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Why You Need to be Strength Training (And How You Can Do It Without Bulking Up)

Some women fear that if they weight train they will get "bulky," oversized and unattractive muscles. This perception that women bulk up when they begin a strength training program comes from pictures of bodybuilding women seen on the covers of bodybuilding magazines. These women are most likely taking steroids and/or testosterone hormones. Testosterone is the hormone that men naturally have that is needed to build big muscles. Women don't produce enough testosterone so they are not capable of building huge muscles. So some women who body build take supplemental testosterone that will allow their muscles to get bigger than they naturally would.

Women who are into serious bodybuilding also do a specialized weight training program that results in big muscles. Most recreational strength trainers whose goal is health, fitness and toning don't do the same type of program that builds bodybuilding-sized muscles. Muscle bulk comes from performing lots and lots of heavy weightlifting. Instead of the typical 4 sets per muscle group a recreational exerciser would do, bodybuilders do up to 20 sets. This super high volume causes substantial muscle size.

The true problem most women run into isn't building too much muscle, but not building enough. Strength training and gaining muscle is so beneficial that all women should include it in the exercise program. 

Doing a strength training program for health and fitness will increase how much muscle you have. The muscles get stronger but won't gain a large amount of size. This gives a sculpted, toned appearance without bulk. Since muscle takes up less room than fat, women tend to lose inches when they strength train if they are also eating a healthy diet and doing cardio.

Gaining some muscle can help with your weight maintenance. With age, women lose 2-5% of their muscle mass per year. This results obviously in a loss of strength and a decrease in how many calories your body needs every day as you age.  In addition, if you don't do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you'll increase the percentage of unhealthy fat in your body. Strength training increases muscle mass; in fact research shows that women can add up to 30% lean muscle. When you add muscle, this boosts your metabolism which means you burn calories more efficiently. This helps you lose fat, which means you'll be leaner and more defined.

In addition to the age related decline in muscle mass, bone mass decreases with age. This leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life. Strength training increases bone mineral density and mass which can help prevent osteoporosis.

Strength training not only gives the  benefit of increased bone density, more strength, increase in metabolism, and a great looking body, building muscle helps protect your body from injury. It also increases your energy, endurance, balance, coordination and it can even improve your mood and how you feel! So don't fear big bulky muscles. Lift weights two or three times a day for 30-60 minute a week and look forward to a beautiful, toned and healthy body. 

Maria Faires, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist and freelance writer based out of Sammamish, WA. Maria is considered to be one of Western Washington's premier fitness and nutrition experts. As the owner of Active Nutrition Fitness & Consulting, Maria provides highly personalized nutrition services, personal training and preventative and post-rehabilitative fitness programming in her private training studio. She also provides Skype, phone and online nutrition counseling and training for remote clients. Maria leads the industry in the development of cutting edge fitness and nutrition techniques as well as innovative and unique fitness programming. Maria expertly designs every workout, nutrition plan and provides the personal attention, extra motivation, support and accountability that helps her clients achieve optimal performance and health. Contact or read more about Maria at www.myactivenutrition.com.

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