Guest blogger Alexa Lampasona, from the blog Active Tasty Life, (www.activetastylife.com, @ActiveTastyLife) gives us an inside look into her interview with Irene Lewis-McCormick about why women need to be building their strength.
“We’ve worked so many years to challenge the fear that strength training is bad for women, yet the myth still exists. Women believe they have to be rail thin. They think that by lifting a load more than ten pounds will make them look bigger, but research has shown that is not the case.”
-Irene Lewis-McCormick, certified NSCA-CSCS, ACE, AFAA, YogaFit, Pilates and AEA
We’ve seen it before- men with muscles bulging out their cut-off shirts, sweat glistening off their shoulders, rows of intimidating dumbells lining the wall- and why do the fluorescents seem to be dim and uninviting? The weight room is often dominated by Y chromosomes and bulky muscles, causing women to avoid the area and head straight for the cardio machines.
But strength training is highly beneficial to women, leading to increased muscular strength and endurance, stronger bones, definition, and leaner fat-free body mass. We talked with Lewis-McCormick about her book, “A Women’s Guide to Muscle and Strength” to get her opinion on the importance of incorporating strength training into a woman’s daily fitness regime.
In your book, you talk about women that appear to be thin but are actually “skinny fat.” What makes this unhealthy?
Depending on a woman’s genetic make-up, she can remain thin until her mid-30s.
But if she doesn’t exercise, she tends to have lower levels of lean mass and higher body fat percentages, even if she looks skinny. Lean mass is more important for your health- it is your muscles, bones, connective tissue and organs.
So why are you not an advocate of the scale?
It gives women the wrong message. Research shows that the quality of tissue, for example having more muscle content, is more important than the size of a person.
As women age, what kinds of consequences can inactivity cause?
Fast-twitch muscles decrease over age. If you are always doing the same slow-twitch cardio daily, such as the elliptical, then you never address fast-twitch muscle fibers. Your body adapts over time and you will have to work harder and longer to get the same results.
How is resistance training different?
Weight-bearing aerobic exercise will help with bone formation, making it beneficial for aging women. You can manipulate you muscle fibers based on the type of training you do. And yes, it is possible to do an anaerobic strength workout that will make you breathless.
What kind of weekly workout regime would you prescribe to women looking to incorporate this strength workout?
You can’t go 100 percent in every workout, but you can work out every day of the week if you combine different stimuli. Focus on two high-intensity workouts, like HIIT (high intensity interval training), then do cardio two to three days a week, and once a week do a mind/body discipline like yoga or pilates. This will connect strength with flexibility and range of motion.
What muscles do you believe are most important for women to strengthen?
Women usually focus on chest and quads, because that is what they see in the mirror, but I suggest women do lats and glutes because that has more influence on overall body strength.
What about women who are worried about being bulky and big?
You have to have the genetics to become “big,” and if that is the case, then you focus on other parts of the body to become balanced. For instance, if you get big thighs, do upper body weights.
If you had to choose a favorite workout, what would it be?
I love suspension training, like TRX. You manipulate the intensity based on what you want. By changing loads, it keeps your body fresh.