Updated: Apr 3, 2020
For many years weightlifting has been seen as a male only sport, or more so male dominant with the women participating mostly being juiced up and competing for the title of Miss Olympia and other similar titles.
Times have changed, and weightlifting whether it's just for a hobby or sport is becoming more popular amongst the female community for all of it's benefits and the power it gives us to sculpt our bodies.
There is however still a negative stigma around lifting weights for women which is led by common beliefs and myths, which are outlined Bellow.
MYTH 1: Lifting weights will make you bulky - women naturally do not have enough testosterone (which is involved in the muscle building process) to build huge amounts of muscle, lifting will not make you manly, it will in fact improve your feminine curves and tone up your body, muscle builds very slowly, you wont suddenly wake up and have huge muscles. Just like adding bits of clay to a sculpture, once you are happy with the shape you stop adding foundations to it and begin maintaining and looking after what you've got. You also need to be eating in a Calorie Surplus to bulk up, whilst eating in a Calorie Deficit you will get smaller, you may gradually build some muscle while loosing fat but as muscle is much more denser than fat, you will begin to decrease in size while toning up (providing you participate in weight training) weight training also helps to maintain current muscle mass while loosing body fat, helping to create definition. But remember if your main goal is to build muscle and not to loose body fat, a Calorie deficit is not the most optimal diet to build muscle.
MYTH 2: Lifting weights is bad for your bones and joints - quite the opposite, lifting will actually help to strengthen your bones and joins and create better strength and stabilisation. When we lift there is an increase of blood flow to our muscles and to our bones, creating a better release of nutrients due to the pulling forces of the muscle on the bone, our bodies are in a constant phase of renewal , removing the old and laying down newer and fresher foundations, this increase in blood flow and nutrient release from lifting leads to a greater renewal process and greater bone density, creating stronger bones, less susceptible to breakages and various health conditions. We also benefit from stronger joints as our muscles and ligaments develop and help to stabilise the joint.
MYTH 3: Lifting weights causes arthritis - lifting weights can actually help to prevent arthritis and similar conditions, as mentioned above stronger muscles and ligaments help to stabilise the joint. Meaning it is less likely to move in unnatural motions and thus the wearing of cartilage is reduced, it can even help reduce the risk of brittle bone disease, due to having stronger and denser bones.
MYTH 4: Lifting weights should be avoided for older people - in actual fact resistance based exercises such as weightlifting and swimming has a great benefit for the older generation. As we age our bodies renewal process tends to slow and we can suffer from reduced bone density on top of that our strength tends to deteriorate, regularly taking part in resistance based exercise can significantly improve bone density and overall strength and help to reverse many aspects of ageing.
MYTH 5: If your goal is to loose fat you should avoid weights and do cardio only - Although Cardio Burns Calories while being performed, a weight training session burns Calories while being performed and while at rest. High rep strength training between the 8-15 rep range has what is known as high EPOC or "Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption." This is a fancy term for saying how long your metabolism is elevated for after exercise. Muscle also burns Calories while dormant, meaning the more muscle you have the greater your metabolism and so you want to make sure that you keep hold of as much muscle as possible, while cutting in order to remain lean.
MYTH 6: Muscle turns to fat if you stop lifting or vice versa - Muscle and fat are two completely different tissues, they cant just transform into the other. However if you do stop your training stimulus your body will gradually start to adapt by removing what it no longer needs. Since the body is designed to survive in whatever situation it is put in, it begins to gradually remove muscle as it is no longer being used to its full capacity, also as muscle uses calories at rest this is another incentive for your body to remove muscle tissue if it isn't being used, especially if you are cutting back calories in order to try and use fat, remember fat does not burn Calories, it just sits there waiting to be used as energy. If you are eating in a Calorie surplus and not providing your body with the stimulus to build muscle, the spare energy will be stored primarily as fat as it is an energy source.
MYTH 7: The best routine is this or that - There is no best routine, the best routine is the one the one that you will stick to, whats good for you may not be for another, just aim to be hitting each muscle at least twice a week.
MYTH 8: The only way to progress and see results it to lift heavy or add weight every session - There are many ways to progress, adding weight to a lift is not the only way, other forms of progression are, shorter rest time, more reps, more sets and slower lifting tempo and control with better form.
MYTH 9: Weightlifting causes high blood pressure - Although short term weight lifting can cause a temporarily spike in blood pressure, long term it helps to drastically reduce high blood pressure. It is important to breathe properly while lifting, breathing in on the lowering phase (the easier part) and exhaling on the concentric phase (the harder part). Holding your breath has an effect of what is known as the Valsalva Manoeuvre and causes changes in the heart rate and blood pressure. Breathing properly will help to avoid spikes in blood pressure.
MYTH 10: Weightlifting decreases flexibility - If performed correctly Weightlifting actually helps to increase flexibility , whilst performing an exercise in its full range of motion (ROM), it actually helps to gradually pull your joints and muscles into a new range of motion and increase its strength and mobility there.
MYTH 11: Machines are more effective than free weights- Both are just as effective as each other and serve its purpose, machines help to keep your muscle under tension providing a great hypertrophy benefit, where as free weights use multiple muscles, including core muscles as they have to fire in order to stabilise the weight and keep you in good form.
MYTH 12: Cardio will make you loose muscle - Cardio will not make you loose muscle if you are following a resistance training program, it can actually help with muscle recovery by promoting greater circulation and has various benefits on your cardiovascular system, including greater stamina, power production , stroke volume and also helps to reduce the risk of Cardiovascular diseases.