There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to women and resistance training. We’ve heard it all before… Women should only lift small weights because they’ll get bigger. All women need to do for legs is cardio. To tone and burn fat around the mid-section, women need to buy this ab machine. And, so much more! The information out there has been frustrating me for years. Every time I handed a woman a weight higher then 20lbs I get this “are you crazy” stare right back at me. It’s usually followed by, “Why are we lifting so heavy, I don’t want to get bulky.” Ay yi yi! The big question is, should women work out in any different way then men?
“Lifting heavy weights will make me bulky.”
This is the mother of all comments from women. I remember the days when I used to ride my bike around the block and see groups of mothers fast walking with dumbbells in their hands. It was the same 2lb dumbbells that they went home and did bicep curls and shoulder presses with. If the weight is light then you won’t gain any mass, right? Wrong! Muscle gain comes from a lot more factors then just strictly resistance training. Nutrition, supplementation, genetics, hormone production, rest periods, and much more come into play to get that bodybuilder look. It is actually more common to gain size by lifting lighter weights for higher repetitions to failure, than it is to lift heavier weight less times. Heavy weights are good for you, ladies. Heavy weights make you strong and lean.
“Doing crunches will help burn fat around the belly.”
Spot reduction was a great marketing scheme to better promote those useless ab crunch machines. To burn fat in a specific area, you will be more successful by improving your nutrition then just working the underlying muscle. Fat reduction isn’t specific to the areas we target. So, to burn around your hips you can’t do those leg lifts either. And, to burn around your abdominals, crunches and sit-ups won’t do the trick. And, what sucks the most is it all depends where the body takes the fat from. Say you did improve your nutrition and workout well enough to be in a fat burning state, your body doesn’t always remove it from your “trouble” areas first. That is the frustrating thing about weight loss. It takes more nutritional improvement and dedication then following some infomercial to get a beach body.
“Women and men shouldn’t do the same exercises.”
Why? Just why? This is ridiculous to think that men and women need completely different types of workouts because of gender. Strong is strong, and lifting heavy weights will get you there. The squat rack does not discriminate and is just as much for women as it is for men. And to be completely honest with you, most of my female clients belong in the squat rack more then my men do. Remember, our body changes due to a lot more factors than just resistance training, whether it be genetics, nutrition, or hormones to name a few. So lift weights without labeling certain exercises for men or women only, they are all for you.
So for all you ladies out there, next time you’re in the gym lift something heavy. Don’t be overly concerned with gaining so much muscle mass that you’ll look manly. That will happen as a result of nutrition, supplementation and a long-term resistance training program geared specifically to muscle hypertrophy. And, not to mention you need the genetics to make those changes. I hope to see a few of you women in the free weight area a little more from now on. And, NOT curling those “girly” pink dumbbells, because that’s what women are supposed to do, right?
Garrett McLaughlin is an Athletic Trainer, Personal Trainer, and Certified Active Release Techniques Provider in the Greater Nashville area. In addition to fitness and rehabilitation, Garrett compliments his programs with soft-tissue manual therapy to help his clients restore proper function and stay injury-free. For more information, contact Garrett.