Why Gaining Muscle Is Important (Especially For Women)

Why Gaining Muscle Is Important (Especially For Women)

“This won’t make my thighs bigger, will it?” That’s the exact question I received from a female client when we were doing squats recently. And unfortunately, it’s a question many women have at the gym due to mainstream media’s misunderstanding of muscle.

The word muscle is a somewhat divisive term in the health and fitness spectrum. It’s something most guys dream about, but it’s also something many women are scared of.

Take fitness celebrity Tracy Anderson for example. One thing she’s said time and time again is that no woman should lift more than 3 pounds. Her reasoning? Well, it makes you look too “bulky”.

This has frightened many females into believing that lifting weights will turn them into He-man overnight; forcing them to suffer through workouts consisting of endless cardio and pink dumbbells.

I’ve written in the past, why it’s a myth women will get “bulky” from strength training. So that’s not the point of this post.

Rather, it’s to show you why everyone, especially women, should want to increase the amount of muscle mass they have. There are some incredible things that happen as you begin to build muscle and today I want to highlight 4 of them in particular.

1. You’ll be stronger and less likely to get hurt.

This one may may not come as a surprise to you, but muscle mass is correlated with strength. The more muscle you have the stronger you are.

There’s a famous strength coach, Dan John, who’s worked with all different types of athletes. He has a story that one of the running backs he worked with referred to his workouts as “armor building”. Football is a contact sport, and what this athlete meant was the muscle he was gaining made him better suited to handle the demands of the sport.

It’s the same in life. If you want to move that heavy reclining sofa in your living room, more muscle will certainly prevent you from asking your strong friend and his buddy to do it for you. Not only that, but you’ll be less likely to injury yourself as your new “armor” will provide the shield you need to support your new sofa-moving abilities.

2. You’ll be better at keeping excess weight off.

Everyone has a specific basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is just a fancy, scientific way of saying the number of calories you burn while your body is at rest. The more you burn, the easier it is to lose weight and maintain your weight.

And do you know what increases your BMR? That’s right, muscle. Think of muscle as an engine and the calories you burn as gasoline. The bigger your car engine, the more gas you’ll use to drive.

Muscle is the most metabolically active part of your body. Meaning, it uses up the most energy (i.e. calories). As you increase your muscle mass, your body responds by increasing it’s BMR to handle the extra load. This results in an increase in daily calorie burn, thus making your weight that much easier to maintain.

3. You’ll improve your grip strength.

Now, this may not sound like much. However, one study recently found that grip strength is correlated with mortality. The researchers discovered that those with stronger grips typically live longer (1).

Improving your grip involves strengthening the muscles of the hands and forearms. The best way to go about doing this is by lifting weights. Performing an exercise where you have to hold a weight for 6-12 reps is going to challenge your grip unlike anything else.

And if that wasn’t enough, another study done in 2004 at UCLA looked at a group of over 3,000 men and women. They found that those who had more muscle mass lowered their risk of dying early (2).

4. You’ll be less likely to develop diabetes.

One major health crisis facing America right now is diabetes. And it doesn’t seeming to be getting better. We’re even seeing children develop type 2 diabetes, which was unheard of a few decades ago.

One of the reasons for this is the influx of sugar in our country. Most cheaply made, processed foods are riddled with it, which makes it easily accessible and affordable.

When you eat carbohydrates, they’re broken down by the body and stored in your muscles and liver. When these stores are full, all excess carbs are stored as body fat. This leads to weight gain and insulin resistance, which are two of the precursors to diabetes.

In 2011, a study was done on over 13,000 participants. The researchers took blood samples and measured muscle mass in each participant to determine the prevalence of diabetes. They found that those with more muscle mass had better insulin sensitivity and thus a lower chance of developing diabetes (3).

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As you can see, the benefits of gaining muscle far out weigh the consequences of not having enough of it. I’m reminded of a quote from another famous strength coach, Bret Contreras, that says “If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.”

I couldn’t agree more. Being weak is not a good thing. And it’s something you should strive against. Strength training will empower you do things you previously thought you’d be unable to do.

The best example I have of this is with one of my clients, Nancy. Nancy is 65 and when she came to me she was unable to get off the floor without help. So that was one thing the we worked on, a lot.

I had her doing things like trap bar deadlifts, goblet squats, split squats, push ups, rows, and the like. And as we were training together, her daughter and son-in-law had their first child, a little girl. So now, Nancy had extra motivation because she wanted to be able to get on the floor and play with her new grand baby without a fear of not being able to get back up.

And you know what? She accomplished that goal. And I can attest to the pure joy it brought her as she was able to not only do something she hadn’t been able to do for a while, but also enjoy the new ability of rolling around on the floor with her granddaughter.

So please, do not be afraid of strength training. Do not be afraid of gaining muscle. Not only can it add more years to your life (as shown above) but it will also add more life to your years. And in my opinion, that’s more important than anything else.

References:

1. Peterson, Mark D., and Chandramouli Krishnan. “Growth Charts For Muscular Strength Capacity With Quantile Regression.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 49.6 (2015): 935-938. Web. 5 Dec. 2017.

2. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/older-adults-build-muscle-and-271651

3. Srikanthan, Preethi, and Arun S. Karlamangla. “Relative Muscle Mass Is Inversely Associated With Insulin Resistance And Prediabetes. Findings From The Third National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96.9 (2011): 2898-2903. Web. 5 Dec. 2017.

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