Get a group of women – or men – together and talk about weight lifting. Someone is bound to blurt out:
- Weight lifting will make a woman big, bulky or musclebound.
- Weight lifting is dangerous for women, because they’re too weak to lift correctly.
- You’ll gain weight from lifting.
- What’s worse, is that women athletes – and sometimes their coaches! – worry that lifting will make them slow, or injury prone or inflexible.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Misinformed Athletes, Coaches, Trainers = Poor Results
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about weight lifting for women, much of it from people who ought to know better. To some, weight lifting is something left to male athletes.
Often, when women decide to try weight lifting, they approach it so gingerly they see minimal results and they’re reluctant to continue. Or they use a poorly designed program, resulting in excessive soreness and injuries.
Here’s a headline: Either of those scenarios would result in the same thing for male athletes.
What Won’t Happen When Women Strength Train
Most women who weight trains – even a very motivated woman – just won’t get big and muscled up. Men have higher levels of testosterone, which is why they “bulk up” when they lift. Women don’t have enough testosterone. Want to be a female body builder? You’ll need to spend hours working on specific body parts, change your nutritional habits, be blessed with the right genetics and, in many cases, have to use illegal steroids or hormones.
If you approach strength training correctly, with a program designed to incrementally challenge you and with adequate supervision and guidance, you also won’t get hurt. You’ll still be a little sore in the earliest lifting sessions, but that will pass quickly.
You won’t gain weight from strength training unless you eat more. Your weight depends on the amount of calories you consume and on the amount you expend. Muscle is an energy-hungry tissue and burns more calories.
Lifting also won’t make you slower, more injury prone, make you tight or less flexible. In fact, a good weight lifting program will do the opposite.
The Benefits Women who Strength Train See
- You will add muscle as you exercise. It’s the kind of muscle that replaces fat and makes you look more toned and fit. Want to lose an inch off your hips, waist and thighs? Get rid of “chub rub?” Weight train.
- Weight lifting can help you balance your body by toning muscle and reducing fat.
- If you run, weight training can make you faster and help stabilize your joints. That’s true regardless of the sport you’re involved in. A stronger body will perform at a higher level.
- A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found women who performed a strength training program – including exercises like the bench press and squat – showed significant improvement in their range of motion.
- Lifting weights also can produce stronger bones by increasing bone density.
- One more bonus from strength training, it increases blood circulation, and that can help reduce cellulite.
A Good Strength Training Program for Women
Any training will be more effective if you enjoy it. That means you’ll want to do a variety of exercises that “make sense” to you and that help you reach your goal. If you really hate to squat – or don’t know how to do squats – you’re going to find excuses to skip them, and then a workout, and then your strength training. So, look for lifts that you have fun doing.
Look for a program that works your entire body.
Use exercises that stress multiple joint involvement and have “side benefits” like improving balance.
Don’t ignore any lift simply because “it’s a guy thing,” or it’s too hard, or you are embarrassed that you don’t lift as much as the big guy in the middle of the room. If, for example, you don’t like doing the bench press, try a dumbbell press or substitute push ups instead. Remember, you need to balance your entire body and make all of you stronger, not just the parts that are easy.
You’ll need to go heavy at times, your muscles need to be challenged to grow.
If you chose to go with a trainer or personal coach, do your research and make sure he or she is used to work with female athletes. Make sure you’ll be treated like an athlete and not like a girl.
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