The Internet is no stranger to fitness fads. From trendy workouts to celebrity-certified routines spreading like wildfire, people all over TikTok are now entering their gym rat phase. While the term has mostly been associated with buff men hitting the weight racks, weight lifting has become increasingly popular amongst ladies as part of their training routine. As more women are picking up the dumbbells in the gym and documenting their progress online, we’re entering an age where people are looking to find health information and lifting tips from fitness influencers online. However, when turning to these ‘fitfluencers’ for knowledge, people tend to forget that there’s never a ‘one size fits all’ approach to building an effective lifting routine and these influencers are never a complete substitute for scientifically backed experts in the field of fitness and physical training.
@kayeet_ 🥵Training by @xoginaaaaaa #gym #6weeks #girlswholift #fyp ♬ POPSTAR (Feat. Drake) – DJ Khaled
With so much information about weightlifting and resistance training floating around all corners of the web, sifting through the noise of diet-culture fuelled content to find scientifically factual information about weight training may prove to be a difficult task. Despite weight lifting being one of the most effective methods of maintaining optimal physical health, misconceptions and false rumours still float around due to long-standing myths about lifting heavy and bodybuilding. Whether or not you’re a fitness junkie looking to change up your routine, or if you’re planning to build a workout plan with no prior knowledge of weight lifting—below, we unpack the most common myths about weight lifting and resistance training to help you get started on your fitness journey.
Myth #1: You’ll get bulky after lifting weights
Absolutely not. This is one of the most common misconceptions when it comes to weight training for women. As explained by Meta Performance‘s director, Sebastian Eio, “Females usually avoid lifting weights with the fear of getting too big. It’s actually the opposite! To get a tone physique, you need to build muscle, as muscle tissue is compact and it’s what gives females toned arms and the flat tummy that they desire.” Though many may associate weight lifters with bulging muscles and rock hard abs, it takes an incredible amount of time and dedication to get bulky.
Sam Ventrice, a trainer from Mobilus states, “In order for women to bulk up, they would need to be in a calorie surplus and follow a hypertrophic training program,” which is essentially training with the intention to increase the size of your muscle fibres. In other words, it’s highly unlikely that a few sessions in the gym per week will get you to that point.
Myth #2: You can’t lose weight by lifting weights
False. “Weight lifting is the most ideal method for losing fat, along with controlling overall calorie intake,” Eio says. If you’re looking to change the shape of your body for a more toned, hourglass silhouette, lifting weights and building muscle is a necessary step to achieve a complete body recomposition (the process of losing fat and gaining muscle).
“Lifting weights increases lean muscle mass, which improves our body’s ability to burn calories at rest. It’s in your best interest to participate in resistance training, particularly compound strength exercises,” Ventrice adds.
Myth #3: Women who want to burn fat should do more cardio than weightlifting
“The main difference in weight training and cardio is that during weight training, you’re only building muscle, but doing traditional cardio exercises like walking on the treadmill only burns calories,” Eio points out. Though cardio may be effective in burning calories, building muscle will ensure you continue to burn calories beyond your workout session, as muscle tissue is metabolically more active—meaning that you’ll continue to burn more calories even when you’re resting.
“Since resistance and strength training requires maximal strength and high power outputs, lifting is considered to be high intensity training, meaning the energy required to complete this type of exercise is increased,” Ventrice explains. It’s been proven that lifting weights improves your metabolic rate, but she also cites others affecting this are age, weight, medication and genetic factors. “You’d need to put in a lot more time in order to lose weight if you were just doing cardio training alone. Doing resistance training and cardio together in a complimentary program is a great way to add variety into your usual workout routine and maintain interest in training.”
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Myth #4: Women should aim for lighter weights and more reps
Not true. Ventrice points out that current research shows that resistance training has a significant positive effect on muscular strength in healthy adult females and stimulates the production of human growth hormones (HGH). HGH slows down ageing by by increasing exercise capacity, increasing bone density, increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat. Depending on your training goals, lighter weights may be more beneficial for building lean muscle, whilst heavier weights can help you build strength and power.
Besides the anti-ageing benefits of weightlifting, the World Health Organisation has also reported that engaging in weightlifting and resistance training can improve mobility and physical posture by increasing range of movement and muscular imbalances. Rather than purely looking at weightlifting as physical activity, Ventrice highlights the mental and psychological benefits of engaging in resistance training among women, such as improved confidence levels along with alleviating stress and anxiety.
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Myth #5: Weightlifting is intimidating for women
Though it may seem intimidating for complete beginners, Eio suggests getting a personal trainer, to save you plenty of time when it comes down to learning the correct techniques and to avoid getting injured. However, for those who flourish better in the gym in group settings, there’s a plethora of gyms which offer small group training classes to get you started and learn the correct form.
If getting a personal trainer or attending classes isn’t accessible to you, Ventrice suggests starting with the basics. “Focus on maintaining good form and select compound exercises—these are exercises that use multiple joints and muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, bench presses and deadlifts. Pick a weight at you can perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.” Additionally, she recommends tracking progress early on, as keeping mental notes of your performance each training session will help keep your training regime more structured and tick off short-term and long-term goals. And most importantly, remember that everyone starts somewhere.
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