Exercise isn’t my thing. There are times when I enjoy it better than others, but in general, I wish it wasn’t so good for me. Kind of like fermented foods.
And just like fermented foods, I still try to incorporate exercise into my life, even if in small doses. So when I want the most bang for my buck, I lift weights.
There is compelling evidence that lifting weights is a good idea for women. Strength training has been shown to increase bone density, speed up fat loss, decrease stress, and improve sleep quality.
It also makes you stronger. An average mama spends her days picking up children, carrying groceries, carting around school books, and scrubbing bath tubs. All of these things require a certain amount of strength. The stronger you are, the easier these daily chores become.
Now the million dollar question: If strength training is so good, why do so few women do it?
There are several myths of strength training that scare away the average woman. Let the debunking begin:
1. Lifting weights will make me bulky and masculine
Muscle is really hard to build. It requires enormous amounts of dedication and testosterone. On average, men have 30 times more testosterone than women. Despite my husband’s efforts as a dedicated weight lifter and CrossFitter, he is not a big pile of muscle (sorry sweetie, I know you are working really hard on it). Even if you have PCOS and an excess amount of testosterone (like I did at one point in my life), you’d still have to do a whole lot of heavy-duty lifting to truly bulk up.
2. I don’t want to build muscle, I just want to tone
When most people say they want to be toned, they want to have definition in their arms, legs, butt, and abs. If there is no muscle in these areas, there is nothing to tone. Fat doesn’t tone. Skin doesn’t tone. You must, in fact, build muscle to have a toned body.
3. I will get in better shape by running exclusively
First off, what is better shape? Thinner, stronger, better performance, more fit? For the purpose of this myth, “better shape” is defined as optimal physical health.
Running is a complicated exercise. It is the first choice for many people starting an exercise regimen, but unfortunately, most of these folks aren’t in good enough shape to run in the first place (read this article for an explanation).
Strength training can help you get into good enough shape for running by providing the following benefits that cannot be achieved by running alone:
- Bigger gains in muscle strength
- More power
- Increased speed
- Better muscular endurance
- Better ability to resist fatigue
- Increased flexibility
- Strengthened bones, ligaments, connective tissue, and tendons
If you want to run, by all means, run. It has many health benefits. However, to achieve a greater level of health, a balanced strength and cardio regimen will move you toward that goal more rapidly than running alone.
4. Cardio is better for you than strength training
Cardio is important and so is strength training. If you’re short on time, lift your weights faster or do circuit training. Then you get cardio + strength.
5. I have to work every single muscle individually to see any difference
Unless you want to be a bodybuilder or figure athlete, there is no need to isolate your muscles. There are plenty of functional exercises that still provide all the benefits of strength training. My personal favorites:
What It Works: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back, quads
Why You Want This In Your Life: That big heavy box of Christmas decorations in the garage? You can pick it up yourself.
What It Works: Shoulders, triceps, traps
Why You Want This In Your Life: That big heavy box of Christmas decorations at the top of your closet? You can get it down by yourself.
What It Works: Legs
Why You Want This In Your Life: For those days you have a car seat in one arm, 7 bags of groceries in the other, and have to move from your car to your second floor apartment.
6. It’s complicated
It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Mark Sisson offers a fantastic strength program in his free fitness eBook that uses 5 body weight exercises (plus their modifications): push-up, plank, pull-up, press, and squat. You can do four of these without any equipment and the 5th can be done at your local playground while your kids burn off some energy.
What holds you back from strength training?
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