Myths surrounding female training

Myths surrounding female training


Over the last 8 years I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the gym and what I can say for a fact is that a lot of women either attend gym classes -mostly aerobic, pilates and yoga- or spend hours on cardiovascular equipment (elliptical, treadmill or bike). Many of them never set their foot anywhere near the resistance training area of the gym.

After having asked the odd question several times, I have come to realise why many women totally miss out on the benefits that strength training has to offer; there are quite a few misconceptions and myths surrounding this component of fitness.

Having discussed the same things over and over again during the last couple of months, I decided to post here about the top 3 misconceptions about the weight area.


1. You will not look bulky if you start lifting weights
It is true that some women will increase muscle mass more than others, but you can’t look like those women bodybuilders without wanting to specifically look like them! When you lift, your muscles get stronger, but not necessarily bigger – bodybuilders eat large amounts of protein 6 times a day in order to gain mass.

Consider this: Lean muscle mass requires more calories both during exercise and rest to maintain itself. This means that, as you increase the amount of lean muscle mass on your body, you are burning more energy in the form of calories to maintain it – unlike fat which doesn’t require calories to just lay there. Make sure you eat a caloric deficit if you want to drop some weight or -if you want to maintain your weight- eat just about as many calories as your body needs. If you wanted to gain muscle mass, you would have to eat more than your body burns off.

2. Cardiovascular exercise is neither the best, nor the only way to lose weight
It is true that with a moderate session of cardio training, you might get an extra 40-80 calories burned than if you would be strength training, but here’s the deal: aerobic training doesn’t enhance metabolic function after your workout (which is what a weight training workout does), unless of course you are a cardio veteran and can train for a very long duration of time or if you can do high intensity interval training (HIIT), interspersing e.g. sprinting and running during your session; those two will create effects with your metabolic rate closer to that of weight lifting. Most women in the gym who are concerned with fat loss or want to “tone up” don’t fall in either of these two categories, so the average person can’t rely solely on cardio training to reach their goals.

Consider these: a) Lean muscle mass cannot be maintained or increased with aerobic training alone. Resistance training is what preserves and builds muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn while resting. b) After a weight training workout, the metabolism can be boosted for up to 36 hours post workout, which makes a big difference in your calorie expenditure. While strength training in itself burns fewer calories per 30’ than if this time was spent sweating on the elliptical, the increased presence of muscle in the body means that you can burn fat even when you are sleeping. What do you think of that? Do the math and let me know.

3. You can’t spot reduce fat
A lot of women start training with weights, thinking that their glutes, triceps, biceps or tummy will look tighter after a month or so of doing a thousand reps every week. When they don’t see immediate results, they give up the effort.
The truth here is that every body is genetically predisposed to store fat in specific locations and in a certain order. When you start to lose weight, this will happen in a specific order as well. It might come off your belly first (if you’re lucky), then your arms, legs, glutes – this is different for every person… No amount of reps targeting one body part will make fat disappear faster.

Consider this: If you want to speed up the fat burning process, make sure you don’t miss your resistance training sessions. Choose compound exercises which recruit multiple muscle groups (and thus burn more energy), eat a caloric deficit and also make sure you’re eating better and providing proper nutrients for your body to be able to recover from exercise.

Bottom line is this: start lifting weights at home or the gym. Don’t stick with those 1 or 2 kilo dumbbells; slowly push yourself to lift heavier weights as you get stronger, making sure you lift with correct technique. This will help you maintain or increase your muscle mass and you’ll be burning more calories throughout the day as you work towards hitting or maintaining your desired body weight.

Hope to hear that that you’re lifting some iron :)