STRENGTH TRAINING AND CROSSFIT FOR FEMALES

BY ANDY CRAIG

 

As a society we are surely but slowly starting to understand that strength training or even resistance training is one of the better and healthier ways to train the body.  There are those amazing athletes among us that compete at long distance running but that is their sport and we all know that sometimes sport isn’t the healthiest option for us.  I’m a sportsman and sport is an integral part of a person’s make up but I, along with most other sports people know the risks when competing.

This isn’t just another YOU WONT GET BULKY article but, you won’t get bulky doing resistance training and/or CrossFit as a fitness program.  Getting bulky or rather training for hypertrophy (increased muscle mass) requires the person to work within certain rep ranges and rest periods.  It requires limited high intensity training where a slow cycle on the bike at the gym so not to burn off precious muscle gains is preferred.  This, I feel is where women get confused.  Just because you lifts weights and feel fatigue doesn’t mean you are going to pack on lbs of muscle.

Below is a basic chart.  There are a multitude of varieties of this but for the purpose of this article and to keep things simple I have used this chart.  It basically outlines rep ranges and rest periods used to get the required stimulus from the body.

Objective Reps Sets Time working in seconds Rest between sets
Power 1-3 1-3 0-20 3-5 minutes
Strength 1-5 3-5 0-30 2-4 minutes
Hypertrophy 6-12 4-6 30-60 2-3 minutes
Endurance 12-15+ 1-3 60+ 30-90 seconds

 

Strength training is an integral part of anyone’s training program.  Those that do not include strength training are seriously limiting their ability to provide a fully inclusive, safe and healthier way of training.  Without strength everything else becomes difficult.  Imagine not being able to pick up a 20kg weight.  Now imagine your 15 year old child collapses and you need to get him to the car to get him to hospital.  See where I’m going with this.  It doesn’t matter if you can run a marathon if you cannot carry your child 50m to the car.

When we refer to strength training we mean making people stronger.  Strength training in its simplest form will not necessarily make you bulk.  Yes, if you want to get really strong and compete you will have to go through a phase of hypertrophy training to pack on the muscle to deal with the future weights you intend to lift.  Rep ranges of 1-3 will not make you bulk regardless of whether you are female or male.  I’m not going to get in to the area of plateauing by just working in these rep ranges.

As an individual you are essentially governed by your genes.  There are 3 types of body types and depending on which one you are you either will hold on to muscle easily or you won’t.  Don’t fight it.  You can’t.

Below is a diagram of the 3 different body types.  You can easily google deeper information on the various traits.

 

In essence, if you train and are naturally going to hold on to muscle then embrace it.  Use it to become healthier.

Osteoporosis

Women are 3 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.  Sorry ladies.  You have to go through child birth and then get this kick.  Resistance/strength training can and will help you in the fight against this.  Strength training helps to retain muscle to help with movement, balance and coordination.  This is a huge factor in stopping falls from osteoporosis related issues.  Also weight training and jumping has been found to aid in calcium deposits on bones that helps with bone density in later life.

Going back to the strength training/ CrossFit will make me bulky.  if we look at the table above along with CrossFit type workouts we can see that it is near impossible to bulk when doing CrossFit.  Yes you will put on muscle and shred excess fat from the very nature of lifting and the high intensity workouts but, due to the limited rest periods we simply cannot retain muscle mass to it’s greatest extent.  The rep ranges are usually high in conditioning pieces and the rest periods short and sporadic depending on your fitness levels.  Only when hitting structured strength/power/hypertrophy pieces would this be possible but even then when hitting multiple high intensity workouts during the week muscle mass simply can’t be retained ultimately.

One final point to also remember ladies when thinking about strength training or CrossFit is the source of energy the body uses for type of workouts and how that will affect your body composition (how much muscle or fat you hold).

When someone hits exercising at really low intensities i.e. 5, 10, 15km run the body predominantly uses fat as a full source.  When we say low intensity we could use an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale.  Imagine a scale of 1-10, 10 being you unable to even think about talking because the exercise was so intense right to 1 where you can still hold a conversation.  Running a 5km would sit around 2.  Its long slow duration.

Take CrossFit conditioning workouts or strength training rep ranges of 5-7 reps.  The body predominantly uses carbohydrates (glycogen) as the fuel source.

“I want to burn more fat” I hear you scream.  Well even though the body may burn fat more sitting still the amount of total fat burnt from calories is far less.  High intensity training or strength training will help burn more overall calories and in turn burn even more fat.

One final point regards bulking.  The above chart, rep ranges, sets, rest periods, programs etc mean absolutely nothing if your nutrition isn’t correct.  If you eat in excess you will bulk up and get fat if you don’t train.  If we program hypertrophy rep ranges and rest periods but you don’t eat enough you will waste away, get sick or worse get injured.  Bulking takes so many different factors.

Bodybuilders are a work of art and their primary goal is to bulk up then cut before a show.  Do you know how in depth their training, nutrition and rest has to be?  It’s a science and an art and it’s near impossible for the average lady exercising.

As I stated if you naturally hold on to muscle then embrace it.  If you’re not sure and you find out you can become and enjoy being athletic then embrace it.  Strength training is healthy.  CrossFit is healthy.  Both when done correctly.

At one of our gyms we have lady that is 50kg and can deadlift 135kg.  She is athletic.  There is a difference.  Until you try you will never know your true potential.