By Irene McCormick
Pages: Approx. 216
Available: February 2012
CHAMPAIGN, IL—Women often subscribe to fitness fads, hearsay, and offbeat diets to get fit. According to top trainer Irene McCormick, women must stop succumbing to pop culture in order to see greater strength and muscle definition. “It’s staggering the amount of misinformation that surrounds women and exercise,” says McCormick. “With respect to the myths and misinformation, it’s no wonder women are so confused regarding what they should and should not do to achieve a strong, lean, healthy body.”
In her forthcoming book, A Woman’s Guide to Muscle & Strength (Human Kinetics, February 2012), McCormick dispels five common fitness myths and explains why strength training should be a part of every woman’s fitness regimen.
- Lifting weights creates bulky muscles. Contrary to many women’s concerns, strength training using heavy weights won’t result in a manly bodybuilder-type physique. “Men and women who train similarly have the ability to increase their muscular strength, but because women have lower levels of testosterone and fewer and smaller muscle fibers than men, they do not have the ability to increase muscle size the way men do,” McCormick says.
- Weight loss requires more cardio and less strength training. “Many women believe it’s necessary to include cardio only when they have a weight-loss goal, but nothing could be further from the truth,” McCormick says. To lose weight, both cardiorespiratory exercise and strength training should be part of an exercise program. “Cardio exercise ups the ante on caloric expenditure and improves the health of your heart, blood vessels, brain tissues, and other vital organs,” McCormick adds.
- Workouts must be in the fat-burning zone. Perhaps the most popular myth about aerobic exercise is that there is a specific range of heart rates in which people must exercise to burn fat as the primary fuel source. McCormick explains, “Even many cardio machines display a fat-burning zone on their panels, encouraging people to exercise in a specific heart rate range to burn fat specifically.” For losing fat (and therefore weight), what matters is the difference between the number of calories you expend and the number of calories you consume. It matters little whether the calories burned during exercise come from fat or carbohydrate.
- Trouble spots can be specifically targeted with strength training. “Spot reduction is a mythical concept that encourages fat loss in a specific area or muscle group on the body,” McCormick says. “Fat is lost throughout the body in a pattern dependent on genetics, sex, hormones, and age.” Overall body fat must be reduced in order for you to lose fat in any particular area. Although spot reduction isn’t possible, spot training can be done to strengthen a specific muscle group through aerobic activity and resistance training.
- Certain exercises burn more calories than others. “Just because you sweat more in a particular workout doesn’t necessarily mean that you are burning more calories than you would in another kind of workout,” says McCormick. “It is the consistency of the exercise that causes weight loss.” When you select exercises, it’s important to understand what determines how many calories a body burns during exercise and why the body obeys certain rules that dictate the magnitude of caloric expenditure. With this knowledge, you can create realistic goals with respect to fat loss, increased lean mass, and selection of exercises. “Bottom line, the harder you work, the more calories you will expend, and you have to do this on a regular basis,” McCormick adds.
“Strength training is one of the only forms of exercise that offers so many benefits to health and fitness, which makes it a solid choice of regular exercise,” McCormick says. “If anything, strength training is especially important for women because it provides maximum opportunity to control weight and achieve many other long-term benefits.”
For more information, see A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength.
Irene McCormick, MS, is a personal trainer, international presenter, author, and 25-year fitness veteran. She holds a master’s of science degree in exercise and sport science with an emphasis in physiology from Iowa State University. She holds professional certifications from NSCA-CSCS, ACE, AFAA, YogaFit, Pilates, and AEA.
She is a frequent contributor to consumer and fitness publications, including IDEA Health & Fitness Journal, Fitness Management, Shape, More, Diabetic Living, and Heart Healthy Living. Irene is on the editorial advisory board of Diabetic Living magazine and is a subject matter expert and exam writer for the American Council on Exercise.
Irene presents for IDEA, SCW, Fitness Anywhere, DCAC, Fitness Fest, the Mayo Clinic, and many regional venues. She is a TRX instructor and has been a featured presenter in several DVDs, including programs for pre- and postnatal exercise, water fitness, strength training, step, Pilates, and foam roller exercise.
Part I The Basics of Strength Training for Women
Chapter 1 Strength Training and the Female Body
Chapter 2 Myths and Pitfalls of Strength Training
Chapter 3 Essentials of Excellent Strength Training
Part II Strength Training Exercises for Women
Chapter 4 Warming Up and Cooling Down
Chapter 5 Training the Upper Body
Chapter 6 Training the Lower Body
Chapter 7 Training the Core
Part III Strength Training Programs for Women
Chapter 8 Starting a Strength Training Program
Chapter 9 Developing a Workout
Chapter 10 Beginner and Intermediate Programs
Chapter 11 Advanced and Endurance Training Programs
- What are the benefits of strength training?
- Why is strength training essential for weight loss?
- Why can’t women spot train to get rid of belly fat or flabby arms?
- Why should women match their exercise expectations with their genetics?
- Many women fear lifting weights will give them bulky, manly muscles. Why is false?
- Explain the concept of “skinny fat” and why a woman may be skinny but not healthy.
- Why is overload essential to achieve strength gains?
- How can equipment like the TRX, BOSU and exercise balls add benefit to a workout?
- Why should the effectiveness of a workout not be judged on muscle soreness?
- Should stretching be incorporated into every workout?
- How often should women strength train?
- Muscle contributes significantly to resting metabolic rate, which is the energy expended in maintaining all bodily functions at rest. Both during and after a resistance training session, the body continues to use fat as a fuel source.
- Resistance training has a positive impact on maintaining or increasing fat-free body mass while encouraging the loss of fat in a progressive-overload resistance training program. The quality of the tissue (fat versus fat-free) is more important than how small or large someone is or what their clothing size indicates.
- Elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressures are associated with a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), congestive heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure. There is a onefold increase in developing these diseases when blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg. Individuals who regularly perform progressive-overload resistance training had about a 2% reduction in their resting systolic blood pressure and a 4% reduction in their resting diastolic blood pressure.
- Strength training can prevent and treat osteoporosis. Increased strength levels not only help conserve bone mass but also maintain muscle mass (lean mass) and improve balance. Research has demonstrated that resistance training and weight-bearing aerobic exercise may provide the needed stimulus for bone formation. Strength training allows the body to build new bone. Major bone losses can be prevented before age 30, so a resistance training program is an essential way to ward off or prevent osteoporosis.
- Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the muscle pain or discomfort often felt from 24 up to 72 hours after intense exercise. DOMS typically subsides in two to three days. Although the precise cause is unknown, the type of muscle contraction seems to be a factor in the development of DOMS. Exercises that involve many loaded, eccentric contractions can result in the most severe DOMS. It is important not to measure the effectiveness of a workout based on the presence of DOMS. When you are performing a new exercise or sequence or adding additional loads, DOMS will be more likely to appear, but the lack of DOMS is not an indication that your workout is not intense enough or unsuccessful.
- “Skinny fat” women may be thin, but they still have lots of body fat because they do not exercise and don’t actively maintain their lean muscle mass through exercise. Ideal body fat levels for most women are 20% to 22%. The average woman today, who is healthy and looks okay in her jeans, likely has about 25% body fat. A woman with 29% to 35% fat is considered “overfat” in body composition, and a woman with greater than 39% fat is considered obese. The ideal percentage of body fat varies from person to person depending on factors such as body type, hereditary, age, activity levels, and eating habits.
Facts taken from A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength.
“A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength offers a scientifically sound training program that is easy to follow. A must-have in every woman’s fitness library.”
2011 NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year
Author of Women’s Home Workout Bible and Sculpting Her Body Perfect