Females increase their muscle size and strength through growth and development until around the age of 20. But, unless strength-building techniques are practiced beyond that age, ½ pound of muscle on average will be lost each year. After the age of fifty, that amount increases. If you fail to eat a balanced, nutritious PCOS diet and exercise your muscles regularly, the loss of muscle will be replaced by subcutaneous fat as well as fatty tissue infiltration of your organs and existing muscles.
Strength training means doing exercises that build muscle strength. You can lift free weights, use weight machines or do exercises that use your own body resistance, such as push-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups. Proper strength training makes muscles stronger by asking them to do more than usual. The body responds to this challenge by becoming stronger. Strength training must be pursued gradually and carefully but can be done at any age.
One of the many benefits of strength training is that it is good for your heart, which works as a pump for blood while muscles are the engine. The stronger the muscles, the more effectively and efficiently they draw oxygen from the blood and therefore reduce the demand on the heart and lungs. The cardio-pulmonary benefits from an aerobic exercise program come from the increased strength and endurance of the specific muscles used.
Strong muscles also increase insulin sensitivity, which allows better control of blood sugar and reduces the risk of developing Insulin Resistance. This latter condition causes an imbalance in blood sugar and insulin levels with several possible outcomes. On the one hand, the pancreas can become worn out and insulin production slows down to abnormally low levels, resulting in reversible Pre-Diabetes, which, if neglected, can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. This latter disorder can only be managed and may require daily injections of insulin for the rest of a person’s life.
On the other hand, the Insulin-Resistant patient may not develop Pre- and Type 2 Diabetes because the pancreas over-compensates and the person suffers from abnormally high levels of insulin in the blood, called hyperinsulinemia. This condition can cause obesity as well as high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides and LDL “bad” cholesterol, low HDL “good” cholesterol, heart disease and possibly some cancers.
How often you should train depends on your overall PCOS health and is different from person to person. Most people can make excellent progress lifting 2-4 days per week for only 20-40 minutes per workout. But always consult a doctor about your individual health status before beginning a strenuous new exercise regime.
There are many exercises to choose from. Try to select a good balance of exercises so that you are doing exercises for your upper body, lower body and abdominal muscles. Good basic upper body exercises include: bench press, pull-downs, pull-ups, triceps extensions, dips, and curls.
Good basic lower body exercises include: squats, lunges, calf raises, leg curls, leg extensions. Your abdomen can be strengthened by doing crunches (sit-ups).
You can use either free weights or weight machines. One is not better than the other. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
- Free weights: Free weights use dumbbells, barbells or your body weight for resistance (such as push-ups). Dumbbells are the weights that you hold in each hand. Barbells are the longer bars that can be used for exercises such as squats or bench press.
- Weight machines: There are many different types of machine exercises. The machine balances the weight load for you, which makes the exercise easier.
Rep is short for a repetition.
A rep means that you have completed the range of motion once for an exercise. For example, doing 1 pull-up would be 1 rep.
How you design your training program depends on your goal. If you want to become lean and lose body fat, you train differently than if you want to build your muscle size.
Strength training can help you lose weight because, after a workout, your body is using glucose and insulin at a faster rate for up to 24 hours. So you are still helping your body lose weight hours after your workout. One of the ways to lose weight is to use more energy than you create by eating. However, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not eating enough protein. You need to eat fewer calories that come from sugar or carbohydrates but make sure that you continue to eat enough protein, which helps you build lean muscle.
Women do not need to worry that lifting weights will make them gain weight and get bulky. Since muscle takes up much less space than fat does, women who lift weights will start to notice their clothes fit more loosely. Women are also less likely to gain muscle size compared to men who lift weights because women have much lower testosterone levels (nearly 20 times less) than men. Testosterone helps muscle growth.
There are many types of training programs. Ask a certified strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer to design a program that will work for you. Before starting any strength training program, you should also make sure to:
- Eat right: The time when your body is getting stronger is actually in between workouts, during the recovery period. If you train hard, but eat poorly, your body won’t respond to the workouts as well.
- Change the workout: Every so often, change the exercises in the workout, the rep ranges, the rest times, the exercise order or the number of sets. If you do the same workout week after week without altering some of the variables, your progress will stall.
- Posture is important: Do not sacrifice proper posture for the sake of lifting more weight. If necessary, use less weight and do the exercise correctly. Be careful toward the end of a set or workout when it is harder to have good posture and form. Exhale when you are lifting a weight, inhale when you are lowering a weight. Don’t hold your breath.
- Exercise your entire body: Many people under-train their legs and over-train their upper body. Be balanced in your training approach. Try to train opposing muscle equally (for example, train both biceps and triceps, quads and hamstrings, back and chest).
- Be realistic: Make sure you are realistic about your exercise program. It is better to design a program where you lift 2 days a week and always do your workouts than to plan to lift 4 days a week and have trouble finding time to complete your workout plan.
- Don’t over-do things: Over-training is when your body is not able to recuperate between workouts. You may be over-training if you are getting headaches or nausea or have a fast heart rate when you wake up. If you find yourself dreading going to the gym, feeling run down, or lacking a good night’s sleep, take a day or two off before training again.