The myths about women doing weight/strength training are still going strong. Both men and women have many misconceptions about women and their response to weight training. There are many health benefits to regular weight training and in many ways women benefit even more than men. This article will clear up some misconceptions and show some ways that women can get into weight training. If you still have questions after reading please feel free to comment or contact me and I can help you to clear it up.
This is written for women who want to lift weights but are holding back for some reason. I will clear up a few of the major reasons why women don’t want to lift weights, outline why lifting heavy weights is good for women and how to get started lifting weights. If you truly don’t want to do weights then that is your choice, just make sure your reasons are your own and not based on myths or others people’s judgments!
Reasons against weights
Being too big
By far the most common objection to doing weights is the fear of becoming a muscular behemoth after merely looking at weights. You will never please everybody with how you look, if you are skinny, fat, fit there will always be somebody with a comment. Getting too large is not going to happen for many reasons. The primary reason is that women have on average about 1/20th the testosterone of men. As testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for muscle development, women cannot build substantial amounts of muscle without it.
It is a well-kept secret that even many lower level female body-builder competitors take various performance enhancing drugs to achieve the physical look. Higher level body-builder females and athletes generally have 5X the testosterone of an average male running through their bodies. A completely drug free female can still gain muscle but it is unlikely to ever be very substantial. With or without drugs the average female body-builder will spend 5-10 years to get into the condition seen on a stage. You can always stop doing such heavy weights if you find you are growing so much muscle that you no longer like it, but I can bet this won’t happen in 95%+ of women.
Saying you don’t want to get too muscular from weights is like saying I don’t want to make too much money, as if it’s going to be the easiest thing to jump into the gym and gain muscle. Most males spend 5+ years dedicated to weight training and still only gain small amounts of muscle overall. Lift weights as heavy as you can until you get ‘too muscular’. If you ever do get to this point you can always stop or do less weight training overall.
The final point on this is the probably the most crucial. Don’t look to other people’s opinions of how you look as some gospel of what is best. I have read criticism of women’s bodys REGARDLESS of what they look like. An actor will gain weight and she is fat, lose weight and be called too skinny or gain muscle and be called muscular and like a man. Unfortunately this is very often perpetuated by female focused magazines and media. It can be hard to break free of judgments and stereotypes but only you are in charge of your body.
Not knowing what to do
The second most common problem is not knowing what to do with weights. Cardio is quite easy, just run, cycle or walk. Weight training is a lot more difficult. You need to choose from a huge range of exercises, do the exercises correctly and select the right weight. As the weights areas of most gyms are very male dominated, it can be daunting to ask for help for these questions.
Magazines and the internet are filled with terrible fitness advice targeted towards women. This is not a problem solely confined to women, there is misinformation about exercise all over the place for men as well. On the whole, women can do the same workouts as any man can and they generally should be doing almost the same. A well designed program for a woman will likely be very similar to that of a man.
The basic movements will give you the most benefit. Heavy compound movements should form the basis of a workout program. These exercise include squats, deadlifts, pullups, pushups, bench press, overhead press, dips and rows for the most part. 2-3 weights sessions a week is enough to see some very big changes in your strength and fitness level!
Self-Conscious in the gym – Fear of judgment
The third major reason for women not wanting to lift weights is fear of being judged in the gym. This is also a reason given by men but is by far more common with regard to the weight room and women. Most women feel they are not welcome in the weights room of a gym. I have not been to all gyms and I would hope it is not the case but I am sure there are gyms where this happens. Further below I will talk about some alternatives to gyms for this problem.
Why do women need to do weights?
Females are far more likely to get osteoporosis than males. A lot of this is probably due to less overall physical job roles and fitness culture being pushed towards being skinny. Women also have on average smaller bone structures. Women therefore need weight training even more than men for this reason. You can eat all the calcium in the world, your bones won’t get much stronger unless they are placed under regular stress. Bone health is often overlooked until it is too late but it is a major cause of disability in older age as breaking a hip bone or any important structure has a big effect on daily living.
Being strong is a good thing
The average female has a lower total body strength than the average male. This is physiological and is mostly due to hormonal reasons (lower testosterone) and a much lower average body weight. A female who does weight training can quickly increase their total strength dramatically. The same amount of muscle mass on a female will give the same strength as on a male. Being stronger enables daily tasks to be done with ease and it is very useful to maintain strength as you get older.
All the same reasons as men
The reasons that men need to do weights for their health are no different than for women overall. There are many health benefits of lifting weights and if it helps men it will help women too. The male and female bodies are structurally very similar and respond in much the same way to the demands put on them. There is no special workout routine or way to work out for a woman that will be different to a man.
How to get into weights
Women only gyms?
There are a variety of women only gyms. These can be a good idea for those who are self-conscious as mentioned above. They are also good if you prefer a less intimidating environment. The major downside of female only gyms is that they ‘can’ promote a lot of the poor exercise culture targeted to women. A huge reliance on cardio machines, weight machines and light weights. If you do go, try to find a trainer who will encourage you with your own goals of becoming stronger. Be cautious of people trying to sell you the best way for women to work out or how to tone up in 6 weeks.
I am a big fan of home gyms for everybody. These provide an environment where nobody can see you exercise. They also provide a gym that is so close that you cannot make excuses to not go. The downsides to a home gym is that they can have less equipment than a gym (often a good thing) and you have less peer support available. Read here about how to make a cheap home gym.
Smaller Studio gyms
I have a small studio gym that I train clients in. This is great for people who like privacy as there are no other gym members to watch on when training is happening. Look for a studio gym in your local area, even if they do not cater solely to women the smaller amount of people can make for a much nicer environment. These gyms are generally much more personal and friendly and you will find that it is much easier to get help and results.
A regular gym is often the hardest place if you are self-conscious. If you have no other choice than to attend a regular gym then you will have to face your fear eventually and do it! It may be hard at first but be reassured that most of the people there are there for the same reason you are, to improve their health and fitness. If you can get a friend as a workout partner this can work great as a way to not only keep motivation but to help ignore other people at the gym. Remember that most of the judgmental people are just insecure themselves so never take it to heart.
Weight training is great for everybody. There are many reasons that both men and women choose to avoid weights but outside of injury or illness they are not valid reasons. There is no reason that women cannot workout the same as men and do the exact same workout routines. More and more women are choosing to incorporate weight training but there is always room for more. I encourage you all to think about doing weights a few times a week. You will feel much better for it and there are really no downsides to giving it a go!
If you have any questions please send me through an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!
Do you lift weights regularly?