Every woman wants a strong firm and toned body but many women are afraid of lifting heavy weights and doing exercises such as the deadlift, squat, clean, jerk and snatch for fear that they will get them too “bulky”. The truth is that maximum strength training is a woman’s number one training method for developing a strong, muscular, fit, and attractive feminine body without bulking up.
You see, maximum strength (MxS) training does not increase muscle size. Rather, MxS develops mainly neurological factors. I will illustrate this using Tsatsouline’s example…
Feats of strength by apparent weaklings are common. Just think of the frail middle-aged woman who suddenly possesses superhuman strength when her child gets trapped under an automobile or another heavy apparatus. There are many documented cases in which the woman was actually able to lift the car off the ground to free her child. A feat that she could not repeat in a million years under normal circumstances. Sure, her strength was potentiated by adrenaline and other hormones, but the muscles that lifted the car were the same she already had, new muscles didn’t blossom out of nowhere to help her lift the car! The stress and extreme stimulation from the situation simply improved her capacity to produce force with the muscles she already had! It is estimated that we only use 20% of our brain and neuromuscular ability to survive. In this instance, neurotransmission was optimized, protective mechanisms where shut-off, sensory feedback was ignored…All of this made her able to work to her full neurological potential, something that we don’t come remotely close to during normal circumstances!
By now it should be clear to you that the limit in force production lies in the nervous system. The greater the proportion of the strength potential an exerciser can use, the better they will be. The difference between absolute strength (the full potential for strength production) and the limit strength (the actual maximum strength that the individual can voluntarily produce) is termed strength deficit. The way to decrease this strength deficit is to develop maximal strength.
Maximal strength training focuses on increasing the load placed upon the tissues of the body. Maximum strength refers to the highest force the neuromuscular system can perform during a maximal voluntary contraction. This is demonstrated by the highest load that an athlete can lift in one attempt, also known as a one-repetition maximum (1RM). Maximum strength improves as a result of creating high tension in the muscle-and this tension can be achieved only by using loads that result in higher fast-twitch (FT) muscle fiber recruitment (loads over 80 to 100% 1RM).
Maximal strength training improves:
- Recruitment of more motor units
- Rate of force production
- Motor unit synchronization
Women can benefit from maximum strength training. Most women use only endurance and hypertrophy methods of training and tend to neglect training approaches that stimulate recruitment of FT muscle fibers to build high-density muscle, tight muscle tone, impressive muscle separation, and more visible muscle striations and definition.
Here are some benefits:
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis as a woman ages
The mechanical stress placed upon the body structure during strength training (especially ground-based movements) will help increase bone density and prevent calcium loss and bone frailty in latter years.
- Reduced risk of sports injuries
While women are no more prone to weight-training injuries than men, it’s true that women who practice sports are more prone to injury than their male counterparts. But this is probably because, by tradition, men have been involved in a serious off-season strength training regimen, which can help reduce the risk of injuries. A woman who is heavily involved in sports has a much smaller chance of being injured if she trains seriously in the gym.
- Change in body composition
With proper strength training a woman will add more lean body mass and will lose fat mass. Furthermore, including serious strength training while dieting down prevents loss of muscle, and as a result, will prevent the “yo-yo” effect of regaining all the lost weight and then more!
- More strength to use in daily chores or sports activities
If women gain strength in the muscles involved in their daily tasks, they’ll have to use a lesser portion of their available strength. Thus, they’ll perform their task more efficiently and with less fatigue accumulation.
- Better in-and-out
Improving strength will enhance self-confidence and self-esteem and make a woman feel sexier and sleeker.
As already mentioned above, maximum strength training can really pay off in life or death situations. The old Your Physique magazine would regularly feature true-life stories of strength trainers who survived shipwrecks and other natural catastrophes in which everyone else perished. And their superior conditioning and mental discipline saved their lives. Strength is never a weakness and weakness is never a strength.