Strength Training for Women: Let’s Bust Some Myths
There are myriad misconceptions about women lifting weights. Most, in fact, stay away from strength training and prefer aerobic exercises instead. But, you should not let what are plain myths hold you back on your fitness journey. Let’s bust some common myths associated with the concept of strength training for women and present some hard facts.
Myth #1: Weightlifting will make you look bulky
This is a common myth that holds women back from lifting weights. Firstly, what constitutes “bulking up” is highly subjective. That said, you need to put in a significant and focused effort to put on a substantial amount of muscle mass, regardless of gender or genetics.
For example, during a mass-building phase, competitive bodybuilders will typically focus on training just one to two body parts per day, lift very heavy weights for low repetitions, eat lots of calories and protein, and largely shun any type of cardiovascular exercise. In practical terms, this is hardly a routine most people can follow.
Fact: The primary hormone responsible for muscle growth is testosterone, a naturally occurring steroid. Men produce 10 to 20 times more testosterone than women because on average, they have a more muscular build. So, unless a woman follows a training program designed for a bodybuilder, it is highly unlikely that they will “bulk up” by following a strength training routine.
Women — thanks to increased metabolism — tend to lose fat, get leaner, develop muscle tone, and look more defined when they do strength training.
Myth #2: Lifting is not for older women
Older women tend not to be excited when it comes to lifting. Reduced bone density and joint aches and pains are very common during old age.
Fact: Engaging in strength training twice a week will help women increase bone density, muscle mass, strength, balance, and range of motion.
Myth #3: I should just do cardio to lose weight
Many women forego weight training altogether and choose to do only cardio in a bid to lose fat.
Fact: While cardio should be included in your exercise regime, it should not be at the expense of weight training. It directly affects muscle and bone structure, increases resting metabolic rate (calories burnt at rest) and muscle mass, and decreases body fat percentage. A combination of cardio and strength training improves overall fitness.
In fact, after your exercise session, your body does not suddenly return to its normal state. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), also known as the afterburn effect, is the body’s way of cooling down gradually and reaching a state of homeostasis. Your body utilizes oxygen during exercise to produce energy and does it even more post-exercise to return to the pre-workout level. It results in the afterburn effect and you end up burning calories even after you are done with your workout.
Strength training helps induce a higher magnitude of EPOC as there is a greater disturbance to the body’s homeostasis from strength training than cardiovascular activity.
Myth #4: Light weights are sufficient
If they lift weights at all, most women prefer to stick to light ones as they fear bulking up.
Fact: Yes, you use light weights when you begin and understand movement patterns. But eventually, you should move on to heavier weights as you progress to avoid training plateaus.
Myth #5: Strength training can only be done at the gym
It’s a popular belief that strength training can only be done with the aid of heavy equipment at the gym.
Fact: Strength training can be done everywhere. If you have no equipment, try bodyweight squats, push-ups, swimmer, and floor tricep dips. They all build strength. You can also buy resistance bands, kettlebells, or TRX bands to use at home for more various exercises.
In fitness as in all other spheres of life, it’s essential that we make well-informed choices rather than running with popular beliefs. It’s a good idea to complement your endurance training with strength training for better-defined curves and a toned body. Go ahead, lift those weights!