The gym. It’s a haven for all of us that love fitness. It’s where we go to de-stress, to release endorphins, to feel happier, to get stronger, and to be fitter.
Over the years, many women have found themselves on the other end of unsolicited advice, stereotyping, and derogatory, or sexist comments, from fellow male-gym goers.
The most common of these comments revolve around women who strength train. New lifters are often put off by false claims of weightlifting appearing masculine, or being too weak to handle all of the different weight machines, so they should stick to cardio instead.
These myths are exactly that: Myths. They are not substantiated by any evidence, and have been debunked by experts for as long as they’ve been in circulation.
Below, we’ll list the most common myths so that you can use them as motivation in your next lifting session!
1. Weight Lifting Will Make You Look Masculine
The most common of all the tropes: Women who lift will end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The claim is entirely false.
The reasoning is that women do not have enough testosterone to amass as much muscle mass as men do. Whilst women will build muscle, they won’t build the same amounts of muscle as a male counterpart who is identical in weight and build.
Instead women will benefit from toning and strengthening their muscles in a strength training programme, as well as a raised resting metabolism.
The correct total-body weight training programme that contains an appropriate amount of volume will strip fat to give the toned, defined women that many women seek, but it won’t bulk them up.
2. Strength Training Using Bodyweight Won’t Have Any Effect
Another myth women currently encounter is that using their bodyweight in strength training exercises such as inchworms (where you walk your hands into a forward plank and back again) won’t do anything, and so is pointless attempting.
This claim is entirely false.
The average person weighs more than most sets of barbells found in the gym!
Exercises that will show notable results just using bodyweight training methods include single leg RDLs (Romain Deadlifts), and high planks – including side planks. Holding blanks for around 30 seconds at a time is enough to encourage the stress needed for muscles to begin to lengthen and strengthen.
3. You Can Spot Reduce Fat
Often women are told that if they want great abs, all they need to do is make their training programme entirely crunches and planks and they’ll have the washboard stomach they dream of.
This claim is also entirely false.
Our bodies are unable to reduce fat in localised areas. By nature, we are genetically made to store fat in particular locations in a specific order. Therefore, when the body starts to lose fat, it will lose it in the same identical area.
Doing a programme entirely dedicated to losing fat around the stomach area will not produce results, which can lead to women becoming dissuaded from continuing.
This is where strength training can come in. If women can add compound movements into their training regime, they’ll be using a lot of different muscles to help do the work. This means that our bodies will break down and rebuild muscles in a number of areas, burning more calories even when we rest. More calories burned means more fat shifted – from everywhere.
4. To Begin Losing Weight, You Have to Start With Copious Cardio
A popular myth is that cardio is the first step to effectively losing weight.
As we’ve just seen above, this is false.
Whilst cardio is an important requirement of any fitness routine to build stamina and help cardiovascular health, strength training will produce just as an effective weight loss workout as a cycle or run will.
This is because in strength training, our muscles are required to break down and then rebuild over a period of 24-48 hours. Because our muscles are constantly working in this period, it requires much more energy, which taps into our calories stored.
In strength training, this is known as the “afterburn effect” and it means you’re burning calories even when you’re sat resting on the sofa!
Ultimately this means that the more muscle mass you build, the more calories you’ll be burning, so don’t be dissuaded from grabbing a barbell before a bike.
5. Women Over a Certain Age Shouldn’t Do Anything
The last in our myths is the belief that once women pass a certain age (usually around or after the menopause) they should no longer be in the gym for fear of injuring themselves.
This is an entirely false belief.
For women who are either in menopause or through it, whilst the risk of osteoporosis increases it’s actually the most important time to begin. Strength training can help to keep bones strong, dense and help retain muscle mass that wastes away quicker in older age.
Whilst older women should follow a correct programme with expert guidance, strength training is not dangerous and they will not injure themselves – quite the opposite!
Now that we’ve debunked the common weight training myths for female lifters, step into your local gym with confidence and don’t let anybody stop you from achieving your strength and fitness goals.