Weights and weight loss go hand in hand, so if you’re trying to lose weight or feel stronger, you’ll want to start incorporating weights into your fitness routine. And in spite of evidence to debunk the widely held myth, many still believe that lifting weights will result in an aesthetically un-pleasing bulkiness, with our bodies becoming less “hottie” and more “Hulk-y.” Here’s the deal: unless you’re a comic book character with anger issues involved in a scientific experiment gone wrong, then you’re not going to turn green and grow insane muscles just by lifting a 5, 10, or 20-pound dumbbell.
So, let’s take a look at some of the myths associated with women and weightlifting.
Myth #1: Lifting weights makes you bulky.
Unless you’re training to be a bodybuilder, lifting heavy weights 5-6 times a week during intense training sessions, while also consuming calories to help build muscle mass, then you’re never really going to put on the “bulk” that seems so unappealing. Women have less testosterone than men, making muscle building, in general, more challenging, but not impossible. What you will gain from lifting weight is muscle tone and strength, which not only looks good but it feels good!
Myth #2: Cardio is the best method for weight loss.
Cardio is a great way to lose weight. Running, walking, biking, swimming are all ways to increase your heart rate and activate the metabolism, creating that burn you need to melt away fat. But an effective weight loss routine will also incorporate strength training. This is because the burn created by adding resistance during a workout will actually increase your basal metabolic rate, meaning your body will continue to burn calories even after you’ve left the gym. So, if you’ve lifted weights in your workout and then go sit at your desk, your body will continue to burn calories, which naturally translates into weight loss.
Myth #3: We can change the length of our muscles.
Often we hear about using weights or resistance training to create “long and lean muscles” and this statement is, in fact, true, but not in the way that it is typically received by audiences. Many women don’t want to get too muscular for fear that it is not a feminine look. Marketing the “long and lean” look rather than something more athletic or “bulky” sounds more appealing. Here’s the funny thing: we can’t actually lengthen our muscles. Our muscles are attached to our bones so unless we can lengthen our bones, we’re not going to be able to lengthen our muscles. If you want to look long and lean, then you actually need to lift weights to help shape and strengthen the muscle that you do have. This will make muscles stand out in ways that create the appearance of “lean” or “long” rather than oversized or invisible.
Adding weights to your fitness routine will do more to improve your look and health than skipping them altogether. Strength training not only activates our muscles, but also our brains; it helps to stimulate oxygen flow, improve our mood, and as a result, we feel better. We can also improve our quality of sleep, reduce lower back pain, and feel more alert. As we age we lose muscle mass, which can lead to health concerns down the road. Lifting weights, higher weight with lower reps 2-3 times a week (and with correct form) may help improve posture, balance, and our ability to do daily tasks without causing injury.
So, unless you’re training to be a bodybuilder, with years of heavy weights and consuming calories to build up muscle, then it’s more likely that your weight lifting is burning more calories than you consume, which translates to weight loss. Be sure to eat protein and stay hydrated in order to help the muscles repair and grow after a strength training session. And don’t fear looking Hulk-ish; the average Jo(sephine) lifting weights in a HIIT class or in circuit training isn’t going to suddenly become a superhero, although the strength training will make her feel like one!
Always consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet and exercise program.