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Healthy Women ARE STRONG

January 17, 2010

It never ceases to amaze me that the common belief still exists in our culture that women should not lift heavy things. For some reason men and women are treated like two totally different species when it comes to exercise.  Of course we do have our differences (anyone who’s been in a relationship will assure you of that!), but our requirements for health as a species remains one in the same.  Men and women do have different physical capacities and abilities but we are all homo sapiens with the same essential necessities.  I see magazines that tout the stick figure bodies of starving women or fitness magazines that tell you to spend hours on the treadmill with ankle weights on- but I never see anything out there that tells women that it’s HEALTHY and NORMAL to be strong.  In my opinion it’s insulting to women and just plain wrong.

Who would you say looks healthier?

For millions of years the selective pressures of mother nature have shaped our requirements for survival. One of those pressures was our necessity to endure tremendous physical challenges of endurance and strength.  Our ancestors both male and female needed to travel great distances for food and water, hunt and gather, fight other rival tribes, and rely on their physical abilities daily for survival.  Even though our lives today are drastically different, our genes have not changed much since those days and neither have our physical requirements for optimal health.

Somehow the belief is that if you are a woman that includes strength training in your fitness program you will get big and bulky and start to look like a bodybuilder.  Fortunately, for all you women who lack testicles, your ability to build huge bulky muscles is very limited unless of course you are looking to abuse anabolic steroids.  Men on the other hand tend to build bigger muscles than women due to higher natural testosterone levels, but are still mostly limited in their genetic capabilities to build an oak chest like Arnold.  If the average guy has a tough time getting bulky just imagine how hard it is for a woman to get huge!

If you’re worried about looking like a beast then check out the physiques of these incredibly strong women:

Notice how they are not big and bulky like female body-builders are and they are lifting heavy weight.  This is natural when you train functional movements. Body-builders train isolated muscle groups at the cost of the rest of the body’s natural movement patterns. They lack functional strength and the overall ability to use their bodies in dynamic ways.  Calf raises, leg extensions, and bicep curls do not exist in nature.   Both men and women are best suited to lift heavy, hard, and with great intensity.  The overall result is a positive lean muscle to body fat ratio, improved strength, metabolic conditioning, and superior health (not to mention a pretty attractive bod).

Here is the difference in what a functional workout v.s. a traditional bodybuilding workout might look like:

Here is a video from a team workout I did with 2 awesomely fit women Kendra and Dawn. The workout consisted of 25 deadlifts each teammate (men 225 lbs, women 135 lbs), then 150 pullups, and finish with another 25 deadlifts each at the same weight. And all of this done as fast as possible.

This workout took less than 10 minutes but it incorporated functional movements, high intensity, and fun was had by everyone;) Oh yeah did I mention that Dawn is 40 years old?

Now check out this clip of a body-building workout:

Did you notice the isolation exercises and reliance on the machine? Do you think this would be something we would do in our Hunter Gatherer days? Everything is assisted and there is no athleticism or functional training involved.  This is an example of what traditional bodybuilding is about:  Long hours in the gym, no speed training, and people who build huge bulky muscles are that can’t complete basic functional movements such as a squat, push up or pull up effectively.  This type of working out is extremely hard to maintain and encourages the body to break down as fast as possible.

Functional training relies on three core movements that date back to our hunter gatherer days that  we still rely upon for survival and encourages our bodies to age gracefully instead of breaking our bodies down with disease and injury. These three things that need to be in every functional fitness training program  are steady endurance training to travel longer distances , sprinting once and awhile and lifting heavy things often. We will discuss the other elements in  future blogs, but in this one we are focusing on principal number one of any women’s health and fitness regiment. LIFT HEAVY  STUFF. We are all designed to be healthy, successful and live happy functional long lives……as long as you give your body what it needs.   Everyone needs to lift heavy stuff every once in a while.  It helps build lean muscle, burn fat, and it will do wonders for your confidence and for your long-term health. Be smart about it, figure out what works for you and build a program around it that fits your lifestyle, hire a trainer if you are unsure where to start, but get to it!  Now go lift something heavy!

Your health coach,

Dr. Ryan Hewitt

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Pascal permalink
    January 17, 2010 10:39 pm

    Wow what a great blog! I couldn’t agree more. I constantly find myself having that same discussion with women all of the time.


  2. Marcia Farina permalink
    January 18, 2010 3:18 am

    Dr. Ryan, totally awesome!!! I have started a new yoga class last week, it is chair yoga and is giving me more energy than I have experienced in years. I did yoga years ago at the Y in Newburyport, back in the ’70s! Love it, love it, love it. Along with my situps, pushups, stretching throughout the day, the yoga has helped me so much I no longer have any pain at all with my ruptured disc!!! Next goal is going to start out using our tread climber we have at home here. I walk our dog daily 1 or 2 miles 2 X a day. I have added a twist to the walk in that I jog for 50 or 75 paces with my sweet little 30 lb Brittany, and then walk for the same amount of paces, switching back and forth the whole walk. Truly amazing the energy I am feeling now. I have much better quality sleep, which is truly another advantage. Thank you for your support! Love you, Marcia Farina

  3. drhewitt permalink*
    January 26, 2010 8:57 pm

    You are welcome Marcia, and thanks for your comment. I’m glad to see you are living your best life yet and getting better everyday. Keep up the good work I’m rooting for ya!

  4. drhewitt permalink*
    January 26, 2010 8:59 pm

    Thanks Pascal!

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