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Ladies who lift

Updated June 15, 2014


“I can’t lift weights”, “I don’t want to get bulky”, and “I just want to tone the muscle I already have”, is what most women say about weight training. Sadly, there are many myths that women believe about muscles and strength training and we are going to bust them:

Myth #1: strength training makes women bulky

There is none other than this particular myth that drives fitness professionals crazy. It is a fact that a large percentage of women come down a couple of sizes within just three months of starting to strength train. Secondly, women don’t produce enough testosterone to add significant amounts of muscle mass quickly or easily. Muscle mass takes years and years of hard work to build and many female bodybuilders choose to enhance themselves chemically because they have such a hard time gaining muscle mass. Strength training revs up your metabolism and it can definitely make you hungrier because more muscle means you’re burning more calories a day.

Often women will start eating a lot more when they start strength training but they must make sure to eat correct foods like lean protein, vegetables, healthy fats and good carbs because making the wrong food choices will lead your farther away from your goal.

Dumbbells, not diamonds are a girl’s best friend

Myth #2: When strength training, women should lift a high number of reps 

First and foremost, let’s clear this up: strength training doesn’t always mean lifting weights. Strength training can be any type of movement that imposes an increasing demand on your muscles and/or central nervous system. In the beginning, exercises using your own body weight can cause a positive adaptation within your body in terms of getting stronger and adding muscle mass. When you do start to lift more than just your body weight, of course you should start lighter so that you can learn how to do the movement properly, but that light weight should still feel challenging. In most cases, you shouldn’t be able to lift the weight you’re lifting for more than eight to 12 reps.

Myth #3: Strength training can tone or spot reduce body fat in a specific area

Toning does not exist. You can increase the “tone” of a muscle to a slight degree, but it’s not what most of us think it is. Increasing the look of one’s muscle tone involves losing body fat and usually increasing muscle mass.  That is what will give you a more tight and toned appearance. Spot-reducing is another pervasive myth. Doing a million crunches simply will not spot-reduce the fat on your midsection. When you reduce your body fat levels, your body will choose where it wants to lose fat from first. Unfortunately, you can’t directly control this with weight training, although if you add lean mass to a particular area, it can give you the appearance of looking tighter and firmer, even if you haven’t lost body fat there yet.

Myth #4: Weight lifting is dangerous 

If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous. As with any new activity, there is some level of inherent danger. The same would be true with rock climbing, cycling, running or even yoga. But it’s very simple to drastically reduce your risk of injury with strength training, since a good programme would balance out your body for optimal strength and power.   

Myth #5: When you work out your fat will turn into muscle 

Really? Can you transform wood into metal? They are two totally and completely different things, and they cannot change form back and forth.You can lose body fat and gain muscle but muscle will not turn into fat or the other way round. Muscle will not turn into fat when you stop working out. You might lose strength and muscle mass and / or gain body fat when your workouts stop, but fat and muscle are and will always be separate things in your body.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 15th, 2014