Strength training, also known as “resistance exercise,” is an integral part of overall health and physical fitness. It’s one of the three pillars of fitness (along with flexibility and cardiovascular fitness). But until recently, strength training was seen as exercise “for men.” According to this school of thought, women benefit more from cardio exercise. Some women may shy away from strength training. They believe lifting weights could make them look bulky, or hinder weight loss (if that is their goal). These ideas could not be further from the truth. Let’s bust these common myths about women and weight-lifting:
1. If I start weight lifting, I’m going to bulk up like a man.
This mindset could be the most prevalent reason many athletic women avoid lifting weights. What they don’t realize is that the biological differences between men and women have a large impact on how much muscle a person can build. There are differences from person to person — regardless of gender — that also contribute to one’s ability to build muscle. Men naturally have more testosterone than women, which is important in muscle growth. Women who compete in figure, physique, or bodybuilding competitions do certain things to achieve that look. It’s a combination of high level training, dramatic changes in their diet, and dietary supplements. Unless you are trying to make large gains in muscle mass, you will not bulk up that way.
2. Women should not lift weights because it is not safe for our bodies.
Everyone— men and women alike, at any age — can enjoy the benefits of regular strength training. Healthy, strong muscles mean you are able to do everything you need to do in your daily life. You’ll see the difference in activities as simple as carrying groceries, picking up your children or grandchildren, or rearranging furniture in your home. Resistance exercise helps to improve balance and prevent falls or injury. Even your bones see the benefits of resistance exercise, which is especially important for women as they get older. Resistance and weight-bearing exercise help build bone density in adolescents and young adults. As you approach menopause, resistance exercise helps preserve your bone health and prevent bone loss, reducing risk for osteoporosis and fractures. Muscle requires more energy to live. Strength training can complement cardio activity to burn calories and boost weight loss.
3. Strength training decreases flexibility because you become “muscle-bound.”
Much like the thought that you might look like a bodybuilder from strength training, this idea is also false. This does not happen easily; you would need a certain amount of over-training some muscle groups while under-training others. You would also have to add in a poor or non-existent stretching routine. Stretching regularly helps you maintain full range of motion at the joint. Stretching is also helpful after warming up the muscles prior to any physical activity to prevent injury, as well as after activity as part of a cool-down. Use proper lifting technique, maintain a balance of strengthening all muscle groups, and stretch after physical activity. All of these will prevent you from losing flexibility.
Strength training a healthy and safe activity for people of all ages — and should be a regular part of your physical activity routine. It is always important to check with your doctor before starting a new workout. Check back soon to learn more about how to start adding resistance exercise to your current routine.