4 myths about lifting weights for women

Fitness & Sports Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

May 12, 2022

There are loads of misconceptions that make women wary about lifting weights.

But whether you call it weight training, resistance training or strength training, the facts are the same: working out with weights can help you get leaner, stronger and maintain bone density as you age—and there’s more.

Recent studies, highlighted by 2019 research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,  suggest strength training can be just as effective as cardio at promoting heart health and reducing risks of common-age-related chronic diseases like diabetes and arthritis.

Need more convincing? Let’s bust some common myths about women and weights.

Myth #1: Lifting weights makes you bulky

Unless you are taking steroids, the fear of packing on too much muscle is unfounded. Women naturally lack the amounts of testosterone needed to build bulky muscles. Instead, you will look leaner, stronger and fit.

Myth #2: The muscle I build will turn to fat as soon as I stop exercising

There is no way that muscle can turn into fat or vice versa. Muscle and fat are two completely different kinds of body tissue.  One cannot magically turn into another.

A significant benefit of increasing muscle mass is its positive effect on metabolism. Muscle is a very metabolically active tissue, meaning it burns a lot of calories when you are exercising and when you are at rest. The more muscle tissue you have, the faster your metabolism, and who doesn’t want that?

Myth #3: It’s too dangerous to lift weights as I age

When done correctly, weight training in older women is not only safe, but also crucial to support your bone density, muscle mass and strength, particularly as you approach menopause when the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis increases.

Lifting weights can also help improve the quality of your day-to-day life and build resistance to prevent injuries and falls as you get older.

It’s important to note: No matter your age, perfecting your workout technique through proper form is essential to ensure you aren’t doing more harm than good when building strength.

Myth #4: You should only use light weights with lots of reps to tone specific muscles

There are a few myths to debunk here. First, it’s not uncommon for women to say they just want to strength  to “tone” their body. The truth is, most women would benefit from lifting something heavier than 5-pound dumbbells.

That doesn’t mean you begin with heavy loads. It’s important to start out slow to avoid injury or an over-trained body. Working with lighter weights first can help you build the foundation you’ll need to lift heavier later.

And, unfortunately, while you can spot train, you can’t spot-reduce fat. Weight loss comes as a cumulative result of a balanced diet and an effective full-body workout program using various strength devices.

Need a place to start?

Try this: Choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions. Your final reps should feel challenging but not impossible

With each exercise, gradually increase the weight or resistance when you can easily do more repetitions.

Research shows that a single set of 12 to 15 repetitions with the proper weight can build muscle efficiently in most people and can be as effective as three sets of the same exercise.

Weight train in the way that works for you

These days there are more ways than one to build muscle. Along with free weights and machines, you can reap the benefits of strength training at home or the gym with bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, power yoga, pilates, kettlebells and cable suspension training.

A professional trainer or experienced fitness pro can be an excellent source for one-on-one help to set personal goals based on your health and help you with alignment and execution to reap the rewards of all your hard work.

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