We are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of strength training for women. However, a few myths still persist which give women concerns about commencing a resistance training program. Here I outline these myths and counter them with the evidence-based truth to give you the confidence to go out there and lift something heavy!
#1 – Lifting weights will make you ‘bulky’
Some women are concerned that lifting weights will result in increased muscle bulk. Now, although muscle growth and super low bodyfat is the goal for many women, especially bodybuilders, there are a lot of women who avoid strength training to prevent this ‘look’.
Resistance training is vital for strengthening muscles, however, muscle growth relies on a combination of a targeted diet and hormones. Generally, women produce less testosterone than men, a hormone closely linked to increased muscle size. For most women, testosterone levels aren’t high enough to produce the muscle ‘bulking’ that we would associate with bodybuilding physiques.
The truth is that strength training is a great way to get stronger (obviously), protect bone health, reduce body fat, improve biomechanics and increase self-esteem. Unless you stick to a rigorous targeted diet and a strict bodybuilding-style program, you are unlikely to get ‘bulky’ from strength training.
#2 – Spot Reduction
When demonstrating resistance exercises, I often get asked questions relating to spot reduction. For example… “will these tricep dips get rid of my tuck shop lady arms?”. Spot reduction theory posits that exercising particular muscle groups will reduce body fat in the surrounding areas. This is a myth which persists in the general public and is perpetuated by informercials and deceptive fitness professionals.
The truth is your body will use fat as an energy source when exercising, however, fat is lost generally from the entire body. So, if your goal is to reduce body fat in a particular area of your body, you have to focus on general fat loss. Combining strength training, high-intensity interval training and a balanced diet is the best way to achieve this.
#3 – Cardio is better for fat loss
If you walk into a big commercial gym and compare the ratio of men and women on the cardio equipment to the weights room, what will you find? Chances are there’ll be a lot more women on the cardio equipment and a lot more men lifting weights. Why? Partly due to the myth that women who want to reduce body fat believe that steady-state cardio is the most effective way to achieve their goals. The fact that we use a higher percentage of fat as an energy source at low-moderate intensity exercise tends to confuse the bigger picture.
The bigger picture is that through high-intensity interval training and strength training, you raise your metabolism for a longer period after your workout. Increasing your basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy burned at rest) should be the goal. So if you want to reduce body fat… start lifting weights!
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