When I started weight training in the late 1970’s there were all these stories I heard about women lifting weights. The sad thing is a lot of women still believe these myths today. I wonder who started these myths. Were they created to keep women from getting strong? Keep us out of the gym, and in the home? Well we may never know the origins of the myths but let me put them to rest for once and all.
Myth Number 1: Women will get big and bulky if they lift weights.
If you are strength training, you might gain muscle, but you need to eat healthy to look firm, toned, and have more muscle definition. Women do not have enough testosterone to naturally increase their muscle size to that seen in some magazines. Even most men who have 10-30 times more testosterone than women have a hard time increasing their muscle mass. With a proper strength training program women will get stronger, leaner and fitter, but not bigger or bulkier. The women you have seen in bodybuilding competitions, live in the gym training up to twice a day, and also most have supplemented with testosterone to increase their size. A woman will not look like a man as a result of lifting weights, period!
Myth Number 2: Women should be careful lifting too heavy.
How many times have I heard someone suggest to get the box for me because it’s too heavy for a women! Or are we too fragile and will get hurt if we lift something heavy? If you are new to lifting then you start off easy and slowly work yourself up to lifting heavier and heavier. If you slowly progress as with any other sport, you can build up strength and not get hurt. It’s absolutely absurd that women can’t lift heavy, we just need progression. Just recently a women (Stefanie Cohen) deadlifted 507lbs for 3 reps and she was only 125lbs. Now that is strong!
Myth Number 3: Women will get all the benefits they need from just doing aerobics classes or cardio machines.
Seriously! This was always the message for years. Unfortunately, many women still believe this ludicrous statement. Your body only adapts to the forces imposed upon it, in others words you will build up your heart muscle, but do nothing for your lean muscle mass. Nothing for increasing your metabolism in the long run. Nothing for adapting to different movement patterns. Nothing for your strength to lift kids, groceries or suitcases. Cardio use to be king, but now strength training is king, and cardio is queen. Now with properly developed strength training programs you can get the metabolic effects, the muscular strength and endurance, and if it’s designed correctly improve your mobility. Research has shown that total body resistance training enhances your total fitness profile by increasing strength in upper and lower body muscles and improving muscle performance, thereby increasing cardiovascular capacity way more than aerobics classes alone can do.
Myth Number 4: Women should do the exact same program as men.
Women have different builds than men, and men have a different distribution of lean body mass than women. Men have stronger upper bodies and leaner lower bodies, women have less musculature in their upper bodies and carry more body fat in our hips and stomach. Therefore, women do need different programs, and we have different goals than men. We don’t need to isolate our biceps or do bench press forever. But that doesn’t mean we need to lift lighter, easier weights. Women need a program designed specifically for them, taking into account their goals and needs, past injuries and limitations, and body composition (nutritional) challenges.
I have spent the last almost 40 years fighting against these myths, constantly educating women, and quietly demonstrating the benefits of lifting weights and lifting heavy! I have educated my students in college classes about these myths, hopefully empowering younger women to pursue strength training and any sport she desires. I have lectured to my older clients about the benefits of balance and strength training. I even lament to my mother in law about being strong and functional for all her upcoming trips. My motto has always been and will always be: be strong physically and you will be strong mentally. This is what has helped me throughout my life, #liftheavyweights #strongisthenewbeautiful
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