by Lori Wright, CPT, Fitness Leader at Green Mountain at Fox Run
Let’s face it. When you’re looking to get or stay in shape, building muscle is key. Muscle gives your body tone, and a whole lot more, such as increased bone density (goodbye, osteoporosis) and increased muscle mass (hello, higher metabolism). Still, you have a few concerns. Here are four things you need to know about strength training.
1. I worry about bulking up. How can I prevent that?
The good news is that women are not physiologically engineered to bulk up. Estrogen prevents that. Still, some of us are genetically prone to building more muscle, so the main thing to prevent too much muscle in any one area is to mix up your routine regularly. If you’re a dumbbell or circuit machine kind of gal, try adding Pilates and/or yoga to your routine. Pushups and planks can also do the trick.
2. If only bulking up were my problem. I struggle with keeping a regular routine going.
The key is to find strength exercises that you enjoy, such as the yoga or Pilates, as mentioned above. Try kayaking or canoeing. Stretching after strength training will help reduce soreness. That can go a long way towards enticing you to do it again.
3. How much strength training do I need to do?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests adults train each major muscle group at least two times per week; two to four sets of 8-15 repetitions at moderate – high intensity to improve strength. If you’re using weights, use a weight that is light enough for good form for the entire set, but would rate a 7-8 on an RPE Scale (Rating of Perceived Exertion). For example, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 feeling so light you’re almost lifting nothing, and 10 feeling so heavy you cannot lift the weight without sacrificing good form and technique. Finding a weight that is somewhat challenging, but enables you to complete all of your repetitions with good form is key.
4. Remember to let your body be your guide.
It’s important to also remember to listen to the messages your body sends you and to adjust your workout routine (intensity of weight and number of repetitions) accordingly. What you’ve taken in nutritionally, how well you’ve slept, if you exercised the previous day, and/or if there is a body part that is injured or sore will all impact your workout. For example, if I went for a run the day before, sometimes lunges do not feel like a good choice for my body. I have to let go of the expectation of a preplanned routine.