The Uprising of Female Strength Training

Strong is the new sexy.  You only have to go on to any of your Social Media, and in seconds you will find it saturated full of pictures of female Fitness Models, Bikini competitors and even Powerlifting or Crossfit Athletes.  It is safe to say, that it is no longer a huge controversy to see women lift.  In fact, it has now become the norm for women to include weight lifting into their exercise routines.

Suprisingly, it has not always been this way!

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Female competitive lifters had become accepted in to the world of sport.  It wasn’t without its difficulties, women were always seen as the weaker sex, and any woman who had a passion for a competitive sport was often thought to be a lesbian.

One example of the difficult road to acceptance is Abigail Hoffman, who disguised herself as a boy in order to play for a hockey team in the mid-1950s. And although Abigail was not a weight training or strength athlete, she opened the door for female competitors to become accepted into sports. She later developed into Canada’s top mid-distance runner in the 1960s.  And it was in fact Canada, who welcomed female strength competitors first, which led the way for the U.S to follow.

  • The first official female bodybuilding competition was held in Canton, Ohio, in November 1977

  • The first S. national Powerlifting championships for women were held in 1978 and the IPF added women’s competition in 1979

From social controversial factors, to psychological barriers such as the fear to get ‘big and bulky like a man’ there have always been doubts as to how weight training will affect women.  The good news is, there is now no reason not to lift, as the benefits far outweigh the cons (of which there aren’t many).

Let’s start with the ability to change your body shape and muscle tone by using weight training as a form of exercise or sport.  The body’s response to resistance training will increase endurance, hypertrophy (otherwise known as size and tone of the muscles) and of course strength.  The body needs energy in order to recover, therefore your metabolism will rise, and you will burn more calories even outside of the gym and after your workouts!  That should be enough of a reason alone!

Now the part that women worry about most, and it is a question that every new female client I get asks me, is whether they will get too big or too muscly.  I usually answer that question with another question.  How many big muscly women do you see on a day to day basis in the gym you go to?  And how many women do you see lifting weights?  Now, the chances are, that over 50% of the women that go to your gym include weight training into their exercise routines, and not many of them (or possibly none) will be ‘big and bulky’.

Here’s the simple science behind that.

Women do not produce as much testosterone as men do (men produce as least 5x the amount) and Testosterone is what gives men the ability to become big and bulky.  So when you do see the occasional Female Bodybuilder who is big and bulky, that will be because of the use of steroids and testosterone to add the hormone levels needed for that type of growth, and mimic the growth of a man’s physique.  That, and a ridiculously high calorie intake!  Without that, you can lift heavy weights, train hard, and keep/enhance your feminine shape.  Again, isn’t that a good enough reason alone to start lifting?

Next, the Psychological benefits to lifting.  This is probably my favorite part of the job that I’m in.  I see my clients grow, not just in their abilities, but in their confidence.  There is nothing more rewarding to me, than seeing one of my clients change from using the cardio machines in their ‘safe zone’ (sound familiar?) to walking in to the weights section, setting up a bar, and deadlifting in the middle of the room as if they own it.  And that’s the change that becoming stronger in your abilities can implement not only in the gym, but in your work and personal life too.  I’ve always had the feeling that the stronger I become physically, the stronger I become mentally.  And I will always advocate this fact!

Physiological benefits, like a stronger core, stronger joints, and better bone density, are things that everyone can benefit from.  From casual runners, to office workers, everyone needs a strong base.  Without a strong base, you risk getting injured.  It is as simple as that.  I think we all know a runner with knee pain, or an office worker with back or neck pain.  These are precisely the issues that you can minimise or avoid, by adding some strength training.

On the subject of a strong core, the number 1 goal of pretty much every female is to get that flat stomach and strong abs.  Let me tell you a secret, no amount of crunches, will every get you the strong core that compound exercises will!  Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, Rows, all of the movements where you are using your body as a ‘whole’ are The Best for shaping, strengthening and tightening your waist.  Also, by adding more shape and size to other areas of the body like the glutes, thighs, lats and delts, it will give the appearance of a smaller waist, whilst putting the emphasis on the ‘good’ curves in all the right places.

So ladies, let’s get in to the gym and let’s carry on the uprising of female strength training!

Find your Inspiration, Inspire yourself, Inspire others

- Kim Wilson

Kimberley Wilson