One of the main objections I hear for women not wanting to weight train is the fear of waking up one morning to find they look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in drag.
This is one of the most misguided myths regarding weight training and means that many women are missing out on the massive benefits that resistance training brings.
The main reason that women won’t pack on the muscle is because of the lack of hormones that are needed for large muscle growth. Women have on average 10-20 times less of the hormones that are conducive to muscle growth, such as testosterone.
One reason for this common misconception is the bronzed and oiled young ladies that you see on the covers of bodybuilding mags, such as the three pictured below. The reason for their Gladiator-esque physiques are:
- They train many hours a day and are professional bodybuilders, pushing themselves extremely hard to overload their muscles in a way that someone who trains normal amounts cannot do
- They are often use performance enhancing drugs, such as steroids, which raise the levels of these muscle-producing hormones to unnatural levels
- They eat huge amounts of the foods and supplements that are designed for bodybuilders and muscle growth
What weight training and muscle strength brings is NOT huge muscles, but the ‘tone’ that is so commonly desired – and with “I want to tone up” being one of the primary goals for almost anyone that trains you cannot afford to neglect this essential part of working out.
So, don’t be scared to push those weights HARD – you will not wake up one morning, look in the mirror and think ‘Jesus, I’m huge!’
Now that we’ve touched on the reasons you won’t end up looking like Rocky’s sparring partner, lets look at the massive benefits that pumping iron brings (in order of how important it is to the average female gym-goer):
1. You will gain muscle and boost metabolism
Building and maintaining lean muscle requires energy, so after resistance training your body will be burning MORE calories when you’ve finished exercising and you’ve collapsed on the sofa, or you’re asleep in bed. 1lb of lean muscle burns around 50 calories more per day, which really adds up.
2. You will become stronger without bulking
We’ve already explained why you won’t become huge, but you will become stronger which lessens the chance of injuries and strains, increases sport performance, increases vitality etc, with the added bonus of body tone and improved body shape!
3. It increases bone strength and density
Resistance and weight training stimulates osteoblast activity in the bones which builds strong and healthy bones and spine. Women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) as they get older, so this is especially important if you want to grow old with grace, strength and independence.
4. Posture improvement and heightened attractiveness
If the muscles in the body are strong and flexible then they will give more support to the skeleton and your posture will be improved. This improved posture, body tone and shape, strong skeleton and lessened chance of disease will give you an overall ‘glow’ that will make you more attractive to the opposite sex. A bold claim, you might think, but very true.
6. Reduced risk of many diseases and ailments
The list of diseases and injuries you’re less likely to get is huge. In addition to a reduced risk of getting heart disease or diabetes, a stronger body will make back pain far less likely to have trouble from lower back pain, recent studies showing an 80% success rate in elimination. Stronger joints and bones reduce other strains and pains in the body that are brought on from inactivity.
7. It will improve your self-confidence, fights depression and adds to an overall feeling of wellbeing
Adding weights to your program will make you feel confident, healthy and happier. A Harvard study even found that 10 weeks of strength training for women was far more effective than standard counselling or drugs.
8. It’s never too late to start!
Women in their 70s+ can feel the benefits of light weight training. You’re never too old.
I’ll leave you with this: another study from from the YMCA in America has shown that the average woman in their first 2 months of strength training will:
LOSE 3.5lb of body fat and GAIN 2lb of muscle = less body fat %, more toned body, weight loss & higher metabolism
Hopefully these numerous benefits will be enough to inspire you and motivate you to include weight training as part of your program.