Should women be afraid of strength training?

Estelle Parker

by Estelle Parker

I love strength training, it makes me feel powerful, fierce, unstoppable and of course strong! 

When I first began my “fitness journey” I was very fortunate to have the help of a personal trainer who based all of our sessions around strength work, with cardio machines only being used for short intervals, therefore I have never really experiencing punishing myself for hours upon hours, slogging it out on a treadmill. But I am sure if I were not to have received specialist advice I would be following all those other gym bunnies slaving away, clocking up time on cardio machines in the pursuit of burning as many calories as possible to “make up for eating something naughty”. 

As soon as I began strength training, my body began to change, I developed noticeable muscle and tone and I loved the way it made me look, who wouldn’t want to look as strong on the outside as you know you are on the inside!? 

But in general women are often afraid to lift “heavy” weights, there are a number of myths around women strength training, but all they are is just that… myths! I hope over the next few paragraphs I might convince you to start strength training if you’ve avoided it in the past, or, if you already strength train, to keep on pushing yourself safely and effectively, recording your personal bests and to keep striving to beat them! 

So why are some women afraid of lifting heavy and is there any justification for this fear? 

Before I start, “heavy” could mean a number of things and is all relative to a number of factors, not limited to; where you are at (strength-wise) currently, the length you’ve been training and your own body weight. I’m not simply suggesting that it’s a good idea you head straight down to the gym and try and pick up the heaviest dumbbell you can find. 

However, to continue to improve your strength gains, a certain level of stress needs to be placed on the body and overtime, unless that level of stress continues to increase, your gains will begin to plateau. As long as you are confident that you are performing all your exercises with correct form, adding in some form of resistance if highly beneficial and may prevent injury. 

Lifting weights will make you look like a man/look muscly/look bulky/turn into a bodybuilder 

Studies have shown that “In general, females do not exhibit as great an absolute hypertrophic response when compared with males, although relative gains may be similar”, simply put you are not going to put on any way the same amount of muscle as a man, even if you are putting in the same amount of effort. Also, women only have approximately 5% of the testosterone that men have and as testosterone is the main hormone responsible for muscle gain if you do want that bulky look, it’s going to take a lot of work! 

Isn’t cardio the Queen of fat-burning? 

Doing lots of cardio will simply…make you better at the specific type of cardio you are doing. 

One study found that it takes an average of 86 hours’ worth of cardio to lose 1kg and when steady-state cardio used in isolation it is not effective for weight loss. Short bursts of high intensity cardio have been found to produce equal, if not better, results. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, “Chronic, high-volume running creates a catabolic response that can lead to muscle degradation and reduction in power.” If you focus only on cardio and your diet and recovery are on point, you may very well lose weight, but you will also lose muscle if you sacrifice strength training. 

See you at the squat rack! 

I hope this post has made you think twice about avoiding that male dominated area of the gym, or if you are already someone who enjoys strength training, that you continue to work on improving your strength gains. After all you will probably find that you are already “lifting heavy” in tasks that you undertake every day, so why not ensure you are lifting safely and effectively in a way that will benefit your; strength, prevent injuries, boost your confidence and improve your life all round.

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