Strength Training Makes Women Bulky and Other Fitness Myths

women strength training myths

It can be hard to convince women that strength training is an indispensable component of any fitness routine thanks to all the myths that surround it. The very words "strength training" can strike fear. "I don't want to look like a man," and "I don't want to hurt my muscles," are among the reasons that women give for not wanting to strength train. Thankfully, there's no scientific basis for these fears. In fact, strength training has many benefits.

Myth: Strength training will make me look bulky.

Fact: Strength training helps you tone and strengthen your overall body, but it does not build muscle bulk. In fact, women don’t have an adequate amount of the hormones needed for true muscle bulk, mainly testosterone. Everyone needs to be involved in some type of strength training to help increase lean muscle mass and improve overall strength. For every pound of muscle mass you add to your body, you increase your metabolism by an additional 50 calories per day. One pound of muscle takes up only one-third of the space of one pound of fat, so as you increase your lean muscle mass and decrease your fat mass, you body will become more toned, sculpted, and defined.

Myth: I won’t burn as many calories strength training as I would doing cardiovascular exercise.

Fact: It is true that 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise such as walking, running, or swimming will burn more calories than 30 minutes of strength training. However, strength training builds lean body mass, which will increase your resting metabolic rate (BMR) and help you burn more calories throughout the day.

Myth: I can reduce fat in specific areas, such as my abdominals, hips, or arms, by doing specific exercises.

Fact: This myth has made fitness companies rich and disappointed exercisers. Although infomercials promising to help you sculpt your abs, tone your arms, and whittle away your belly are plentiful, there is no data showing you can spot reduce one area of your body. Where your body holds fat is based on a number of factors, including hormones, genetics, and age. If you want to lose weight in a specific area, you will need a combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and following your Medi-Weightloss® nutrition plan to lose overall body fat and tone your entire body.

Myth: I don’t have time for strength training.

Fact: You don't need to spend hours lifting weights to see results. Spending as little as 30 minutes two to three days a week can help you build lean muscle mass and provide all the benefits strength training has to offer, including improved posture, decreased back pain, improved energy, and a higher resting metabolic rate. If 30 minutes seems unattainable, you can even break it into 10-minute increments throughout the day. For example, when brushing your teeth, perform squats and lunges. While watching television, do crunches and push-ups during the commercial breaks. While waiting in line at the grocery store, do calf raises.

Myth: Strength training hurts. I’ve always heard, "no pain, no gain."

Fact: If you are new to exercise or complete an especially challenging strength-training workout, you likely will be sore a few days later. However, there is a difference between pain and soreness. You should never be pushing yourself to the point of pain. You should feel challenged and perhaps even reach a point of mild discomfort, but should stay away from anything that causes pain. One way to decipher pain and discomfort is in the length and quality. Pain is sharp and easily pinpointed (i.e., I have a sharp pain in the right side of my back when I do this exercise,) while discomfort is dull and general (i.e., I feel an overall sensation in my entire back when I do this exercise.) Start slow, gradually building intensity until you become more comfortable with the exercises.