The media is now constantly telling women we should be ‘strong not skinny’. It then goes on to tell us to do 45 minutes of skipping every day to get abs like a Victoria’s secret angel, forcing many of us (myself in the past included) to jump straight into an hour of fasted cardio every day. While I believe that cardio is essential to training, weight lifting is too.
The most common myth I hear around the gym is ‘if I lift weights, won’t I get bulky?’. The answer: not likely. Women have much less testosterone than men, making it harder to build muscle mass. That doesn’t make it impossible to bulk, but for the majority of the population, without chemical enhancement and professional guidance, it’s pretty damn hard.
So why are women still hesitant to head to the squat rack? I’d like to explore a few reasons:
- I want to lose weight, not build muscle
- I need to burn off x amount of calories
- I won’t like it
- I’m intimidated about going into the ‘men’s area’
- I don’t know what I’m doing
Now for the counterarguments. Weight training DOES help in weight loss. Yes, you do need to raise your heart rate and burn calories in order to lose weight, there’s no doubt about that. But a body with more muscle mass will burn more calories at rest. Shifting weights may not burn as many calories in the session every time – but it sure helps in burning calories overall. Cardio training with weight, such as interval weight training or some intense metabolic conditioning is a fun alternative for burning extra calories too – training I’ll definitely do if I’ve been overindulgent in pizza and chocolate (more of a regular affair than I’d like to admit).
In terms of the intimidating men’s area, try to keep these thought to a minimum. Generally, those who are concerned with scoping out others in the gym aren’t training well. If the weight room does feel like a testosterone charged zoo, there are now many gyms that have ladies only sections so this could be an option to look into. Take the plunge, or you may never find out how much you enjoy it. Strength training is mentally and physically challenging, but worth it. I walk out of the weight section feeling empowered and strong on most (not all) training days, and there’s nothing quite like the pleasant feeling when I’ve lifted heavier than a few months before.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, please ask. Most trainers will give you guidance on technique if you ask them, but it might be best to employ a good coach to teach you basic technique for compound movements first. The investment is a small price to pay for preventing serious injury. Another key point to make is whatever you do, please don’t watch Instagram videos for form tips. You really don’t know who is and isn’t qualified to teach these movements, whereas within your gym, you mostly do.
I’ve made every mistake in the book before I qualified, doing hours of cardio and a high rep range of minimal weight. I found that when I focused on improving my strength and fitness instead of focusing on dropping pounds, my body changed drastically. Work hard, lift heavy and your body will be reflection of the work you’ve put in.