This week’s post is specifically for the ladies. Gentlemen, keep reading if you’re interested, or share it with a close friend, spouse, or coworker!
There’s a phenomenon referred to as “The Confidence Gap”. In general, women underestimate their abilities while men overestimate. Strength training is the perfect example of this. My female clients are always shocked when I hand them a heavier weight. But lifting weights isn’t meant to be easy! Of course, we don’t want pain, but there are times it will be uncomfortable. That’s what makes us better, stronger, leaner, faster, whatever adjective you want to choose to match your goal.
But what if you don’t have someone next to you handing you a weight or telling you how much to choose on the weight machines?
Personally, I like to use rep ranges to self-regulate weight selection. For example, say your program has you performing 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions. Your weight selection should allow you to fall within that range. On the first 1-2 sets, you’ll be closer to the 10 repetitions, but by the last set to reach 10 should be a struggle. If you can easily reach 10 or more repetitions, it’s an indication to add weight! This enforces a principle in the science world known as progressive overload.
Progressive overload “requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user.” In other words, you have to continue to push your body outside of its comfort zone if you want to continue to make progress, regardless of your goal. While we can achieve this progressive overload by adding exercises, days per week of working out, or increasing the length of our workouts, we can also simply increase the weight we lift during existing workouts.
One hesitation many women have with increasing weight is they want to avoid “bulking up”. Just saying those words, I’m sure an image comes to mind. However, it’s very difficult to achieve these levels of both muscular development and leanness as a woman. Strength training 2-3 times per week, even at a high intensity, will not get you there. It’s a combination of stellar genetics, hours upon hours of brutal workouts, strict dietary guidelines, and, in some unfortunate cases, performance-enhancing drugs or steroids.
By incorporating heavy strength training into your workouts and monitoring your nutrition along the way, you’ll reap a host of benefits, including (but not limited to):
Decreased body fat
Increased muscle mass
Positive improvements in bone density
Reduced risk of falling and injury
Increase strength (and confidence)
Ladies, don’t be afraid of the heavy weights or shy away from increasing the weight you’re lifting. Pick up the metal and rubber, leave the colored dumbbells in the rack. You won’t get bulky and you might even surprise yourself with what you can lift!
Key Word: Confidence