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Why Women Should Lift Weights

From the title, you can infer what I will discuss in this article but what you may not realize is that this may very well turn out to be one of the most important articles I ever write on this site. I get asked all the time what is my favorite team to work with. Most assume its football with me being a former football player and the reputation for football player’s love of the weight room. Although my answer can vary depending on the time of year, and personality of the teams, most are shocked when I tell them how much I enjoy the girl teams. As a strength and conditioning coach that works with every sport at one of the biggest high schools in the state and also a personal trainer and online coach, I have the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of females. Women, no matter whether they are training for sport or just to be fit, are a lot of fun to work with. A big reason I love working with females is that whether it’s a shy high school sophomore who has little to no confidence in the weight room or a mom working out for the first time in years, the look on their face when they achieve something they might not be naturally comfortable doing is priceless.

The Misconception

Working with women often comes with obstacles that are not present with men. Of course, this is not true for all women but in my experiences it is a topic that needs to be addressed. A big part of the population has a misconception about weight lifting and its effect on women. Again, not all women but a large number are afraid that lifting weights will make them bulky and masculine looking. I get told “I don’t want to look like you” or “I don’t want to look like a guy” more frequently than I would like to recount. In my experience, most women view cardio or aerobic type classes as the type of training they need to achieve their ideal physique. They split it right down the middle, if you’re a male, you lift weights and if you’re a female you do cardio. In fact, a study in 2014 showed that of the millions of women that belonged to commercial gyms less than one-third picked up a dumbbell. I attribute this to both a lack of readily available information and misinformation thanks to social media and the internet.

Go Hard. It’s Okay. I Promise

Another misconception that I battle on a weekly basis is that resistance training is actually okay for women as long as it is light and low intensity. I can only assume this is why there are classes for women that include dancing with five and three pound dumbbells. Luckily, I did my homework and found another study that was done with college aged females. The study proved over a significant time period that a high resistance weight training program increased lean body mass, decreased fat percentages, and showed no change in body weight. It literally says at the end of the study that the results showed no masculinizing effects meaning they did not start looking like dudes.

We Aren’t the Same

Life isn’t always fair. Not everyone is created with the same genetics, skills, etc. In this case, for women who are afraid of bulking up with resistance training this is a good thing! Because women literally cannot gain muscle the same way a male can. I have told this to some women and it’s like they don’t hear me. It is a scientific fact that women cannot gain muscle like men can because women have significantly lower natural testosterone and significantly higher levels of estrogen. “But, you see those women on line that look like dudes, I don’t want to gain muscle like that.” Notice I said natural testosterone. Those women with insane amounts of muscle mass are not natural. Period.

To Get HOOGE You Have to Eat

“But I don’t want to get muscular, I just want to get tone.” Just slap me please. When someone says they want to tone up what they are really saying is that they want to gain muscle and lose fat. Also, gaining the amount of muscle mass some women are afraid of gaining does not happen overnight or even within a few months. It not only takes a lot of time and hard work to gain a significant amount of muscle but also a surplus in calories. If you aren’t eating more calories than you are expending you will not gain muscle. So for women who resistance train a few days a week and eat healthy but not in excess, you have nothing to worry about in terms of too much muscle mass. It happens all the time, someone will ask me details about my training, they comment on how much time and work I put into the gym, food, etc. to gain the amount of muscle I have, then turn around and are afraid they will gain too much muscle in a week lifting for thirty minutes. I don’t let it upset me too much because one of my favorite lines is “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

More Serious Matter

Although, I have discussed the importance of weight training for helping women achieve their ideal physique, there is a far more beneficial reason women should resistance train especially for the long term. Resistance training strengthens bone. It strengthens the bone density which in turn can fight off osteoporosis which is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. Although both men and women are vulnerable to osteoporosis women are more prone to suffer from it especially postmenopausal. Age-related sarcopenia or muscle loss is also a concern for women. A significant loss of muscle mass as a woman ages can make everyday activities more difficult and can eventually lead to falls, which brings us back to the dangers of osteoporosis and broken bones.
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References:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10671315.1974.10615291
http://jandonline.org/article/s0002-8223(98)00094-7/abstract
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/33/3/190.short
http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/strength-training-for-women
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-s/strenght-training-builds-more-than-muscles
https://www/nwacc.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid+1269b4e5-c398-4e1e-a07e-6700bbceb9a9&groupd=216833&filename=4%20Advantages%200f%20weight%20training%20for%20women%20by%20julie%20%20gabbard-1.pdf