After training and working at several gyms, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet and speak to a lot of different women. But no matter their age, location or background, the same 5 common myths are commonly brought up, and unfortunately a lot of them seem to be influenced by long standing but completely unsubstantiated beliefs that have been around since the beginning of weightlifting.
So let’s debunk some of these myths, because jumping into the world of fitness should not be a scary or intimidating for any females, especially when it comes to weight training.
Myth 1: Lifting weights makes women look masculine
Truth: Lifting weights builds muscle and burns fat
The biggest and most common weight lifting myth I come across, and the one that I find keeps most women off the gym floor is that lifting weights will make them bulky. But the simple truth it, that no matter how ingrained that myth has become, it is the biggest load of cr*p and I wish it would disappear into the history books here it belongs.
Whilst women who take to the floor to lifts weights will become stronger over time, this does not mean they will start bulking up and develop a masculine physique. In fact, from my experience, it’s often quite the opposite. Women who lift weight find themselves gaining confidence and their body shape becomes more feminine, toned and with sexy curves in all the right places.
What many people overlook is that to gain muscle mass effectively, a calorie surplus of at least 2000-4000 kilojoules or approximately 500-1000 calories per day is required! On top of that, women also do not produce the high levels of testosterone needed to put on muscle the way males do. Even female bodybuilders with years of strict dieting and training can’t build the same amount of muscle or build muscle at the same rate as their male counterparts.
What many people also fail to realise is just how common illicit drugs are when it comes to bodybuilding and physique manipulation. Unfortunately, many female competitors (those that may come to mind when someone says female bodybuilder) use substances such as anabolic steroids to achieve their muscular physiques. Coupled with unbelievable work ethics, hours of lifting extremely heavy weights in the gym, great genetics and impeccable diets, it’s not surprising that many people believe that women may get bulky from weight lifting
So be assured, countless studies have shown that women who do resistance training are stronger, leaner, and healthier than women who do not. They have increased bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as better joint and overall metabolic function meaning they continue to burn more calories at rest and on a daily basis from their lean muscle mass!
Myth 2: Muscle will turn into fat when you stop exercising
Truth: Muscle and fat are two completely different things
Muscle is about as likely to turn into fat as a slice of cake is likely to turn into an apple.
Muscle is a band or bundle of fibrous tissue that has the ability to contract, producing movement in or maintaining the position of parts of the body whilst fat is a natural oily substance occurring in animal bodies with body fat specifically being adipose tissue. Reviewing the definitions, it becomes evident these two things are completely different components of the body.
Another way to look at it is, whilst muscle is active tissue that is constantly burns calories fat is simply a storage of excess energy. When someone starts resistance-training their muscle fibre respond to the stimulus in what is called hypertrophy… or gainz… aka. putting on muscle. When you stop lifting, this muscle doesn’t turn into fat, it simply goes into atrophy, which is where the muscle fibres simply becomes smaller rather than having one kind of fiber type being converted into another.
This common misconception is often fueled by other additional factors that may occur when a person stops weight training. If a person decreases their physical activity and swaps their nutritious diet for one of junk or excess fatty calories, the person is likely to begin storing greater amounts of body fat, whilst their muscle mass decreases. This change in body composition (increase of fat and decrease in muscle mass) leads to that feeling of ‘flabbiness’ in areas that were once full of dense muscle.
Myth 3: Women should stick to cardio
Truth: Ladies should be lifting as well
Even if you want to be a competitive runner, studies have shown that resistance training helps increase your aerobic performance.4 Cardiovascular training absolutely has its place, but it’s not the only path toward fitness.
In fact, constant running doesn’t help build strength or help you find that balanced physique. Moreover, multiple studies have found that consistent endurance training may not be the best method for fat loss.5-6
Although it’s completely understandable to feel embarrassed or intimidated in the pit of racks and barbells, sticking to that same old treadmill or elliptical may not be helping you get the results you want.
While strength training in itself burns far fewer calories during the continuous exercise, studies show that the increased presence of muscle in the body enhances metabolic function throughout the day. During rest, your metabolism continues to work at a higher pace; the more muscle one has, the more calories your body will burn while resting. Therefore, adding strength training to your cardiovascular (metabolic) routine exponentially increases your ability to burn unwanted fat even when you are sleeping.
Add some resistance training to your regimen. By building more lean muscle, you’ll burn more calories and get leaner faster.
Myth 4: Women should stick to high reps and light weights to lose fat
Truth: Women should enjoy lifting a wide variety of reps and weights
Many people still believe that to get lean or ‘toned’ you need high reps and light weights, but simply not the case.
If we break resistance training to it’s simplest form, a person’s goals can be broken down into one of 3 categories:
- Strength – for those wanting to to get stronger.
- Hypertrophy: For muscle size increase
- Endurance: For improved stamina.
Each of these categories have general rep range allocated:
- Strength: 1-5 reps; rest time of 2 to 5 minutes between sets.
- Hypertrophy: 6-12 reps; rest time of 30 – 90 seconds between sets.
- Endurance: 12-15+ reps; rest time of 30 seconds or less between sets.
So as you can see, lifting light weights for a large number of reps to get ‘toned’ is a waste of time unless you’re seeking muscular endurance. Instead, to get that ‘toned’ look, you need to be focusing on increasing muscle (rather than endurance) whilst reducing body-fat.
Myth 5: Women should train their legs every day if they want to develop their dream booty
Truth: Training the same muscle group every day will hinder your progress
When it comes to weight training, it is recommended you give muscle groups 48-72 hours to recover between workouts.
When you train, microscopic tears form in the fiber and connective tissue of muscles. With proper recovery, the muscles slowly rebuild. It is through this process of repair that muscles begin to increase in size, strength and muscle capacity. By cutting the recovery process short, you do not allow your damaged muscles to repair adequately and as a result hinder your progress.
There are of course ways to help speed up the recovery process, such as stretching, good nutrition and adequate sleep. But try and rush the muscle recovery process and all you’ll be doing is wasting away your hard work.
So there you have it, the truth behind 5 common myths that surround female weight training.
I hope I’ve been able to help bring a little clarity in regards to the 5 Weight Training Myths Every Woman Should Know.
Have you heard of any of these myth before or know of any big ones I may have missed? Let me know, because I’d love to hear from you!
Need a bit of a hand when it when it comes to your health and fitness goals? Please get in touch. Konquer Fitness (aka. me) provides local bootcamp style and one-on-one personal training sessions in a friendly and supportive environment. Based out of the independent gym Muscle Universe in Malaga, every training session focusing on Konquering your limitations, doubts and fears so we can make room for you to gain the confidence, strength and health you’ve always wanted. Whatever is holding you back…together we will Konquer it one step at a time!