Why Women Should Get Off the Cardio Equipment and Hit the Weights

I can't begin to tell you how many women and girls have shared with me their concern for getting "bulky." In order to avoid this, they focus hours on the eliptical, running on treadmills, and climbing the stair master. Afterwards, they may walk across the gym and pick up 5, 10, or 15 pound dumbbells to do a couple sets or curls or presses. I rarely see women curl or press dumbbells that are so heavy they can barely finish their set of 8-10 repetitions. Why is this?

After asking around, I came up with this answer: women are afraid that they are going to look like men or a become huge like a bodybuilder. The reality is, women don't have enough testosterone to become bulky. The women who are huge body builders have a combination of amazing genes, and supplement like nobody's business. That kind of lifestyle is a full time job, and will not be the result of a woman or competitive female athlete adding heavy weight lifting to their program. 

Lifting for women

There is a misnomer that women need to be doing a different kind of workout from men. This is completely false! Not only are men focused on lifting heavier than most women at the gym, but they have the added benefit of higher amounts of testosterone. Why put ourselves at a disadvantage by picking up the light weights to once AGAIN work on more muscle endurance instead of lifting heavy, getting strong, and looking amazing?

The female-focused workout industry will tell us that by doing their specific workouts, women will get "long, toned muscles." This is all false, as the way a muscle looks is entirely based on your genetics. The amount of muscle you actually gain is entirely based on how heavy you lift, and how much you supplement with protein. I can guarantee right now if you walked into any gym across the U.S., you will see women on the cardio machines and men at the free weights and stations. It's no wonder so many women question their results in the gym, and often give up after months of hard work on the elliptical. 

For wrestlers specifically, we are one of the few sports which require both fast and slow twitch muscles. This means we must train both our explosiveness and our endurance. However, being strategic about your cardiovascular training is still important. Running the same miles as professional runners will not be beneficial to the needs of our sport. Unlike a runner, we need the ability to lift our competition! 

The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism becomes

Why is cardio not the answer?

First, if you spend hours on the cardio machines, you will loose weight. It's the basic concept of input versus output, and there's no mistaking the result. However, there is a problem: you are actually slowing down your metabolism. By focusing on loosing fat through cardio, you begin to loose muscle along with it. So all that weight you've lost? A large portion is most likely muscle as well. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism becomes. This is why athletes eat every few hours. Not only have they metabolized what they consumer earlier, but you have to eat more to sustain the muscle tone. This comes from lifting HEAVY and having well balanced meals of whole foods and very few processed foods. 

How do I see changes in my body?

In order to force your body to change, you’ve got to lift HEAVY. When you push yourself to failure during repetitions, you are in fact telling your muscles that you are not strong enough to do the work. Your body will decide to build the muscle to support the increased workload. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn daily regardless of activity. This is why men can eat more and lose weight faster than women, they have higher amounts of muscle. 

Back to those body builders again and why you won't turn into pure bulky muscle. They lift a completely different way than an average woman or athlete should. Body builders focus on isolating muscles, so they can create the illusion of strength and not have any athletic characteristics. An athlete is developing muscles that pertains to their movement in sport, and an average woman for day to day movement. This allows for a space where you maximize your strength in movements that pertain to the way you live your life, and get amazing results.

So please, if you are an athlete who is looking to increase strength for sport or a female trying to lose weight or get in shape, put away the feather weights.

4 Things Athletes Need to Know for Preseason

Your preseason prep can be crucial for getting yourself ready for the season. This blog is your guide to a successful preseason. Are you ready? Lace up those shoes, let's get started!

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1. Long run conditioning

Now is the time to work on those longer runs. The main criteria will be setting a few longer distances or routes (depending on if you run around the track, your neighborhood, or on a trail), and repeating those distances to beat your time. It is important to chose a few distances that are challenging, make sense for your skill level, and can be completed in the time frame you have to run. 

There is a good trick to helping your body adjust to pushing harder on those long distance runs, and that is called interval training or "fartlek" training. Totally bizarre name, we always laughed in high school cross-country when our coach would get us ready for our fartlek runs! It is actually the Swedish word for "speed-play," and that is how you will approach your runs. Set your run distance for something longer and challenging. Have a way to time yourself like a stop watch, your music player, or a phone. Your first 5-10 minutes of your run will be a good warm-up pace. Then, break into a hard run for 2-3 minutes, then a recovery run for 2-3 minutes. Repeat this until your distance is complete. Your hard run should simulate a hard pace that could ideally be kept up for quite a while, and your recovery should not be a shuffle. You can play with different paces and times that you can individualize for your current shape, which will change as your conditioning improves.

 

2. Weight lifting plan

If you already have someone you are working with, or someone who has given you a weight lifting plan, that is great! Make sure you are implementing it and being consistent. As much as I love working with weights, I don't always think you have to get a gym membership in order to have a weight lifting plan. I am a big fan of body weighted exercises that you can do at home. Below is a sample of a body weight workout you can take and implement. 

45 seconds work/ 15 seconds rest- 2-3 rounds

1. Push ups

2. Squat jumps

3. Front plank holds

4. Pistol squat (alt. legs each time) - use alternatives and progressions from this video here

Alternative FAW (Fulp-Allen Wrestling) workout blogs from the past here and here

 

3. STANCE WORK

If haven't read my blog on how to improve your stance, you can read that here! Stance work is hugely important to work on for your preseason conditioning! Positioning applies to every sport, so do what makes sense for you! 

 

4. Nutrition plan  

There is a lot of research and a lot of information out there regarding nutrition plans. Do your due diligence and start reading up on different nutrition plans. My recommendation is to start with small changes, and encourage your family to take those steps along with you. We all KNOW when we have neglected certain food groups or we need to improve on our choices, you knew before I even asked this question! Take a good look at your eating habits and implement a small change by maybe adding in a new vegetable or two. Carry fruit with you so you aren't stuck with only bad choices come lunch time. Whatever it is you know you need work on, look for small ways to improve. Nutrition is about lifestyle changes, NOT CREATING A DIET. Teach yourself good habits now that will create habits for a lifetime! Not a few months for the season. :) 

Find other FAW blogs on nutrition here and our USA Wrestling feature here