Strong Women: the importance of strength training for holistic health

This year on the blog I have been writing quite a bit about change. Results from the annual PWK reader survey 2013 showed that 22% of readers wanted to change their exercise habits in 2014. Changing exercise habits is a goal we often hear ourselves and others make at the start of the year.

As we head into spring and we have well and truly passed the half way mark, I thought it would be timely to focus on exercise. I love to exercise. I am currently training for my third marathon and hit 4-5 CrossFit sessions a week.

But I am not an expert and nor is my story with exercise new to you. For the series on exercise I have called upon experts to share information and for others to share their stories. The series is aimed to help those who wanted to make a change to get going and make solid change before the year is out. (You can see other posts in the series here.)

This guest post is from Lizzy Marsh of Workshop 3101. I asked Lizzy if she would write a post on the importance of strength training for women and she kindly agreed. I have engaged Lizzy privately as a nutritionist and found her advice on nutrition and the tips she gave me on my training program fantastic.

Up until I injured myself running, I really did very minimal strength training. My injury led me to CrossFit and while I still have a long way to go with technique on many of the barbell movements, it also led for the first time an enjoyment of strength training.

It is from this strength training too that I have received all of the benefits below Lizzy writes about. My core has never been stronger (which has helped my running) and I consider myself to be strong. This has a huge impact on my confidence.

If you have thought like I did, strength training is not for you, I would encourage you to think again – it has been one of the best things I have done for myself over the last few years.


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The quote “strong is the new skinny” has definitely gained popularity over the past couple of years, as more and more women discover the benefits of lifting weights and venture into gyms, CrossFit boxes, personal training studios and resistance-based group fitness classes. But is it really what you should be doing and what’s the best way to get started safely and effectively?

Unfortunately, many women have only explored the “cardio” section of the gym and haven’t experienced the benefits of lifting weights. This can be an intimidating transition, but is a very important one that will bring a range of benefits including hormonal balance, improvements in body composition, mobility, quality of life, confidence and overall health.

Hormonal benefits

One reason that many women avoid the weights room is due to the common misconception that “weights make you bulky”, but this is in fact extremely hard to achieve naturally, as women have 10-30 time less testosterone than men – a hormonal precursor for muscle growth. For women, human growth hormone (HGH) is a slimming and muscle building hormone that extremely important for recovery, repair and maintaining a lean and healthy body. There are three ways to reliably restore HGH in the body; sleep, adequate protein intake and resistance training. For post-menopausal women, strength training has been shown to improve total body composition through a significant increase in lean tissue and reductions in body fat.

Strength training is one of the best methods of reducing inflammation and stress in the body, due to its impact on the stress and fat-storing hormone cortisol. Compared to cardio training like power walking or running, weight training promotes a more anabolic hormonal shift, assisting in muscle and tissue growth, repair and recovery. Although walking and low intensity exercise is a daily necessity, strength training will provide the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to hormonal health, maintenance of lean muscle as you age and decreasing stress and inflammation.

Bone Density

According to a study by Nelson et. al in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “high-intensity strength training exercises are an effective and feasible means to preserve bone density while improving muscle mass, strength, and balance.” This study investigated weight training as a therapeutic treatment for post-menopausal women. Furthermore, multiple studies have concluded that strength training builds bone for all women compared to a loss in bone density over time for those who are not training with resistance.

Look Good Naked!

Strength training is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve body composition and shape. Lifting weights regularly and safely (in combination with a clean and nourishing diet) will increase lean muscle mass and promote fat loss in women of all ages and fitness levels. For many, a big chunk of time each day is spent sitting at a desk or in the car and this can slowly pull the head and shoulders forward, which can impact how we breathe, look and feel. Not only will body composition change, but training programs can be designed to improve posture, breathing technique and overall muscular balance.

Mobility and Functional Movement

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High intensity weight training classes are often based on full-body, functional exercises and incorporate the movement patterns of our ancestors, such as actions like squatting, pressing, pulling, jumping, throwing, hanging, swinging and carrying. Not only will these types of exercises promote strength, mobility and coordination, proficiency in the gym can be applied to everyday life and reduce injury risk when embarking on activities like moving house, learning to surf or playing with the kids.

Have Fun and Feel Good

Above all, women that incorporate strength training into their weekly routine will discover a sense of confidence, empowerment and wellbeing. The best news – strength training is fun! Whether you join your local CrossFit box, hit the gym with a group of friends or find a high quality personal trainer, joining a community of like-minded individuals and will accelerate results.

How to Get Started

The most important thing to look for when you’re starting a new training program is a high quality, qualified and holistic fitness professional. It’s no surprise that if you’re wanting to get leaner for summer or improve overall health, it’s important to work with someone that will also address lifestyle factors like nutrition, stress, sleep, hydration and posture as these can have a huge impact on your goals. With some comprehensive programs like CrossFit, it’s important to make sure that you learn proper movement technique and that you start out with a comprehensive onboarding program to increase workout intensity and movement complexity gradually and safely, while getting to know your new training community!



John and Lizzy Marsh are a brother-sister duo based in Melbourne, Australia, and have just opened a new strength, conditioning and wellness training space in Kew. Workshop 3101 offers small group personal training, individual assessments and CrossFit classes. Nutrition partner Primal Junction also provides holistic nutritional coaching to support training goals.

Want to try CrossFit or learn a little more? Workshop 3101 offers a 12-session CrossFit on-ramp for just $100, designed to introduce you to the key movement patterns safely and effectively. Let’s get fitter, stronger, happier and healthier together!

Workshop 3101
0413 949 535
7/3 Wellington Street, Kew.


Do you undertake strength training? I would love to hear if you have added this to your exercise routine.