For years I grew up on the falsified narrative that only a ‘certain type of individual’ should or could strength train. For years, in my mind, I thought that heavyweights, powerlifting, and exasperated grunts we’re better suited for the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s of the world.
It wasn’t until one summer day in sunny Southern California when this narrative shifted entirely for me and many others alike. On any given day you could find sports enthusiasts, tourists, and locals clamoring the sandy beaches. Of these beaches, Venice always painted the most vibrant memory with colorful backdrops and personalities to match.
One particular afternoon, my siblings and I fixed our little scrunched faces against the fenced area overlooking the infamous Muscle Beach. What caught our attention, including the attention of a slowly forming crowd behind us corroding like a swarm of ants that just found leftover food parcels, was one particular weight-lifter.
This weight lifter stood no more than five-foot-four, with biceps and quads as lean and solid as that of a perfectly carved marble statue and had the energy of an overly caffeinated energizer bunny bouncing from one free weight-machine to the next. What made this whole sight such a spectacle was that this particular Amazonian-like athlete was none other than a woman.
To this day, I could never forget the awe that overcame that crowd, including myself, as my perception on strength and even beauty changed in between every rep this woman completed. From then on, I made it a point to ask questions, do research, and train like that fierce woman.
When I first began, I didn’t have all the answers, but hopefully, within this article, you can find helpful tips that will empower you ladies to get out there and even surprise yourself towards the results you want to achieve.
Benefits of Strength Training:
- Boost your mood! – Strength training has a personal competitive element to it. I found so much empowerment setting personal bests or increasing my weights when lifting, you can’t help but feel accomplished after your workout.
- Strengthen your heart– Strength training helps to correct problems related to heart disease and even cancer by eliminating excess visceral fat (i.e., abdominal fat) that overtime can overwork your organs.
- Improve your coordination– Having a stronger frame will only help you in bettering your overall balance and posture. Muscle helps to support your joints for more fluid mobility.
- Build stronger bones— Strength training targets more than just muscles. It has also shown its benefits in our bone health. When your bones are under stress from the introduction of heavier weights you are actually triggering an increase of bone cell growth to repair those stressed areas seen particularly in the hips, spine, and wrists, which are the sites most likely to fracture.
Where do I start?
If you’re new to strength training and perhaps apprehensive about where to start, here are some helpful tips that aided me on my strength training journey.
- Get a buddy! My first attempt at strength training was with one of my siblings who was a regular at a local CrossFit gym. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but the instructor and other gym-goers were incredibly supportive in helping me get acquainted with the new equipment as well as gauging the proper form and weight I should be using. It’s very important to get a good understanding and foundation for how to properly use equipment you may be unfamiliar with (especially when dealing with heavier weights). Accompanying an experienced strength-trainer can be both educational and more effective when training on your own.
- Ask, ask, ask! After your initial introduction to strength training via a class or a certified trainer, never hesitate to ask for help along your journey. Most gym goers who are on the strength training floor are helpful in clearing weights from bars or have assisted me in the past when I need to adjust the height of a bar on my own. Also, if I am a bit more fatigued, I have actually asked another female gym-goer on the same floor if she could “spot me” to add extra insurance in between reps.
- You’re stronger than you think— Initially, I couldn’t do a single pull up. I thought to myself, there is no way I can deadlift anything heavier than lifting groceries from the trunk of my car. Strength training teaches you to get beyond your mental barriers. I had to get past my mental weakness to approach the physical aspects of my training in confidence. Thanks to some encouraging peers, I have seen (and continue to see) improvements that supersede just my overall physical aesthetic.
- Start slow and grow— Many people who first begin strength training ask, “How often should I strength train?” This answer differs depending on your goals, but a general rule of thumb, having a steady and slow increase on how often you implement this specific form of training in your routine is a less intimidating approach to this new and exciting way of training! I began with twice a week, choosing a Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday commitment until I built some consistency and allowed for proper rest in between for lower impact days.
If you were like me, my naturally petite frame and previously internalized societal gender norms kept me glued to the elliptical machines and stair masters of my gym for years! However, the moment I saw another possibility for achieving the physical goals I made for myself, I wanted to mentally surpass any limitations previously set by society, and even some of my own. Let this be that moment for you. Grab a motivated friend or friendly trainer and set-up those weights!
With a little practice, and consistency I’m confident in expressing that the only extra bulk added from implementing strength training to your fitness regimen is a whole lot of self-empowerment and overall well-being!