Women’s Fitness spoke to Megan Davies, Beachbody On Demand Super Trainer and Creator of training programme, Clean Week to find out more about the benefits of strength training.

Strength training is an essential part of overall health and fitness because the stronger we are, the more efficient we become when performing everyday tasks. Building muscle also allows us to be in better control of our body mechanics, which in turn can reduce the risk of injury. If you are looking to transform your body, strength training will help to give you the defined and tone physique you are looking for. Megan Davies reveals how to get the most out of your strength routine.

Is it more important for older women to strength train as we age?

It is just as important for men and women of all ages to incorporate strength training. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue which means that the more muscle mass we have, the more calories our body will burn on average. From a functional perspective, the stronger we are the more efficient we become at taking on tasks such as keeping up with our kids or moving things around the house. As we age we undergo Sarcopenia which is the deterioration of muscle due to age. This means that strength training becomes even more crucial to maintaining muscle mass so you can continue to live an active lifestyle.

For women who have been doing strength work at home during lockdown, but who feel that their progress has been limited, what is the best way for them to make progress with their strength work when they get back to the gym?

If you have hit a plateau with your strength workouts at home then there are a few factors you can look at to determine which path you should take when getting back into the gym. Sometimes upping the weight is not the answer. Try new variations of exercises in order to stress the body in a new way and create adaptation. Assess your current nutrition plan to make sure that it is in line with your goals and that you have been consistently following the plan. Sometimes hitting a plateau means going back to the basics so you can lift heavier and engage those bigger muscle fibres that hypertrophy.

What advice do you have for anyone getting back into lifting weights again?

Whether you are getting back into strength training or this is your first time, start slowly by learning the basic exercises with good form. These basic functional exercises are building blocks to progressing. Once you become good at the basics, try some exercise progressions as well as different rep schemes that allow you to lift heavier with proper recovery. The key is to have a plan or find a program that progresses you properly in order to avoid the chance of injury while providing the results you are seeking.

How often in your view should a woman change their strength routine and why?

If you have a solid weekly training program, look to change it up every month by adding in new movements and changing the intensity of your workouts. This might mean that one month you’re focused on muscular endurance and stability, the next you are focused on how much volume of work you are doing, and the next you are focused explosive movements.

How important is it to bring in new strength exercises or is it more important to increase the weight, add an extra set to make it harder, etc, rather than always looking for new exercises?

Progression is the key to results, so if you have been performing the same movements day in and day out then you should change up the exercises. Now, if you have been alternating your exercise selection you can start to add more weight or another set to increase the volume which will help build those muscles.

Does a woman need to lift heavy weights to get good muscle tone or can they get sculpted by doing lighter weights on a regular basis?

Men and women can get results from both high rep, low resistance workouts as well as low rep, high resistance workouts. The idea is to use periodisation (where you divide your training plan into a series of manageable phases called mesocycles) so that you alternate between high volume workouts and low volume workouts for maximum benefits. When you lift moderate weight for higher reps until failure you can get good results. Heavy weight training allows you to tap into your bigger muscle fibres which have a greater potential for growth. If you are looking to get more tone, what you are really trying to do is build muscle and burn body fat which work together to create definition. That means a healthy combination of strength training, cardiovascular training, and nutrition is important to see those results.

Megan Davies

Fitness expert Megan Davies