"Girl...do you even lift!?" This is quite often a question I’d like to ask so many women. Especially after they find out I own a women's only gym, and the general response I get is “what do you teach? Yoga and Pilates?” Once I add that I also run a Mom & Baby program, it is often immediately dumbed down to the gentlest of activities, not falling short of circle-time singalongs. Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with yoga or Pilates. Both activities are great! And if circle-time singalongs are your jam, then that's great too! In fact, any mode of exercise is better than none. However, in order for women to maximize their fitness levels and overall well-being, they simply need to add some weight training to the mix.
Allow me to debunk some common myths regarding women and weightlifting:
“I don’t lift weights because I don’t want to bulk up”
I wish! Sure, some women are predisposed to putting on muscle with more ease than others, but women are not born with the same amount of testosterone as men. In fact, women produce only 5-10% the amount of testosterone that men produce, and in general women are a smaller species with less bone mass than men. This makes it all the more challenging to “bulk up”. So if this is your excuse to not to lift weights, then understand that it is just that: an excuse. After all, if this was the case, I think there would be many more women out there sporting a “perkier” back side!
“I don’t need to work out, I’m already skinny”
Wow! This one never ceases to amaze me. Personally, I lift weights because I don’t want to look “skinny”. I prefer to use the word “lean” over skinny, plus I would always prefer to be strong over skinny. Aesthetics aside, increased bone density, decreased risk of osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, back pain, increased joint stability and - wait for it - improved fat loss are just a few of the reasons why all women should lift weights. The more muscle mass we have, the more fat and calories we are naturally able to burn, even at rest. Come on ladies, strong IS the new skinny!
“I just don’t have the energy”
For fear of sounding too scientific, I won’t tell you that through strength training and lifting weights, you will receive a boost in the amount of proteins that take glucose out of your blood and transport it into your muscles, therefore giving your muscles more energy and lowering blood glucose levels. Instead, I will simply tell you that any exercise that gets your blood flowing and your heart rate up releases endorphins, and this is going to raise your energy level. Let's not forget that it's thanks to these endorphins that people who lift weights are happier!
“My frame is too small to handle heavy lifting”
Sure, we were all born with different frames, sizes, and shapes. Due to genetics and DNA, you can’t actually change your frame size, bone structure, or the areas on your body that store fat or muscle - but what you can do is work with what you have been given. Lifting weights does not mean that you need to be a powerlifter. What feels heavy to you might seem light to others. Comparing yourself to someone with a completely different body type is pointless - it’s all relative. Either way, if you are lifting heavy enough weights, you will see muscle definition no matter how small your frame is. The goal is to add enough resistance/weight within your capabilities while being sure to challenge yourself at the same time. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn't change you!
“I don’t want to injure myself”
Seeing as how lifting weights increases your balance, your joint stability, and your ligament strength, hiring a good personal trainer/coach to teach you proper form on all of the basic lifts would solve this issue. Weightlifting actually decreases your chance of injury, so the heavier you lift and the stronger you are, the better!
“I don’t want to gain weight”
If you are fixated on a certain number that your scale needs to be in order to make you feel worthy, then the best approach would be to simply stop weighing yourself. It's true that the more muscle you have, the more you are going to weigh, because muscle weighs more than fat. Muscle is a very metabolically active tissue in your body, and because of this, it will keep burning your fat. My advice is to go by how you feel, not by how you look. You will feel more hungry when you include weightlifting in your regular exercise regime, because you are revving up your metabolism to be a calorie-burning machine. Hunger is your body's way of telling you that it needs nourishment. It's simple - if you're hungry, eat!
“I prefer to only do cardio”
We all know this woman - the one that does only cardio, then complains because their body composition never changes. This is because it takes longer to see results with activities such as running along with yoga, pilates, or barre because you are only using your own body weight or light hand weights. You are simply not going to develop muscles as fast with these types of exercises alone. This isn't to say that these are not all beneficial modes of exercises, because they definitely are! But, simply running and/or participating in classes that don’t include lifting weights could result in a missed opportunity to burn fat, increase your bone density and metabolism, and create the change in your overall body composition. You will never run your way to a six pack of abs seeing as we cannot “spot treat”. On that note, studies have actually found that women who lifted weights lost more intra-abdominal fat (deep belly fat) than those who did just cardio.
In any case, adding weightlifting to your exercise regime will only help you to perfect the most challenging moves within your other classes! If this isn’t enough for you ladies, try to remember this: lifting heavy weights is the best way to stop the mansplaining at the gym, and being strong is the best way to smash the patriarchy! DO IT.
Jennifer Slauenwhite is a Fitness Professional and a Mother of two with a passion for health and overall well-being. She has spent her entire life in the fitness industry through many family owned and operated fitness centres and has spent the last decade cultivating a community of strong like-minded women. She strives to set an example for women to be the best they can be by channeling their inner athlete and putting up some healthy competition against themselves! #leadbyexample