Weight training for women is still not the norm, even though it's the best way to build a shapely, toned figure, not to mention the benefits to being strong as we age. According to recent polls, only 20% of women practice weight training on a regular basis. It's time we turn that statistic around.
Not only does the myth persist that women will 'bulk up' if they weight train, when we do see images of women strength training, they're holding 1 lb. to 3 lb. weights in their hands while doing exercises. Although you might burn a couple more calories, it isn't the type of strength training your body needs to build and maintain muscles to keep you strong as you age to prevent the loss of mobility, function, falls, and mortality associated with sarcopenia.
Muscle has no gender. Both men and women must follow the same principles of muscle building. To make meaningful strength gains, the movements must be done with the proper amount of weight for a limited number of repetitions.
Our bodies adapt to the demands we do or do not place on them. More overall demand increases fitness, less demand leads to decline in fitness. In terms of muscle, more or less demand increases or decreases muscle strength and size.
One of the greatest fears women have about weight training is they don't want to be muscle-bound or resemble a man. This article is focused on women because weight training for women does not mean building a man's body in terms of symmetry. Men have a natural propensity to build muscle that women do not have. You can learn more about the subject of symmetry using the link below -- Ideal Body Body Proportions.
With that said, here are the big no-no's.
No-No #1 NEVER use weights when you are doing waist exercises!
When I see a woman with a weight in her hand doing side bends, I cringe. Trainers seem to persist in having women do this. Why in the world would you want to build the muscles along the sides of your waist?
There are alternative waist exercises and movements that can keep those muscles functionally strong and create a girdle without building them up.
Using weights for waist exercises is great for men because good male symmetry includes a fairly straight, thick waist – not one that curves inward.
I can't stress this enough. Unless your sport requires super-strong muscles along your waist, if some trainer tells you to use weights, just say “NO!”
No-No #2 NEVER do shoulder shrugs!
Again, certain trainers will suggest this exercise for women. I wince when I see women doing this movement. Shrugs build traps -- those big sloping muscles between the neck and shoulders.
We want to look like women, not apes. It may look great on wrestlers and football players, but it is not an attractive feature for a woman.
Also, be careful on certain shoulder exercises. Keep those traps relaxed during the movement, so you aren’t working them unintentionally.
It doesn't take long to feel comfortable in the weight room. As your strength increases, and it will, your confidence does as well.
Within a few years, I
was actually stronger than the average man in the gym. So, I eventually earned my place on the food chain the
minute they saw how much weight I was moving – not to mention that men quickly gain respect when a small-boned, solid-bodied woman follows them on a machine
and increases the weight they were just lifting.
TIP: Invest in a good pair of padded gloves specificially for weight training. It not only prevents your hands from getting calloused, the increased grip allows you to have greater control of the weight and to lift without feeling pain.
Female muscle building is no longer unheard of as it was when I started back in the 70s. I was a rare sight in the gyms at that time; but, I learned my way around quickly. Here are a few tips.
I can’t count the number of times a man has told me that he wished his wife or girlfriend would come to the gym with him.
Weight training for women will continue to become the norm one woman at a time.
If the thought of walking into a weight room or being around the equipment, you might consider bodyweight strength training.
Writer/attorney, Bonnie Gabaldon, is the developer of the health & fitness website, BodiesOfEvidence.com.
Bonnie graduated summa cum laude from Oregon State University with honors. She is a member of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
She researched and authored a significant undergraduate independent study paper, The Effect of Female Hormones on Elite Female Athletes During the First Trimester of Pregnancy.
Bonnie attended the University of New Mexico School of Law and Georgetown Law Center, and has been a licensed attorney since 2003.