Should women be lifting weights? Part 1
22 Feb 2014

Should women be lifting weights? Part 1

If you’re female, and you want to

22 Feb 2014

If you’re female, and you want to change the way you look, this could be the most important article you’ll read this year.

I’ve spent many a consultation explaining to a new female client why they should be weight training. Listening to their responses over the years has highlighted a number of myths and misconceptions. Todays post will concentrate on debunking the most popular ones.

Myth Number 1: Building muscle and bulking up are the same thing

This is the first thing we need to address. Bulking up and putting on muscle is NOT the same thing.

Bulking up refers to an indiscriminate gain in mass, and implies an increase in muscle AND fat (common practice for bodybuilders in their off-season). It is a combination of a huge calorie surplus and hours in the gym lifting lots of heavy weights.

For a female to ‘bulk up’, it would take a huge amount of dedication focused on over eating for an extended period of time.  Literally making yourself eat to put on mass. When was the last time you did that? Exactly. It doesn’t happen by accident.

Can you increase your muscle mass without bulking up? Yes. Does this mean you will look like a bodybuilder? No.

Remember this..muscle is denser than fat, therefore an increase in muscle mass with a decrease in body fat will actually make you look leaner, NOT bigger.

Myth Number 2: Lifting heavy weights will make you look like a bodybuilder

Regardless of the fact that bodybuilders only look like bodybuilders for a small fraction of the year, lifting weights will not make you suddenly put on muscle like Arnold Swaqrerneger.

It is physiologically impossible for women to gain muscle in the same way as men because they don’t have enough testosterone (unless it’s ingested).

Testosterone is anabolic and is largely responsible for the increase in muscle mass experienced with lifting weights.

When men train hard and lift heavy loads, they experience a rise in testosterone post workout. Women have anywhere between 15-20 times less testosterone than men, thus negating this post workout testosterone boost.

You wont put on lots of muscle, but you will put on some. This is crucial if you want to change the way you look for the better. It should be the goal of any good resistance training programme and next week I will explain why.

Myth Number 3: Lifting light weights will help you tone up

There is some truth to the idea that lifting lighter weights for more reps does a better job of increasing muscular endurance. All this means is lifting light weights for lots of reps will make you better at lifting light weights for lots of reps. This doesn’t really help us with our goal of ‘toning up’ though. Heavier weights will increase the strength of your muscles (and their size to a small degree), which helps you to increase your resting metabolic rate and fat burning capabilities.

Bottom line? If you want to see some muscle definition (aka ‘tone) and get a bum that looks good in a pair of jeans, lifting heavier weights with fewer reps (between 8-12) and working until failure, is more effective than lifting lighter weights with higher reps.

Myth number 4: Weightlifting will get rid of ‘saddlebags’ and other bulges

There is no such thing as spot reduction. To get rid of those saddle bags or bingo wings, you’ll need to drop your overall % of body fat, and the best way to do that is to incorporate weight training into your current fitness regime. Do you think sit ups will get rid of a beer belly? Exactly. The same applies to the rest of your body.

Myth number 5: If you stop lifting weights, your muscle will turn into fat

Simply not true. Unused muscle does not, and can not, turn into body fat directly. What does happen when you stop weight training is that your body burns significantly less energy every day, reducing your metabolism and making it more likely you’ll put on body fat.

Myth number 6: Cardio is better at reducing body fat

Cardio is such an umbrella term these days. It covers everything from sprint training to ultra marathon running, so this is a difficult one. For years, cardio was regarded as slow, steady state exercise, working out in the ‘fat burning zone’. This is an article in itself, but suffice to say long, slow, steady state running isn’t nearly as effective at dropping body fat than resistance training. Having said that, cardio has its place. Including cardio workouts such as HIIT (high intensity interval training) will definitely help your fat loss goals, and should be included every week.

Next week we’ll be having a look at what you CAN expect from following a weight training programme, and I’ll be offering some training advice for all the women out there sick of spending hours on the treadmill with no results!

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