Don't believe the myth about strength training

I would like to start off by saying congratulations to everyone that participated in the Jingle Bell Jog yesterday and a big "thank you" to the Phoebe Foundation for putting on such a great event. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we had a blast even though it was close to freezing.

This week I received a few e-mails pertaining to women and weight training. The questions ranged from "What exercises would be most beneficial for me?" to "If I start working out with weights, will I get bigger?" The old rumor still lurks today that if a female trains hard with weights, she will get big burly muscles like that of a man. Maybe this is why we still see all the women on the treadmills and steppers watching an episode of "The Doctors" while men predominantly reside in the weight room.

The truth is that women need strength training just as much, if not more than, the guys. There are many huge benefits to applying external load to the muscles and bones that the elliptical can just not provide. Strength training for women is a great way to lose weight, tone up and get fit.

Many women are hesitant to start a training program in fear that they may end up looking like a male bodybuilder with huge muscles and oversized shoulders and legs. A female does not have the chemical make-up or the ability to produce the large amounts of testosterone needed to build those large muscles. This could only happen if the woman in question chooses to use an illegal substance such as steroids. On the other hand, a woman who is an avid trainer and on a healthy diet plan will simply develop a well sculpted body that looks and feels great!

You see ladies, muscle is a living thing that requires nutritional intake and calories to survive. Therefore, creating new muscle will actually raise your body's resting metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories with no extra work. Increased metabolic rate and bone density, a decreased risk of coronary disease and injury prevention are just a few of the benefits seen in women on a vigorous training program. Aside from all the physical benefits, strength training can make a woman more confident, feel better about herself and look great in the process! Strength training has been proven in every study to burn more body fat than just cardio alone. With this being said, although your daily walk/run around the neighborhood is still a benefit, it is not going to get you the results that you long for.

As for as what types of exercise would benefit you more, that is another column within itself. If you follow these fitness columns at all, I am sure that you know by now that I am a huge fan of total body movements and "muscle confusion." Total body movements, such as a squat to a shoulder press, will recruit far more muscle fiber than other famous isolated movements therefore burning more calories and allowing you to work more efficiently. A constantly varied workout routine will benefit you more than the same old routine each day of the week. You must never let your body know what to expect from the workout. Our bodies are fascinating in the fact that they will naturally find the most efficient way to complete task, expending the least amount of energy possible. This is why we plateau after only a few short months of training.

Thank you again for your shown interest in these columns, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. In upcoming columns we will dive more into this whole "constantly varied" thing and really see why it is far more beneficial. Have a great week Albany and as always, thanks for reading The Herald!

E-mail fitness columnist Kris Morrill, certified personal trainer and owner of World Camp Fitness in Albany, at kris@worldcampfitnesstraining.com.