Some women believe that if they pick up a heavy dumbbell or lift a barbell, they’ll lose all femininity and transform into the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Pumping Iron.” The fear of getting bulky, along with other misconceptions, seems to steer many clear of lifting weights.
But if you want to build a beautiful, strong and healthy body, incorporating weights and strength training into your workout routine can actually help you maximize your time at the gym and achieve those goals with proven results – and without necessarily bulking up. Uncertain about lifting heavy weights? Here’s what every fitness-minded woman should know:
Myth 1: Lifting will make you bulky.
Bench presses, squats and overhead presses won’t turn you into the Incredible Hulk. In fact, in order to achieve a bodybuilding physique as a woman, you need to actively combine a very specific training program, with a strict diet and supplements to bulk up. So, weightlifting alone won’t make you bulk up.
Adding weightlifting to your fitness regimen will make your muscles more dense and will help your body to burn the fat layered on top of the muscle, making you look toned. If you want to see and feel real results, don’t be afraid to lift more than those five-pounders.
Myth 2: Weight loss depends on cardio.
You can actually lose weight by building up your muscles, and yes, you can see fitness results without becoming a slave to the treadmill or elliptical machine. Cardio is good for your physical and mental state, not to mention your ticker, but you don’t need it to lose weight.
Weightlifting movements, like bench press and deadlifts, break and rebuild muscles. According to BodyBuilding.com, as long as your workouts are intense and you’re working hard — even if this means keeping them brief — you’re initiating metabolic and physiological processes that keep your body burning fat well after you’ve finished your workout. This is called after-burn and it is an essential part of the rebuilding process. As you watch “Walking Dead” on the couch after your killer gym session, your body’s metabolism is still working at a higher rate.
Plus, switching up your workout routine and adding variety each week with strength training will help you to gain an endorphin high, raise your heart rate and sweat it out.
Myth 3: Men and women shouldn’t work out the same way.
Do you want to reduce your overall body fat and maximize your calorie burn? Is feeling great important to you? Then it doesn’t matter what your gender is, your fitness goals are the same — and strength training is an essential component, whether you’re male or female.
Remember, with higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of testosterone, becoming over-muscular is difficult for women. Healthline.com emphasizes that lifting weights typically helps women build strength, tone and increase endurance. Expect a firm yet feminine look, rather than a bulky, masculine appearance. For maximum results, there’s no reason women shouldn’t kill it in the weight room with squats, pull-ups, lunges and pull-ups, right along with men.
Myth 4: Weightlifting isn’t attractive.
Lifting weights builds your body into a strong and lean machine that powers you through your workouts and your daily life. You feel energized, and you can even feel like it’s easier to handle stress. Weightlifting grows both physical and mental strength, which creates a high-performing, aesthetic body and boosted self-confidence. What’s not attractive about that?
Sure, entering the free-weights room, typically dominated by males, can be intimidating. But women have a place at the squat rack too. Once you can overcome that fear (perhaps with the help of a professional trainer , if you’re new to the workout scene), you’ll find yourself working hard and loving yourself without any concern about what others think. And because muscle weighs more than fat, the scale will no longer serve as the only metric of success. Instead, the number of weights on the bar, rather than the number on the scale, can become your barometer of progress.
Myth 5: Only cardio, not weightlifting, will help your health.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends weightlifting for all adults two to three times a week. Why? Aside from strong muscles and a toned physique, weightlifting builds strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. It preserves muscle mass, improves posture and supports joints.
U.S. News Health adds that weightlifting has positive effects on blood pressure and cholesterol, similar to aerobic activity. Pumping iron also improves your balance and coordination, which further protects your body from risk of injury.
If you’re passionate about cardio and fitness classes, of course, keep up your dedication to a fit lifestyle. But don’t be afraid to add strength training or weightlifting into your routine as a bonus, ladies. To get started on a weightlifting-focused regimen, work with a professional personal trainer to learn the movements, proper form and program tailored to your body and goals. Go get lifting!