Do You Even Lift? Female Strength Training Myths Busted
Women should be very careful of lifting weights so as not to bulk up too much and take on a masculine appearance.
Really, we women are best off lifting no more than two to three pound dumbbells and performing very high reps, otherwise we’ll run the risk of looking too manly.
Actually, forget the dumbbells; why spend on free weights when we can just use cans of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup in their proxy?
Sound a little 1950’s, doesn’t it? That’s precisely what it is.
Limiting specific types of exercise or placing restraints on the amount of weight you should lift based solely upon gender alone is as archaic as not permitting women to officially run a marathon until the history making performance of Kathrine Switzer in the 1967 Boston Marathon.
Women should absolutely be engaging in weight bearing exercise and whether or not they choose to actually use free weights is less important than performing some regular type of activity in the same vein.
- Challenging yourself through weight lifting causes the muscles to respond by growing (which will also increase metabolism) as your central nervous system responds by learning how to recruit more muscle fibers to contract on demand, becoming more resilient to physical stress.
And as far as that soup-can lifting routine? Not so much. Super light weights fall short of providing benefit because the ultra-light weight does not cause enough systemic stress on your body (albeit a good stress) to affect these same changes, which means no “toning” like it promises.1
- High-intensity resistance training, in contrast to traditional pharmacological approaches for improving bone health in older adults, has the added benefit of influencing multiple risk factors for osteoporosis including improved strength and balance and increased muscle mass.2
- Sport specific strength training can help you perform better at your sport, and prevent injury. In runners, for example, the rationale for strength work is two-fold: if you do ancillary work, you can safely handle more miles and it will allow you to run more intense workouts safely.
These are the two variables that most coaches and athletes try to change throughout a training cycle. If you can run more, or if you can run faster during workouts and stay injury-free, you’ll end up racing faster. You could also argue that strength exercises help you stay consistent in your training. If you ask the best athletes in the world what’s the secret to long-term success, many will point to consistency as the goal of intelligent training.3
- Finally, don’t concern yourself with the idea that if you lift heavy weights, you’ll wind up becoming as buff as a man. While we can add some muscle, the fact is women rarely bulk up as dramatically as men because we have lower testosterone levels. Beyond that, some women build muscle more easily than others and the exact amount of muscle a woman gains depends on her age, fitness level, body type, diet and program.4
If there were ever any doubt before reading this post, hopefully it’s now clear that those of us who happen to be female should engage in some form of regular strengthening activity.
How about all of the above?
Ultimately, it comes down to which you find most interesting, most relevant and, therefore, most likely the activity you’ll participate in on a regular basis. Consistency is more important than modality here, so pick the one, or ones, that get your groove on and hit it, ladies!
Getting stronger, helping your body burn more calories when you achieve more muscle mass while decreasing your chances of developing osteoporosis and creating a toned physique in conjunction with following a real Paleo regime, collectively make weight lifting and strength training a no brainer.
 Green, Courtney. “5 Strength Training Truths Every Woman Should Know.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 15 June 2015.
 National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 15 June 2015.
 “How Runners Benefit From Sport-Specific Strength Training.” ACTIVE.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2015.
 “How Much Muscle Can a Woman Gain With Strength Training?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 June 2015.