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Build a Sexy & Strong Body. A Guide to strength training for women

Confused by all the conflicting information out there regarding weight training? I’m not surprised, it seems like every health magazine, personal trainer and wellness guru has different advice on how to get the best results from your gym workouts.

Most women share similar goals. Some want to improve their fitness, others want to improve their mobility, but most women want to drop body fat, tone up, and generally look good naked. If the latter appeals to you, the foundation of your physical training should be resistance training, and more specifically STRENGTH training!

“So, why strength training? Shouldn't I be doing lots of cardio to lose weight?”

Strength training will no doubt increase your body's lean muscle mass, and as your lean muscle mass increases so does your metabolism, allowing you to burn off more calories all day long. Although cardio might burn slightly more calories in single workout, the afterburn of strength training is far greater.

A study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who did an hour of strength training burned about a hundred calories more the day following their workout than they did when they didn’t lift weights. That amounts to around 5 pounds of fat burned per year for women who lift weights 3 times per week. If you can replace around 10lbs of body fat for 10lb of lean muscle mass, you will effortlessly burn off over 50 calories extra daily.

“But will I get too big and bulky?”

A common misconception is that lifting weights makes women big and bulky.... NOT TRUE! Women simply do not have the genetic makeup to gain size quickly from strength training but muscles will start to appear toned and more defined.

The days of ladies going to the gym and picking up the smallest red dumbbells and expecting an amazing transformation are over. Big compound exercises like squats and deadlifts are ideal for building a well rounded figure.

Sonia Thompson 30, a business owner from Manchester, is sold on strength training. Before she got advice on using weights, she was constantly battling with the treadmill for little reward:

“Starting a strength training program seemed so complicated, all the different machines but where to start? I enlisted help from a professional and never looked back, I currently strength train 3 times per week. My workouts are great, I can honestly say I look forward to going to the gym, and I can see the difference using weights has had on my figure. I’ve dropped body fat, my waist is much tighter and the shape of my legs has completely changed for the better.”

8 Benefits of Strength Training For Women

  1. Reduced body fat levels and increased lean muscle mass

  2. Improved core strength can help to reduce back problems and can result in a flatter stomach and tighter waistline

  3. Better mobility and functional strength

  4. Stronger muscles, stronger connective tissues and improved joint stability, helping to prevent injury

  5. Improved functional movement, allowing you to sustain physical activity for longer without fatigue

  6. Improved cardiovascular health, lowering bad cholesterol, increasing good cholesterol

  7. Helps to control blood pressure lowering blood pressure reduces stress on the heart and reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke

  8. Helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life

The 4 Principles of Strength Training

1. INTENSITY: finishing each set knowing that you couldn’t have pushed yourself harder

Not limiting yourself by sticking to a certain number of reps but pushing yourself to achieve an extra rep. Of course the correct form is paramount, without excellent form the quality of the set can be compromised. Combining high intensity strength training with excellent form can yield great results.

2. OVERLOAD: Increasing the weight If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

In a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women burned twice as many calories in the two hours after their workout when they lifted 85% of their max load for 8 reps than when they did more reps (15) at a lower weight (45 percent of their max)

3. FORM: Technique is key with strength training

Lifting without correct form can be dangerous. Learn the exercises from a professional and try to use a full range of motion.

4. EXERCISES: The most efficient way to train is to choose a muscle group(s) or a selection of exercises that complement one another

The most common is an upper/lower body training split. This allows for efficient training and recovery. Always arrive at the gym with a plan, too often I see people looking around the gym wondering which exercise to do next. Preparation is key, choose a few compound exercises to build your workout around and go from there.

“So… How do I get started?”

If you are a complete beginner, speak to a professional! A few sessions with an experienced personal trainer will give you the information and knowledge required to get you started.

Gerry Mcgrann, Physiotherapist & Personal trainer at Alistair Mills Fitness Manchester recommends strength training 3 times per week:

Gerry McGrann

“The best exercises for building an all-round lean body are big compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups at a time. Squats and deadlifts are ideal exercises for recruiting lots of muscle fibres and burning a high number of calories. Body weight exercises like press ups pull ups and dips create an excellent foundation for strength training and will help to build a strong core. Isolation exercises like dumbbell curls and triceps kickbacks still have their place in sculpting certain muscles and are ideal for the back end of a workout where energy levels are lower. To get the best results from this type of exercise be creative with drop sets, supersets and circuits.”

If you find weight training interesting and are ready to take up a new challenge, but don’t really know where to get started. Why not speak to a personal trainer.

Alistair Mills Fitness is based in private training facilities and exclusive hotels around Manchester City Centre.

To find out more information or to book a consultation, please visit

Alistair Mills

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