New Australian research has found that if women want to gain strength through weight training, the most effective way to do it is simply to work out on a regular basis.
Led by the University of New South Wales along with researchers from Western Sydney University and The University of Sydney, the new study is one of the first to investigate how the female body responds to resistance training after lead author Dr. Amanda Hagstrom noticed that most research included only men.
Dr. Hagstrom and her team analyzed 24 different resistance training studies involving almost 1000 women aged 18 to 50 who had varying levels of fitness.
The findings, published online in Sports Medicine, showed that across all of the studies included in the analysis, the biggest improvements in strength were linked to the frequency of exercise (days per week), followed by the number of repetitions and sets completed during the workout.
Surprisingly, what exercise the women chose to do, the variety of exercises in each workout, whether they lifted until exhaustion, and even the heaviness of the weights did not seem to have much of an impact on the women's overall strength or muscle mass growth.
The researchers also found that the women developed an average of 1.5 kg of muscle mass and increased their muscular strength by 25 percent by participating in the programs, which they say showed that that resistance training can bring significant health benefits to women.
"Consistency is key," says Dr. Hagstrom, who advises women to simply make exercise a habit if they want to build muscle mass.
"Go to the gym and go consistently. It doesn't necessarily matter what you do when you're in the gym, just that you're there and exercise with effort."
"Our meta-analysis didn't yield any specific guidelines for the number of exercises or repetitions to do, so the key message for women is to try to accrue adequate overall exercise volume and train as frequently as possible."