by Megan Hoover, DPT and Lindsay Brin
As women we usually think strength training is good for bone density and aesthetics, but strength training also helps us maintain a level where we can do all the things we love.
Strength training is also very important to increase the tolerance for load on our joints and structure. Depending on what your day and life looks like, you will need to train your body to be able to hold up to your daily activities. Whether it is chasing your kiddos around the yard, running a marathon, or taking up power lifting, your body has to be able to effectively manage and control your movement and positions. For me, when I strength train, my knees don’t hurt when I run.
You need to specifically strengthen your body/muscle groups to be able to withstand the physical demands you put your body through. For example, a marathon runner needs to run to build endurance, but if she does not appropriately strengthen the muscles that control side to side and rotatory motions (i.e., glutes, adductors, core), she will eventually end up with a repetitive injury.
For some, the word strength training defaults to the thought of bulky muscles. Due to our low levels of testosterone, it is difficult for women to develop bulky muscles. And at Moms Into Fitness, we don’t stack our workouts in a way that increases mass. SO now that we’ve gotten that out of our brains, let’s talk about the importance of strength training. I’ve limited it to the SIX best reasons, but really the reasons are endless!
Stability is the body’s ability to control a joint through motion or activity with appropriate speed and quality of movement. Your pelvis/hip must stabilize the leg you are standing on to bring the other leg through to walk. If your glutes are weak, you cannot control this motion and will use your joints to stabilize — and over time you will reach mechanical failure. This many show up in the form of low back pain, pelvic pain, knee pain, plantar fasciitis, just to name a few. We must be able to control the motions we put our bodies through, whether it is just daily activities or recreational sports and exercise.
Our awesome bodies are made up of muscle and fat (among others). When you exercise you don’t turn your fat into muscle, you lose the fat.
Strength training increases lean tissue (muscle), while helping to decrease fat. According to ACE, “‘The ‘best’ resistance-training program for fat loss prioritizes compound movements.’” Compound strength exercises use multiple muscle groups and coordination in one exercise. Because these types of exercises use a large amount of muscle, they require more oxygen and hormonal response. For a comprehensive strength, cardio, and flexibility program utilizing compound exercise methods, try our 30 Day Balanced Body.
Something sad to report, but don’t get discouraged, is that you can’t spot reduce fat. A study done by the American College of Physicians found that the dominant arm of a tennis athlete did not have less stored fat in her strong arm vs. her non-dominant hand. So basically, even though an athlete might use their left/right arm to pitch a baseball or whack a tennis ball, the stronger arm will not have less fat. You could even compare all of the body’s stored fat to a full gas tank. When we need gas (fat for energy) you can’t choose which part of the gas tank your gas comes from. It is removed from the tank as a whole. The same is true for excess body fat.
Our bodies were made for movement. They were designed to withstand all different postures, positions, movements, and forces. However, we need to take the appropriate steps to keep our bodies healthy so we can successfully manage normal tasks. Good posture and alignment gives better transfer power in athletics.
Target a kyphotic posture (hunchback) by strengthening the backside of your body. Combat knee pain by strengthening your legs/glutes and stretching your chest. Help back pain through strengthening the transverse abs, etc.
By adding muscle through strength training, we elevate our basal metabolic rate (metabolism). This is why athletes burn more calories (units of energy) at rest. Find out more about your basal metabolic rate.
The composition of muscle and fat is extremely different. Muscle tissue is a lot denser than fat tissue, i.e., it weighs more. So this means you can have more muscle mass, but actually appear smaller. Gasp! If you’re a little confused, or maybe just don’t believe me, search “10 pounds of muscle vs. 10 pounds of fat.” Surprised? The yellow fat tissue is chunky and lumpy. The beautiful muscle tissue is smooth and compact.
Like the earlier example, a marathon runner needs to run to build endurance, but if she does not appropriately strengthen the muscles that control side to side and rotatory motions (i.e., glutes, adductors, core), she will eventually end up with a repetitive injury.
Your core/trunk is a transfer station for everything that goes on in the body. Running dramatically increases the amount of force through the core, pelvic floor, and legs. If you have a weak core you are likely compensating, which can lead to other structural issues including, knee pain, IT band pain, plantar fasciitis, low back pain, and hip flexor issues, just to name a few.
While this is true for running, it is also true for soccer, swimming, cycling, etc. Anytime you have a repetitive movement pattern, it is important that you strengthen your muscles in different planes of motion. That means clam shells, side planks, abductions, cross body rotations, and more.
Runners – we have a specific program for you: Running Supplements.
Because women can be more susceptible to fractures due to osteoporosis, it’s important we use a broad strength training program, incorporating exercises that use multiple muscle groups and joints. As we age, we start to realize the importance of depending on our bodies! Learn more about fitness and weight loss after 40.
Now … there are those who want to just work strength and stability. But we need flexibility as well! We cannot just beat up on our muscles day in and day out and expect them just to take it. “We need to lengthen, after we strengthen” as Lindsay says. This is why we have tons of stretch and recovery routines in the Moms Into Fitness Studio.
The health of our muscles and joints is dependent on the health of our tissues. Flexibility, strengthening, stabilization exercises, postural alignment, and hydration are all components of keeping our bodies healthy so we can do what we love!
Looking for a strength program with the right amount of flexibility & cardio? We’ve got ’em! Try 30 Day Balanced Body in the Studio.