“I don’t want to lift weights because I’ll bulk up!” This is something I frequently hear from athletes, particularly female runners that I coach. It’s a common misconception that’s holding many people back from achieving greater success when chasing their goals. Resistance training should be a regular part of everyone’s training regime. Weights won’t make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but they can help you burn fat, reduce injury risk and improve running economy.
So why won’t females pack on muscle?
Hormones play a big role in increasing muscle mass, with testosterone and human growth hormone (which are both naturally produced in the body) being the major ones involved. Males produce far greater amounts of both these hormones which is why they are generally bigger, stronger and have greater potential to pack on muscle. Without high levels of these either occurring naturally in the body or being synthetically taken, large amounts of hypertrophy (the increase in the size of muscle cells) will not occur. This is why females are not at risk of building Arnie-like muscles.
To gain a lot of muscle requires a huge amount of dedication to training consistently, at high intensity levels and eating increased volumes of the right foods. Most people that are of herculean proportions are spending 6 days a week in the gym just lifting heavy weights, with the specific goal of putting on muscle mass. This is another reason why females need not worry that they will get big and bulky from lifting weights 2-3 times per week (which is the recommended requirement set by the American College of Sports Medicine).
So we aren’t going to pack on muscle, but why do weights?
You can get some great improvements in your overall fitness and health by lifting weights. One of the very functional gains is an increase in strength. This will occur in people of any age and will help improve sporting performance, rehabilitate and prevent new injuries and improve overall quality of life. Along with the increase in muscle strength is an increase in bone density, which can help ward off osteoporosis, a bone disease that is very common in ageing females. Diabetes is another major disease on the increase that resistance training can play a vital role in managing and decreasing the incidence of. Lifting weights can develop lean muscle tissue which can aid our bodies in regulating blood sugar levels, hence decreasing the likelihood that we will develop diabetes and helping to manage it if we already do.
A big plus of resistance training is that it will help you burn more fat. An increase in lean muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic rate, meaning you will burn more calories not just during your workout but even when you aren’t training! So no matter what your goals are, to get more out of your training, make sure you include weight training in your program.
Get started with this 2 day a week weights program. While not ‘Runner specific’ it’s a great place to start building general strength, before progressing to more explosive and running focused exercises.
Squats 3 x 12-15 reps
Leg curls 3 x 12-15
Swiss ball Dumbbell press 3 x 12-15
Lat pull down 3 x 12-15
Dumbbell lateral raise 3 x 12-15
Medicine ball oblique twists 3 x 12-15
Lunges 3 x 12-15reps
Swiss ball leg curls 3 x 12-15reps
Chest Press 3 x 12-15
Seated Row 3 x 12-15
D/B Shoulder Press 3 x 12-15
Medicine ball crunches