Coach Spotlight: Krystle Theseira
Krystle joined us as a coach earlier this year, moving back into the world of strength and conditioning after spending a couple of years as a designer. The ex-powerlifter now works with female clients, changing their mindsets about working with barbells and the like, and uses resistance training as a medium to helps others feel empowered, strong and confident. We caught up with Krystle and were blown away by her passion towards helping women get stronger.
When did you start lifting weights?
I started lifting weights some time in 2016, after being relatively inactive during my polytechnic years, I wanted to start working out and getting healthier. I discovered Crossfit and decided to try it out – that was my first official introduction into the strength training and weight lifting world. After around a year of 7am workouts, 5 days a week (totally of my own will haha), I realised I only enjoyed the strength workouts; pushing to lift heavier and get better at each movement was what drove me to wake up at 5.30 every morning.
A powerlifting coach reached out to me around this time and said I had some potential for it, and asked if I’d be keen to try it out. So I did! I then switched over to powerlifting and competed in the Singapore Powerlifting Open in 2017. I loved lifting heavy, but most of all I loved feeling stronger by the day, and I loved looking better too! Lifting empowered me to feel confident in my body – not just in how it looked, but in what it could do – which was not something I’d experienced before it.
That’s essentially how I started lifting weights; although my goals and training style has changed quite a lot since then!
What are the benefits of lifting weights for women?
First and foremost, lifting weights benefits you aesthetically! Starting on a strength and resistance training program is guaranteed to increase your lean muscle mass. Most women that I work with start out with the goal of wanting to “tone up”, which essentially means that they want to lose body fat while gaining lean muscle at the same time; and lifting weights is a surefire way to achieve that.
Beyond its benefits to body composition, resistance training has also shown benefits to heart, bone, and mental health. A study by Iowa State University found that just under an hour of lifting weights each week reduces the risk of a heart attack or a stroke by 40 to 70 percent! In addition, resistance training has also been proven to improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Lifting weights also promotes the release of endorphins in the body; boosting your mood and energy levels. A 2018 study by JAMA Psychiatry found that participants with mild to moderate depression who lifted weights at least twice a week noted a significant reduction in symptoms. This goes hand-in-hand with the feeling of empowerment most women feel when they lift weights and feel themselves get stronger each week!
Did you get bulky lifting weights as a woman?
Although my personal goals are to put on more muscle mass, it’s actually much harder than it seems, especially for women! Physically speaking, I was actually at my “smallest” while I was competing in powerlifting; deadlifting over 120kg and bench pressing over 55kg. I personally want to have an above-average muscle mass, although I am aware that this is not the consensus among most women; but it really is harder than it looks!
Here’s why: The average man has around twenty times as much testosterone (the hormone primarily responsible for muscle gain) than the average woman, so biologically speaking, women naturally gain muscle at a much slower pace than men do – making it realistically very difficult to achieve that “masculine” and “bulky” look. If anything, a strength and resistance training program paired with a well-balanced diet will help you achieve a leaner appearance as well as a stronger body and mindset.
Is resistance training effective at burning fat for women?
A strength and resistance training program paired with a well-rounded, nutritional diet is absolutely effective at achieving fat loss. Gone are the days of endless hours of cardio and shying away from the weights section of the gym!
The reason for this is, the amount of muscle mass you have largely determines your resting metabolic rate (BMR), which refers to the amount of calories you burn on a daily basis from just living and breathing – your basic bodily functions. In simpler terms, it means that having more muscle mass increases your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories throughout the day.
In addition to this, it has been shown that an hour of lifting weights actually burns more calories than one hour of cardio. A study by the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Metabolism found that after 100-minutes of resistance training, young women’s (aged 22-35) basic metabolic rate increased by 4.2 percent for 16 hours after their workout ended; burning an average of 60 more calories as compared to a 100 minute cardio session.
However, to touch on the topic of mental health and overall wellness; I believe in a well-rounded approach to fitness, thus it is important to note that body fat is not our enemy; in fact, having a healthy body fat percentage of at least 14% is important for the average woman, as a healthy amount of body fat is required in our bodies’ basic functions such as hormone production, fertility, cell structure, and body temperature regulation.
So while it is valid and totally normal to fixate on and chase our aesthetic goals, we should be mindful to adopt a healthier and realistic mindset when it comes to our bodies, and the topic of body fat – so often we think our bodies are working against us and thus choose to adopt unhealthy perceptions of ourselves; when our bodies are fantastic, amazing things that work so hard to keep us alive, that at the end of the day our physical appearances are only a minor part of our survival, so in that same vein, they should not be what entirely defines who we are.
Is training with light weights better than heavy weights for a woman?
Honestly it depends on the goal! If you’re training for maximal strength such as for powerlifting or weightlifting, then naturally you would need to train with heavier weights at a lower rep range. If you were training for hypertrophy (building muscle), you would want your sets to be in the range of about 8-12 reps; which means that you’d definitely need to use weights that are lighter than your one rep max.
The way to consistently build muscle is progressive overload; which essentially means to gradually increase the weight, frequency or amount or reps for each movement. Thus, you may start with “light” weights at the very beginning, but it is important to keep improving in order to avoid a plateau in progress, and go heavier or for more sets and reps each session.
In terms of the specific benefits of lifting heavy for women, as mentioned earlier, an hour of lifting weights actually burns more calories across the day compared to an hour of cardio. This effect is amplified when you lift heavier weights, as shown in a study by the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The study found that women who lifted heavier weight for fewer reps (8 reps at 85% of their one rep max) burned almost two times more calories in the two hours following their workout, compared to when they lifted lighter weights with more reps (>15 reps at 45% of their one rep max).
Krystle takes on personal training clients at our Robinson Road branch, and works with them to actualise realistic goals in the way they approach life both inside and outside the gym. Book a session with her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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