairs, following the same rules. Finally, you can also do the elliptical in the same protocol, but just set higher resistance and goes as fast as you can for 15 seconds, then rest, repeating 10 times.
Benefits of Strength Training
In addition to being a very effective and time-saving training method, strength training has a lot of health benefits. It preserves and improves joint health and stimulates the increase of bone density. Working with weights in a high-intensity protocol boosts your metabolism because the body responds to the resistance training by making the muscle fibers stronger and burning more fat in the rest days.
Training with free weights training teaches you to bend, walk, raise, and carry with correct technique and alignment. This eliminates everyday pain, improves your posture and builds strong muscles to protect the spine and joints and prevent injuries. Finally, it boosts our confidence to be strong and have toned muscles. The feeling of looking equally good naked and in your clothes is amazing.
Strong is the new sexy.