It’s not surprising, considering the success of bodybuilders and equipment manufacturers along with a lack of education in the exercise profession that’s fueled this attention.
Weight training equipment — mostly bolted to the floor and requiring exercises to be performed from a seated position — frequently focuses on isolated joint movements and activates only select muscles. This results in minimal caloric expenditure and perpetuates an imbalance between the prime mover and stabilizer muscles.
However, multi-joint, free weight exercises maintain balance in a woman’s working musculature and burn far more calories, helping her stay lean and injury free!
The female wanting the most from her body both functionally and aesthetically will reap significant benefits by restoring function to the traverse abdominus (TVA) muscle, which is frequently dysfunctional after childbearing, a cesarean section or hysterectomy.
To develop functional stability and strength, start all workouts with a free weight or free body exercise that requires the use of the greatest number of muscles and joints (lunge or standing dumbbell press).
Then, if a woman’s conditioning level is already high, help her choose another similar but slightly less challenging free weight exercise. Finally, progress to weight training equipment for an additional two to four exercises.
For example, by performing exercises with a Swiss Ball or free weights at the beginning of a workout, then moving on to machine exercises only when the nervous system is fatigued from the more complex exercises, women will begin to see enhanced functional stability and strength.
On the other hand, if a woman’s conditioning level is moderate to low, her goal should be to increase the number of free weight exercises and reduce the number of equipment-based exercises as her fitness level improves.
Power, or high-speed, exercises should only be performed after women have restored optimal flexibility to all of their major working joints and achieved adequate levels of functional stability and strength for their work or sports environments.
Whenever the amplitude or velocity of an exercise is increased, the forces through the joints, muscles and connective tissues significantly increase. In fact, most sports are won and lost through the performance of these “power movements.”
Most female athletes are not adequately prepared for this increased speed, usually due to inadequate stability or strength. The statistically proven result is greater levels of injury.
Ideally, women should only attempt power training exercises after following a course of 8-16 weeks of progressive stability and strength training exercises.
Don’t Worry About Big Muscles
Women need not be concerned about getting big by adding free weight exercises to their training program as this is an unfounded fear!
Why? Two reasons come to mind immediately.
- Women naturally have higher levels of estrogen and much lower levels of the muscle-building hormone testosterone than males.
- Female body builders spend between three to five hours every day in the gym trying to achieve the size that other women dread.
In fact, it’s so challenging for a woman to increase her muscle mass, many female body builders turn to anabolic steroids for assistance.
All you need to do is walk into any body building gym and yell the word estrogen and the body builders will run like a vampire that has just seen the cross!
So, when you’re helping your female clients achieve the health they deserve, put them at ease by reminding them they’ll make more progress — burning far more calories faster and protecting their bodies from injury — by doing free weight exercises than anything they could achieve using weight training equipment.
Love and chi,