When it comes to women and weight training, there seem to be more myths than truths floating around out there in cyber-space. Women aren’t supposed to lift heavy weights, women will get bulky if they lift, etc. Below, we will discuss some of the most popular women’s weight training myths, frequently asked questions and benefits.
Myth: Strength Training Makes Women Bulky
This is the number one weight training myth that just will not die. Most women are afraid to lift heavy weights because they don’t want to walk around looking like bodybuilders.
The truth is, there ARE female bodybuilders who have massive muscles that are a result of strength training. They are also known to take steroids and other supplements to force their bodies to pack on pounds of muscle.
When a woman lifts heavy weights, she does indeed gain muscle mass. However, because muscle takes up much less space than fat, she will actually appear smaller and leaner the more muscle she has. Muscle also burns more calories when the body is at rest than fat does. So, by adding more muscle to your frame, you are turning your body into a 24 hour fat-burning machine.
Michael Wood, director of the Sports Performance Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts states that it is physiologically impossible for a woman to make the same massive muscle gains that a man can.
Men produce a sex hormone called testosterone, which is responsible for their ability to pack on pounds of muscle. Women also produce testosterone, but in a much smaller amount. Therefore, women can tone and firm their muscles, but they will not naturally increase in size enough to make you look bulky.
Question: Should Women and Men Train the Same Way?
Although there are many similarities between strength training regimes for men and women, there are also a few differences. Because females generally have less muscle mass than men, they are more susceptible to ‘de-conditioning’. This means that when a woman stops strength training, the strength that she has gained from lifting weights will quickly deplete.
As far as actual exercises go, women and men can perform the same ones, taking into account that women may not be able to perform as many reps of certain moves.
Women generally have weaker upper body strength than a man, which can limit how many reps of upper body exercises they can perform.
Even though a female may be able to curl as much weight as her male counterpart, her muscles will fatigue quickly and more easily.
Fact: Women can Reap Many Benefits from Strength Training
It is common knowledge that you can burn fat by strength training, but this is only one of the many benefits that lifting weights has to offer.
Several lesser known benefits are:
Reduce your risk of osteoporosis: Studies have shown that by incorporating weight lifting into your exercise routine, you can increase bone mineral density by roughly 13% in only 6 months. This may not seem like much, but it goes a long way in protecting yourself against the debilitating effects of osteoporosis.
Reduce your risk of heart disease: Dr. Barry A. Franklin, of William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, states that strength training can lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood pressure, both of which work to protect you against heart disease. If you add in 30 minutes of cardio per day, you create a powerful combination that keeps the heart strong and healthy.
Reduce the risk of diabetes: Dr. Franklin has also stated that strength training can improve the way the body processes sugar. By lifting weights on a consistent basis, you can improve your body’s glucose utilization by up to 23% in only 4 months.
Fight Depression: A 10-week study conducted at Harvard University found that women who had been diagnosed with clinical depression benefited more from lifting weights than going to therapy. Many women reported feeling more confident as their strength levels improved, which is important in the battle against depression.
Question: Which Strength Training Moves and Exercises are the Most Beneficial for Weight Loss?
There are literally hundreds of weight training moves out there. With such a wide variety to choose from, how do you know which ones will give you the fat-blasting, muscle-toning results you want? Below are a few of the most intense moves that deliver quick results.
Weighted Squats: Squats are the master of all lower body exercises. Add in a set of hand weights, and you can blast stubborn fat and sculpt a shapely rear in no time. To perform a proper weighted squat, stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Let your arms hang down by your sides, with a weight in each hand. Keeping your back straight, slowly lower your body as if you are going to sit on a chair. Your knees should face forward and your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Hold this position for a second or two, and then slowly return to the starting position.
Weighted Crunches: If you are having trouble getting stubborn belly fat to budge, then this move is for you. To begin, lie on the floor, with your back flat, knees bent at a 90 degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a weight plate or heavy dumbbell to your chest. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off of the ground, crunching your ribs toward your pelvis. Hold this position for a second or two, the slowly lower your body back to the starting position.
Weighted Lunges: This move blasts fat from the lower body and helps to improve overall balance and stability. To begin, stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart, arms down by your sides. You should have a weight in each hand. Take a large step forward with your right leg, bending your knee so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. The knee of your left leg should be about an inch away from the floor. Hold this position for a second or two, and then return to the starting position by pushing off of your right heel. Repeat on the other leg.
Biceps Curls with Shoulder Presses: De-jiggle your arms with this power move. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms down by your sides. You should have a weight in each hand, and your palms should be facing forward. Keeping the upper portion of your arm in line with your body, slowly bend your elbows and bring the weights up to your chest. Hold this position for a second or two, and then slowly raise your arms straight above your head, rotating your hands so your palms face forward. Hold this position for just a second or two, and then slowly reverse the process until you are back to your starting position.
Myth: Body Fat Composition is the same for Both Men and Women
Despite popular belief, women generally will have a higher body fat composition than men. For a normal sized female, a body fat rating of 25% is quite normal, compared to only 15% for men. When comparing a man and woman of roughly the same age and fitness level, the female will require fewer calories per pound of body weight than the male.
Because of the female sex hormone, estrogen, women are more prone to storing excess fat than men, and weight will increase with age.
The late Robert Stark, M.D., former president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, states that exercise is the solution. By lifting weights, a woman can increase her metabolism and keep her body fat levels at a healthy percentage, even with her hormones working against her.
Myth: Cardio is Enough to Keep Fat Levels in Check
If you are looking to lose weight, which exercise is better- cardio or weights? Personal trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., C.P.T., says “It depends.” Donavanik explains that if you are simply battling your scale, then cardio is the way to go. However, if you want to not only lose weight, but also tone up, then you can’t beat strength training. Cardio is known for burning high amounts of calories, but it doesn’t really benefit your muscles in any way. Strength training adds definition, burns calories as you are lifting, and burns calories for hours after you are finished. For every 3 pounds of muscle you gain, your body automatically burns an extra 120 calories per day. If you are searching for a more long-term approach to weight loss, strength training is the winner.