Should women lift real weights?
I’ve heard it and you’ve thought it… “Will this give me big muscles? I don’t want to bulk up, just tone up please.”
I understand your apprehension, and as a male personal trainer it is very easy for me to say… “Don’t worry it’ll all be fine, you won’t bulk up. And by the way did you know strong is the new skinny or sexy or beautiful blah blah blah”. But there is some very compelling foundation supporting the need for everyone (not just men) to lift. Much is written about how resistance training will benefit women but I think a recent article written by a very well respected and experienced coach in the US, Charles Poliquin, summarises the topic neatly. Interestingly Poliquin starts his article with the following statement
“If losing body fat is anywhere on your list of goals, then gaining muscle must be a priority. Otherwise, the only weapons you have against body fat are an extremely clean diet and interval training. If you choose that route, it will be necessary to cut back on energy intake to offset the drop in metabolism that comes with aging. Even so, low muscle mass is linked to accelerated aging and a variety of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, greater risk of breaking a bone, having poor posture, getting regular colds, having a low mood, or being depressed.”
Sufficiently worried? The article then goes on the discuss how bulking up should not be a major concern due to the fact that women have 15-20 times less testosterone than men. Happily resistance training will boost growth hormone response, which in turn will burn body fat. Resistance training will not turn fat into muscle or vice versa, but it will burn fat and muscle will be gained. A double bonus indeed. And how do we achieve this magic? Progressively increase the amount of weight you lift. The belief that light load high rep will “tone you up” is quite misleading. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. It is estimated that for every pound of muscle you gain, you burn an extra 50 calories a day.
Don’t take my word for it… check out the article. There are also an additional 10 more reasons why women should not be afraid of gaining muscle.
If you are not convinced by Poliquin then below are a couple of other well respected resources that might nudge you over the proverbial tipping point:
Gubernatrix: UK based female strength and conditioning coach. Knows her stuff and practices what she preaches.
Stumptuous: Well known and pretty well referenced female oriented strength training website.
Metabolic Effect: This site has a great blog with some very interesting nutrition and health related advice to ponder.
Finally I just want to finish on a more selfish note. As a Crossfit coach my aim is to improve the performance of any athlete I train. Form will follow function, so appearance will inevitably be a great effect of any improvement in performance. If you want to look like a lean athlete, then train like one. Another extremely well respected strength coach, Mark Rippetoe, makes the valid point that if the market demand for treadmills and cross trainers remains strong, it will inevitably reinforce the current wisdom of the industry to supply exactly that. And if that’s what’s on offer then it must be right, right? When intense, effective exercise becomes the norm then the market will find a way to offer it. Gymbox bank is a wonderful example… only last month we introduced additional barbell weightlifting platforms at the expense of inferior “I’m at the gym so I must be doing something right” equipment. Right now we are in the midst of an educational paradigm shift.
If you are interested in learning more then get in touch. My door is wide open to everyone.