Should Women Lift Weights?

Many women dread the notion of packing on muscle and spoiling their feminine gracefulness. They prefer gentle curves over increased mass and bulking up is something many wish to avoid at all cost. Common gym folklore has advised women to stick to low weights and high repetitions, and leave the heavier stuff to the men. This has resulted in females visiting the gym and tending to stick to treadmills and the other more ‘ladylike’ exercises.

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There is quite a bit of misconception and myth to debunk…

incredible hulkFirst of all, women might not be built to pump iron in the same way that men do, but they are more than capable of rising up to the challenge. Secondly, the fears of bulking up are incredibly far-fetched, because gaining muscle is harder than most people imagine. Besides, women have a lower level of testosterone in their bodies, which makes forging tissue a daunting task.

Therefore, instead of transforming into the Incredible Hulk, you can expect a few clean, well-defined lines to emerge. Rest assured that no type of training has the power to alter genetic material. In other words, fat levels and muscle size can be influenced by physical activity, but the configuration of the muscles is a genetic lottery. Please don’t hesitate to break this news to those people who constantly brag about ‘tone and shape’.

Give weight to training

Weightlifting is associated with many other long-term benefits, such as the prevention of bone loss and a decreased risk of fractures. There is nothing keeping you from reaping these benefits, so grab some gym clothing, put some upbeat music on and visit the local gym. Lifting is demanding and may be difficult to get into, but feel free to ask a personal trainer for help. These professionals should be able to dispel any doubts, should you need any convincing, and it is their job after all!

If, however, they tell you to stick to cardio, they have been misguided. The problem with cardio is that you not only burn fat, but also muscle tissue as well. This means, even the ‘cardio queens’ witness little change in their physiques, due to lean tissue losses. The bottom line is this: cardio prevents you from gaining weight, but you will reach a point where you will be unable to lose any more from cardio alone. Lifting weights, on the other hand is a highly-efficient calorie burner.

cheeseburgerThis is not only related to the time you spend breaking a sweat; women engaged in strength training programs tend to burn a considerable amount of calories in the 24 hours after the workout. Still, the single most important aspect of any fat loss program is nutrition, not training. For example, to neutralize the negative effect of a cheeseburger, you would have to spend nearly 45 minutes on a rower. Is it really worth it?

Body and mind

Finally, bear in mind that weight training effects can be broken down into two basic categories:

  1. Neural
  2. Metabolic.

 

The first one refers to the strengthened connections between the brain and the muscles, and it allows more powerful and faster contracting. While the messages travel from the mind to body more efficiently, this does not result in more mass. As for the metabolic component, it is constituted by a wide range of mechanics and brings forth muscle size gains.

The key finding is that low-rep training targets the neural department, while high-rep exercises make an impact on metabolic processes. There are, of course, other factors like the number of sets, that need to be taken into account. Hence, smart training and its complexity actually allow women to become both strong and lean. Aim to compliment weightlifting workouts with whole-body exercises and the results you see in the gym mirrors will be nothing short of an impressive spectacle.

Beauty, not the beast

Despite widespread fears, weightlifting women do not transform into ripped, grunting gym beasts. It is high time to put the myths and misconceptions to bed and let solid facts take their place. No amount of weight can make you bigger… unless you swallow tons of calories. On the contrary, lifting helps you melt the pounds off, boost bone density, and achieve dazzling looks. So, whether you want to fit better in your clothes or achieve better overall health, weightlifting is a practice to behold and treasure.

 


Sam OlivierSamantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition and has spent two years working as a personal trainer.

Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere.

When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter, or in a tea shop.

She blogs at Ripped.me.

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