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March 25, 2008

8 Strength Training Myths Women Believe

By Serena Daniels

I’ve been strength training for over 8 years now, and not once have I been told that I look like a man. That’s because I don’t. Most women, however, have an underlying fear of strength training because they believe that many negative things will result from it.

Well, I’m here to dispel these myths and show you the way. And that way is the path to strength training. Here, then, are 8 common strength training myths women believe and the actual truth of the matter.

Strength training myths #1
Heavy weights will make you bulky

You were flipping through the channels on TV the other day, and you saw a woman (at least you thought it was a woman) and she was built like Hulk Hogan. You thought to yourself, I will never lift weights; I don’t want to look like a man.

Well, to start, a woman cannot develop a body like a man without some sort of supplement. That said, lifting weights, no matter how heavy, will never make you look like a man.

Lifting weights will help you tone your body and increase your ability to burn fat more efficiently.

Strength training myths #2
You build muscle with light weights

When you do a set of 15 repetitions of bicep curls with two-pound weights, is it easy? Is it too easy? To make any muscle gains, you need to lift heavy enough that, by the last repetition, your muscle is exhausted.

I see too many women wandering through the gym lifting two- or five-pound weights and not even glistening, let alone sweating.

The next time you go to the gym, try lifting eight-pound weights and do each repetition slowly. The next day you’ll feel a little sore, but at least you’ll know that you’re making significant muscle gains.

And once lifting eight pounds becomes easy, move on to 10 pounds, and so on.

Strength training myths #3
Muscle will turn to fat if you stop

Muscle will never turn into fat, and fat will never turn into muscle, they are two completely different substances. When you stop utilizing your muscles, they simply shrink. And when they shrink, you will appear “flabbier” perhaps, but that is not because your muscle turned into fat.

If you stop strength training but continue to eat the way you always have, fat gain is inevitable.

Strength training myths #4
Weight lifting gets rid of cellulite
This isn’t entirely untrue, but the reality is that cellulite is a tough adversary for many women and strength training alone will not eliminate it.

In order to minimize cellulite significantly, you need to watch your diet (cut out salt and caffeine) and do cardiovascular exercise, as well as strength train with a focus on your thighs and glutes.

Strength training myths #5
You need to eat a lot more protein
While it is true that protein is essential for muscle, most Americans already eat more protein than necessary. And unless you are a professional bodybuilder, chances are you don’t need to supplement protein.

Also, keep in mind that good fats and complex carbohydrates are also necessary for building and maintaining a healthy body weight and balance. And if you consume too many calories, no matter what form they come in (carbs, fats, protein), they will get stored as fat because your body is receiving too many calories.

Strength training myths #6
The more repetitions, the better
You may be so proud of yourself for being able to pump out 25 reps of the same exercise, but the truth is that if you’re able to get through more than 12 reps easily, the weight you’re lifting is way too light and you will not see any significant gains unless you begin to lift heavier.

In order to tone and obtain muscle definition, you should be doing three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions of a given exercise. Circuit training can also help to tone muscle.

Strength training myths #7
Strength training will make you look fat

The scale is not your friend, especially if it does not signify what percentage of your weight comes from fat and muscle.

When women begin a strength training program, most of them become depressed when they step on the scale because the number sometimes gets higher. What they should be paying attention to, however, is their waistline.

Muscle is leaner than fat, therefore, while the scale numbers may increase, that does not mean that you’re gaining fat nor will you look fat.

If you do gain a significant amount of weight, however, it is possible that you’re consuming too many calories and may need to rethink your diet.

Strength training myths #8
Machines are better than free weights

While machines are not terrible, free weights call your stabilizer muscles into play so that you end up expending more energy (read: calories) and using your core muscles with every repetition.

Machines are great for isolating muscle, but they often allow for the use of momentum for “lazy” trainers.

So while incorporating machines into your workout isn’t an awful thing, all your exercises should not consist of machine-use alone.

Build those muscles girl!

Now that you know that building muscle will not turn you into the Hulk, get to the gym and start working harder for the body you want.

Gain those sexy muscles and love the body you design.

Work it out.

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