Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 8, 2010

Resistance training important for women

Simple ways to get started with a weight-lifting program

By Erin Shultz
Tribune lifestyle editor

Kokomo — Just as personal trainer Rob Land and I sat down at a local restaurant to talk about the importance of resistance and strength training, a woman timidly stepped up to our table.

“Excuse me. I hate to bother you, but do you think you could help get my husband into the car?” she asked Land, pointing to a sweet-looking man in a wheelchair. “You look strong.”

Good timing.

“You lift weights to build muscle and obviously muscle is important for the same reasons it is for women as it is for men,” Land said when he returned to the table.

And that list is a long one, he said.

Most importantly for anyone looking to lose weight, more muscle means more calories burned when you’re at rest. Land said for every pound of muscle put on, the body burns an additional 25 to 50 calories per day.

In addition to the metabolic increases, more muscle means increased bone density, and better connective and nervous tissue health.

“Your joints are stronger, your bones are stronger, your muscles are stronger,” Land said. “Life essentially becomes easier for you.”

Yet despite the laundry list of benefits, Land said it’s hard for him to convince women to add resistance, or weight, training into their routines.

“I don’t know if it’s a fear of getting too big and bulky or it they just don’t see it’s important to reaching their goals,” he said. But either way, Land hopes to rebuff every excuse when a woman walks into Anytime Fitness.

So where do you start?

Land recommends a 5- to 15-minute warm-up of any kind of cardiovascular activity, to get the muscles prepared and increase the body’s core temperature.

After that, he recommends two to three sets of series of exercises, doing 10 to 20 reps on each exercise. And he said, generally, women should do resistance training two times a week, depending on their specific goals.

If you’re looking to gain strength, pick heavier weights and do fewer reps. If you’re looking for muscle endurance, pick a slightly lighter weight and do more reps.

But either way, it’s important the weight selection feels challenging, he said.

“If it doesn’t feel like exercise, it’s probably not going to do what you want it to do,” Land said.

He said to focus on the larger muscle groups like the chest, the back and the legs, which have the most potential for muscle growth. The more muscle you can build, the more calories you will burn when you’re at rest.

Land recommends doing compound exercises such as the ones he does with Jennie Rhees and Rebecca Hampton. Often, he will have the Mommy Makeover ladies do a ball squat with a bicep curl and go into an overhead press with the same weight. So in one fluid move, the ladies got three exercises.

Land doesn’t focus on isolated movements like standing bicep curls or tricep kickbacks, since those muscles will be used in other exercises as well.

“Unless you’re in a bodybuilding competition or you’re a competitive arm wrestler,” he said with a laugh.

The important part is to make sure you know what proper form looks and feels like. Land said you’d be surprised at how easy it is to do exercises incorrectly, which is why he suggests working with a personal trainer or someone knowledgeable, especially in the beginning.