As a Personal Trainer, I hear this a lot from women: “But if I lift weights, will I get bulky? I don’t want to look like a man.” Gah… if only it were that easy 🙂 I’ve been trying to gain muscle since the beginning of time!
So let me do my best to explain strength training so to de-bunk that myth! When we lift weights, we essentially tear the muscle fibers, don’t freak out! They are tiny, mini tears in which our body responds by repairing the muscle tissue, and increasing the size of cells by adding new ones. Although everyone pretty much builds muscle the same way, there are so many factors that determine how much growth occurs and the size and shape of muscles too. Think gender, hormone levels, age, nutrition, this list goes on. So, if all of that isn’t enough to realize that our muscles take a lot more to grow than simply lifting weights, we also have to consider the following: How often you lift, How often you train each muscle group, How many exercises you do in each workout, How long you rest between sets, How much protein you eat, How much you sleep, Supplements you may take…and that’s just the beginning. Because of the numerous factors that go into building muscle, women won’t just “accidentally” turn into Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson over night. In fact, most women struggle to bulk up, even when trying to because we tend to have less testosterone and less skeletal muscle mass compared to men.
Myth 1: It’s impossible to burn as many calories lifting weights as I do with cardio workouts.
Let me guess, your fitbit or smart watch tells you so? Well, get this- you might burn more calories during an hour-long run than you will during an hour-long weightlifting workout, but your total caloric burn over the course of the day will most likely be more when lifting weights. EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is the increased rate of oxygen consumption that occurs as your body recovers from the workout. So even if steady-state cardio and weight-training workouts are done at the same intensity, when you call quits on the cardio, your body typically stops burning calories soon afterward, but with weight lifting, you burn calories more than 48 hours after you finish. BOO YAH!
Myth 2: Weightlifting makes you less flexible.
Can we not just take a moment to think about gymnasts. They are the perfect example of how you can be both muscular and flexible. So although it is easy to assume that the more muscles you have or the more bulky you look, the less flexible you will be, it is in fact, not necessarily true. When lifting weights, be sure to complete each exercise with the correct form and full range of motion so as to remain limber and mobile.
Myth 3: You have to go to the gym if you want to do a weightlifting program.
Granted, a gym is most likely to have everything you need & likely a lot more than what you’ll ever use…. but in all honesty, a few sets of dumbbells that challenge you, and about six square feet of floor space is all you’ll need. If you have a bench and/or a stability ball, all the better, but neither one is required. There is no reason why you cannot build muscle, strength and power at home by lifting weights. In fact, my next challenge group revolves around this exact theme: muscle building from your home! Want in? FILL THIS OUT!
Myth 4: Weight machines are better than free weights.
A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that free weights actually helps you build more muscle. The scientists compared the barbell back squat to the Smith machine squat and found that the former worked more muscles. Machines tend to lock you into an unnatural movement pattern and they don’t always engage muscles the same way as equivalent free-weight exercises do. Plus, notice how much your core engages when having to hold you up strong to perform the lift! Hello full body workout!
Myth 5: To see the best results, men should lift heavier and women should perform more reps at a lighter weight.
Honestly, gender makes no difference when it comes to strength training. Muscles are going to react the same way, we’ve had this conversation right? So your decision to lift heavy or light should depend on your goals, fitness level, and training experience. I personally think there is a need for both in all workout programs so as to work both muscle fibers to maximize endurance, growth and gains (<– must be said in deep voice!)
So recap? Weight lifting will not make you bulky or less flexible, nor do you have to race like a mad woman to sign up at your local gym. Lift weights because you genuinely love it and to feel strong, to increase power and mobility, elevate your metabolism, improve bone density and enhance your energy. Need help getting a program together? I got you! Fill out my COACHING INTEREST FORM HERE so that we can chat about your goals, your current habits, previous injuries and equipment you have access to, so that I can devise the best plan for you!