All females interested in, or currently participating in, workout programs need to consider themselves athletes. Having the ability to lift, push or pull weight under many different circumstances takes some skill. Some might not possess the ability to get into competitions or other endeavors, but you are still working out like an athlete. The type of training I am referring to is functional training not machine-based training. With machines you isolate muscles and most of the time it is a single joint action, while during functional training you have to stabilize one area while moving another under load.
Some women believe that if they start to lift weights that they will become muscle-bound and lose their feminine appeal. This can’t be farther from the truth; if done correctly you will become lean. It all comes down to the weight being lifted, the reps vs. the sets, time under tension, and the rest between sets. In reality, women should progress like their male counterparts with increasing resistance and not fearing heavy weights. If done with proper form, women can lift heavy loads, reduce the likelihood of injury, and have a solid foundation.
A significant reason women need to get or remain strong and stable is the hormonal changes they go through during menopause which increases their risk of developing osteoporosis. Decreased bone density, iron deficiency, and mineral loss are all concerns in women over fifty. It is said that ten million Americans have osteoporosis and 80% are women. Approximately one in two women over age fifty will break a bone because of this condition. So the key is good nutrition, supplementation of the right vitamins and minerals and working out regularly.
It is also advised to start working out young to build strong bones; don’t wait until there is an issue.
When working out during menstruation, the program design for women needs to be modified, so communication with a trainer is critical. If you are working out alone, know the facts! Most women will have symptoms associated with menstruation, like lower abdominal cramping, headaches, backache, fatigue, breast soreness, weight gain, gastrointestinal problems and even diarrhea. The uncomfortable feeling can cause a change in mood, psychologically affecting their day and those around them. Also during this time of the month, women’s ligaments are very lax preparing for what it thinks is childbirth, so some considerations regarding weight training must be made. No axial loading, deep squats, isolated abdominal exercises, or complexed jumping movements should be performed. Injuries to the spine, knees and ankles are at the highest risk during this time, so changing the workouts to complement a safer plan is advised.
Today’s woman is very independent, confident, and willing to take risks to prove to men that they can be just as strong, but implementing a plan specific to your gender is important to avoid injuries.
Michael K. Butler is co-owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center. He is a licensed physical therapist assistant, a certified strength and conditioning coach with the highest distinction honors, a full body active release therapist, and a writer and publisher of over 100 articles, books and magazine contributions.