I first wrote on this topic over 12 years ago. I have been training in the typical gym environment since the 1980’s and working one on one with clients in Calvert County since the early 2000’s. Up to that time, the weight training floor was dominated by male trainees while the majority of female exercise enthusiasts were found in the larger group training classes. The focus in these classes was more cardio based (aerobics) exercises. Since that time, a lot of these classes have evolved and now incorporate some light to medium resistance in them using dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands/tubing with handles and barbells. The incorporating of strength training partnered with the cardio work has been a very positive change for female exercisers. It has gotten more and more females interested in learning about the benefits of strength training and making it a part of their exercise routines.
After being part of an 8 week special program we recently completed at my training center that involved approximately 30 female clients, I felt the need to bring this information to the Current readers again. It was an awesome accountability challenge for these ladies that were looking to make significant changes in their body composition. They each received important nutritional information and guidance, but new for most was the addition of weight training at least two times a week. The changes these ladies experienced was phenomenal and every one of them confirmed that adding weight training to their routines was the missing link in past efforts on their own. Prior to this program, each had a preconceived fear about strength training. These were based on the many myths about women and weight training. Those fears have since changed into a love for pumping some iron.
There are many reasons why women still today believe that they should not be pushing or pulling heavier weights when training. A simple internet search on the myths that exist for why women should not be strength training will reveal a couple to 10 or more false reasons. The popular ones range from “lifting weights will make me bulky like a man” to “muscle turns into fat when you stop lifting”. To start, big bulky muscles come from heavy lifting and a good supply of the hormone testosterone. Women do not have the levels of this hormone naturally present in their bodies to build thick and bulky muscles. There are many medical factors that could increase production levels of testosterone in a woman. In my 30 plus years of training, I have encountered only a handful of female clients that have displayed this capability to build muscle. With that, it becomes your training regimen that will determine bulk or long and lean in women’s muscles. As for muscle turning into fat, that is just not physiologically possible. However, what will happen, is muscle will atrophy (lose size and strength) from the lack of use. I am sure you have heard the old saying “use it or lose it”, right?
It is so important to have and incorporate a strength training program into your exercise routine. The physical and mental benefits are vital to your overall health. There are two big physical disorders that strength training will help immensely with and those are Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis. The first issue occurs due to bone mineral loss and effects more women than men. The problem is that most folks do not even know they are affected until a bone fracture occurs. This disorder is age related and lifting weights will go a long way in fighting it. There is a positive response to bone density as muscle tension is applied. The positive effects are a slowing of bone loss and an increase in bone density. The second disorder is also known as degenerative joint disease and is the most common type of arthritis. The pain and discomfort is felt most commonly in the joints of the knees, hips and fingers. What occurs is that the cartilage in these joints becomes stiff and less elastic. The ability to absorb shock is lost and the actual bone on bone rubbing can and will take place. Resistance training will strengthen muscles surrounding the joints and can help reduce the stress on that joint.
Lifting weights will make muscles firmer and stronger. This is instant feedback as you watch the changes take place. When you increase muscle tone you also elevate your metabolism. This will help you burn more calories, even at rest. Remember that muscle is more dense than fat, so watch the change in inches before you watch the weight on the scale change. The benefits of resistance training far outweigh those of not lifting weights. When you design your training program, it would not hurt to have a Certified Fitness Trainer review it.
So, now that the myth(s) have been put to rest, let’s see that number of women in the weight room continue to grow. I wish you awesome health and fitness. Bob.