For many years there has been a misconception amongst women (and still are with some), that lifting anything more than the lightest dumbbells in the gym will make you look muscly and big! This couldn't be further from the truth and I would like to explain why this isn't the case and also put aside a few myths regarding this topic:
1. Small amount of testosterone
In comparison to men, women does not have high amounts of testosterone and therefore find it much harder to gain muscle mass. It is of course possible, but it takes generally a lot longer and you need to follow systematic strength training over time, in combination with a very good diet with enough protein in order to be able to gain muscle mass as a women.
2.Muscle does NOT weigh more than fat (look at the photo at the top)
Probably one of the most common things I hear in gyms when speaking to women. Muscle DOES NOT weigh more than fat, it is just larger in size (higher volume) - 1 kg of muscle/versus 1 kg of fat weights exactly the same. This means that you can have two women with the same height and weight, but they might be a completely different clothes size as their muscle fat percentage can be very different. This is why it is important to take measurements and ideally fat percentage (if you have an accurate machine to do so) if you are interested in good feedback and progress and not just looking at the total amount of weight on the scale. The other easier way to track how your shape is changing is just looking at your clothes - once they start feeling looser, you can be sure that the total fat mass will be on it's way down too!
3. Muscle mass will increase your metabolism
One big reasons why a lot of men (and more women) wants to have more muscle mass; is because it increases our resting metabolism (metabolic rate). This means that you can burn more calories day to day, even when resting! This also means that it is much easier to sustain a certain weight for a long period of time, instead of going on calorie restricted diets, which will do the opposite. A larger engine needs more fuel to keep going!
4.Lots of reps to get the “toned look”?
Your muscles will not get “long and slim” by doing lots of repetitions with lighter loads, versus lifting heavier weights and less reps (strength training). In fact if you want to get stronger and increase your strength, you also need to lift heavier weights (as long as your technique is good) in order to see progress. Getting the “toned” look that so many women are longing for really means building some muscle mass and reducing the body fat percentage. Most women doesn't want to look big and bulky, so it is about finding that magic balance where you can be healthy and fit and at the same time make you feel strong and healthy to get the confidence you want.
5. Strength training to support the joints
It is a fact that as we get older, (even as early as in our 30s!) muscle mass start to decrease unless we do our bit to try and slow down this process. Osteoporosis is more common in women than in men and it is therefore even more important to do strength training to support our joints.
We all know that being to skinny or too overweight is not good for our health. In terms of exercise it is about finding something that you enjoy and something that you will feel good for doing. Not everyone is designed to go running 50 miles per week and equally not everyone enjoys hardcore strength training, but the message is to not be scared of doing resistance training with the fear that it will make you look like a beast!Unless you start eating a lot more than before (which sometimes happened when people start doing strength training) you will not gain size! The total weight might just see small changes, but you might just notice that your clothes are getting looser and you start to look firmer! What a bonus!
Look after your body (and mind), if you want to stay mobile and active as long as possible!