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9 Amazing Benefits Women Can Expect from Strength Training

9 Amazing Benefits Women Can Expect from Strength Training

You’re a motivated go-getter. Your alarm probably went off before the sun rose. You got up, got dressed and got to the gym before most people even began to finish their last REM cycle. You are already an empowered and amazing woman, but if you’re not doing strength training, you’re probably not as amazing as you could be.

Strength training can seem intimidating but in reality, it can benefit women in so many ways. No, it doesn’t make you “too big,” so set that worry aside.  Before you start on your usual routine, here are nine reasons you should head toward the free weights instead of the elliptical.

1. Calorie Afterburn

When you add weight training to your routine, even if it’s only a couple of times per week, you’re adding the potential for your body to burn more calories even when you’re resting. You might see online that a pound of muscle burns some crazy number of calories, but the reality is that one pound of muscle burns somewhere between 6 and 13 calories a day while you do nothing.

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2. Increase Flexibility

There’s still misinformation floating around in the competitive world that strength training will cause your body to become more inflexible over time. That “old wives tale” has been repeatedly proven wrong by research. Among many other examples, The University of North Dakota studied static stretches vs. strength training exercises and found those with a full-range of motion in resistance training workouts can help improve flexibility.

3. Beat Buddha Belly

It’s true what they say: you can’t spot reduce. There’s no magic way of targeting a certain area with strength training and weights to lose fat. Also, put down the pills that make promises that could also be delivered by eating right and working out. They’re a waste of money.  According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, “Core strength training can help reduce your waist circumference. Even if you don’t lose weight, you lose visceral fat and gain muscle mass.” Training the obliques and abdominal muscles with weighted core strength moves will result in getting rid of your buddha belly—eventually.  There’s no quick fix, and seeing visible results in this particular area has every bit as much to do with how much weight you lift as it does with what food you put in your mouth.

4. Be Less Tired

The physical fatigue you get when you strength train has a really positive side effect: you should get better sleep! Most people who deadlift on a regular basis report having more restful sleep cycles, and average over seven hours of sleep per night. Between the ages of 26 and 62, you should try to get between seven and nine hours a night. Your body may not still be developing hormonally, but your fine motor skills and judgment rely on adequate rest.

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5. Perform Better

The strength you gain from developing the large, visually defined muscles (biceps and triceps in your arms, for instance) is balanced by the control developed in the smaller muscles like the supraspinatus and subscapularis (two of the four muscles in the rotator cuff that keep your shoulder stabilized). The agility and capability increased by weightlifting can enhance your performance in every activity you do.

6. Happier Outlook

Elle Woods said it best in Legally Blonde: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands; they just don’t.” It’s a comedy, but that’s also a completely true statement. Endorphins are the ‘feel-good’ chemicals that the brain releases for several reasons, one of which is during strenuous exercise.  All jokes aside about spouses, having a happier outlook on life is what helps us weather the storms that inevitably come. The extra rainy day that makes the week feel too long, the spilled red wine, the baby that won’t sleep—these are all stressors that can be “the straw that broke the camels back” for a person without a positive outlook. Strength training, in a way, gives you emotional fortitude along with physical fortitude.

7. Feel Successful

Every time you work out with weights, you get a release of endorphins. You feel successful with each repeated muscle contraction. Completing a set of close grip bench press is a win. Walking to the shower sweaty from pushing through and finishing every set feels good. Success has many forms, but every single one of the times you’ve ever felt successful, your body gives you a reward in the form of a hit of dopamine. That tiny bit of euphoria you feel is dopamine, and seeking that feeling is what motivates us to succeed. Physical performance in the gym lets us build those feelings of success and the feelings of euphoria bleed over into the rest of our lives. Feeling successful becomes more of a natural state, giving us the confidence to set bigger and better goals.

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8. Positive Body Image

Let’s face it: people who work out look good. One glance at the people around you and you can tell who takes care of themselves and who doesn’t. When you look in the mirror, you can see the same qualities in yourself. If you’re picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, you regularly give yourself the opportunity to feel strong and capable. That feeling is then reflected; by feeling strong and capable, the person you see in the mirror is strong and capable. Having a positive body image means you’re less likely to spend time mentally picking at flaws that only you can see.

9. Have Better Sex

Out of all the positive side effects received from hitting the free weights in the gym a few times a week, the best has got to be having a better sex life! First, having an orgasm releases more endorphins, which enhance that beautiful body image. Second, having sex causes the brain to release dopamine and oxytocin—the Love Hormone—that causes each person to feel happier, more attractive and to develop strong bonds with their partners.

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Ladies, it’s time to start cracking the weights.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay.com

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Published on March 8, 2019

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

When we fall into a workout routine, our moves become automatic, and the body quickly adapts. This is called muscle memory.[1] While teaching your body how to properly execute squats, push-ups, or crunches is a benefit, overly relying on these moves to consistently grow gains won’t yield the kind of results you want. That’s because the muscles work in the same way every time.

Simply put, they’re not being “surprised,” so they get lazy.

Supplementing your routine with flow yoga is one way of surprising your muscles, especially if you are new to the yoga practice and have never tried the postures. It’s like taking a new road home when you drive, deviating from your usual route. Science has found that by doing so, you’re creating new neuropathways in your brain.[2] The same is done in your muscles when you try a new routine.

How is this done? Let’s dive right into it.

How Flow Yoga Boost Your Gains in Your Workout Routine

Think about your current workouts:

If you lift weights, you rely on external tools to engage your various muscle groups. Over time, your shoulders, legs, or biceps will come to expect the weighted plates or dumbbells, in the repetitive sequences that you remember.

In flow yoga, we use the body as the weight. Add gravity and hundreds of different postures and combinations, and you have a workout that uses the same muscle groups, but in many different ways.

A pose such as plank is a full-body workout, with every muscle engaged to keep the body in one long line. While it’s a stationary pose, it requires muscle control and activation, with no room for passivity.

    A Flow sequence, on the other hand, requires your muscle to switch from one pose to another swiftly, providing you with a more balanced and wholesome use of your major muscle groups.

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    Not only do these poses and routines re-energize the body in a refreshing way, they also allow you to learn something new, which is powerful for the mind.

    Bottom line? Complementing your exercise regimen with flow yoga is like hitting the shuffle button on your workouts, using your muscles in ways that “surprise” them, which in turn boost their growth and performance.

    Energizing Flow Yoga with Added Cardio

    Flow yoga is also known as “Vinyasa.”[3] In Sanskrit – the sacred language of the practice and its Indian roots – Vinyasa is roughly translated to “one breath, one movement.”

    This guideline, first and foremost, enhances your breathing, and teaches you how to go from our typical shallow, chest-only breathing, to a more deeper, belly-chest breath that uses the entire lung system.

    Not only is this beneficial for a myriad of healthcare reasons (combat allergies, eliminate toxins, reduce stress, ease anxiety), it also greatly impacts our muscles,[4] and therefore our workout.

    Flooding your muscles with rich oxygen will only keep them healthy, while the cardio benefit will get you warmed up to take on the more challenging postures in a flow yoga class. This prevents injuries and cramping.

    The best example of energizing cardio in flow yoga is the Sun Salutation sequence. Each pose is completed on an inhale or an exhale, until the sequence is finished. One full sequence may be repeated several times, encouraging you to take fuller and deeper breaths. The cycles warm up and loosen the body and prepare the muscles for stationary poses that are held longer.

    Here’s how to do a Sun Salutation Flow:

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    Due to the Sun Salutations, the muscles are not thrown into a challenging workout, but rather primed and prepared with energizing breath.

    Why is this important, you ask? Because happy muscles are warmed-up muscles.

    The Best Thing About Flow Yoga

    The best thing about practicing flow yoga? You’re building strength and flexibility.

    Strength and flexibility are like the Mecca of a wholesome workout routine. Before we get into why this is important, let’s break these two down individually to see how they stand up on their own:

    Meet Strong Stan

    Strong Stan is at the gym, doing bicep curls with massive dumbbells. His muscles have peaked in size, and he proudly displays them.

    While he loves to lift weights, Strong Stan often skips stretching or warm-ups. He just doesn’t see how that could help him continue his muscle gains, so he jumps right into a heavy workout.

    While it’s not evident to a passerby, Stan’s muscles are hurting. Without sufficient flexibility or deliberate stretching, Stan’s muscles are shortening and getting tighter. This eventually leads to joint injuries,[5] because un-stretched muscles have limited range of motion.

    Big muscles are a sure indicator of strength, but here’s the kicker – choosing not to prioritize flexibility will keep them inherently at risk.

    Meet Flexible Fiona

    Flexible Fiona is in a flow yoga class, easing herself into a backbend.[6] She effortlessly gets into the pose, and “hangs” out there for a few breaths while the teacher cues the class.

    Even though the teacher instructs the students to engage their glutes and be mindful that this is an active pose, Flexible Fiona opts otherwise, and relaxes into the posture by sacrificing the strength she ought to be building.

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    To many in the class, Fiona’s execution of the backbend would be a success – maybe even something to envy. However, what Fiona doesn’t realize is that her excessive flexibility is actually a detriment to her joints.[7]

    Flexibility has been defined as the “absolute range of motion” by Tony Gummerson, Martial Arts instructor. For people who are naturally flexible, that line of absolute range is often blurry and, in practice, overlooked.

    It’s very easy for Fiona to go above and beyond her range of motion, since her flexibility parameters are much wider than what Strong Stan may experience in a similar pose.

    Because she doesn’t feel the stretch in the same degree of motion as other students in class, Fiona has to push the envelope of her flexibility. This puts too much pressure on the joints that are already overworked, and it overstretches the muscles that are now prone to tearing.

    Your goal is to create muscle and joint balance and wholeness.

    What Strong Stan and Flexible Fiona have in common is that they’re both missing vital pieces of muscle awareness.

    In Stan’s case, heavy and tight muscles crave flexibility. Without it, not only would Stan hit a plateau in his gains because of a sure injury, but he would miss out on having the lean and toned muscles that we all want to have.

    In Fiona’s case, her overstretched muscles are not getting a workout at all. Rather, her excessive flexibility is resting on her joints, which leads to definite injury.

    So what can you do? It’s quite simple.

    You have to give your muscles the opposite of what they’re used to.

    If you’re a Stan and hate stretching, focusing on your flexibility is key. You will lengthen your tight muscles, and you’ll create new muscle memory by practicing routines that are new to you and your muscle groups.

    If you’re a Fiona and hate strengthening, focusing on this priority is vital. Your muscles are used to being passive as you stretch, so shaking up the usual and putting them to work will not only keep you injury-free, but that much closer to the muscle gains you’ve been looking for.

    Fortunately, flow yoga is the whole package, and can be the one-stop-shop for both Stan and Fiona.

      Final Thoughts

      If you’re serious about using flow yoga to supplement your workout routine to boost gains, sign up for a class at your local gym or yoga studio. There are a number of styles of yoga to try, but as we’ve discussed in this article, the Vinyasa style is your best bet to complement a moderate exercise regimen.

      Many studios offer beginner-style Vinyasa classes, where the instructor will explain the basics, and break down the sequences in a pace that is suitable for entry-level students. From here, the student can build upon their practice, and opt for more challenging, fast-paced classes, such as Power Flow or Ashtanga.

      Working out is a lesson in teaching your muscles. The gains that we grow are the result of that experience, and it all comes down to conditioning our body in a way that is healthy, efficient, and balanced.

      With a practice like flow yoga, we can offer supplemental training to our current regimen that will work our muscles in ways that are new, refreshing, and “surprising.” This method will keep our muscles toned and lean, as long as we prioritize the balance between strength and flexibility to ensure that we’re meeting both of these needs. Our muscle gains and body health depend on it.

      More Resources About Yoga and Fitness

      Featured photo credit: Edit Sztazics via unsplash.com

      Reference

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