Weight training is very beneficial for all women. It is particularly beneficial for those with weight loss goals. There are a lot of misconceptions, however, with regard to weight training for women.
The most common misconceptions surrounding women and weight training are:
- Women should lift weights at high repetitions and low weight for ‘toning’
- Women who lift weights get big and bulky muscles
- Our muscle will turn to fat if we stop lifting weights
1. Women should lift weights at high repetitions and low weight for toning
‘Muscle tone’ comes from being able to see muscle underneath body fat. Therefore, if you have excess body fat covering the muscle you will not have a ‘toned’ look. I prefer to refer to ‘being toned’ as ‘having muscle definition’ as it more accurately describes the ‘look’ that many women are aspiring to.
In order to increase muscle definition, it is necessary to do weight training so that you have enough visible muscle, however, lifting weights at high repetitions and low weight actually trains our muscles for endurance instead of strength and hypertrophy (muscle gain).
So to make our muscles ‘toned’ we need to build muscle and this can only happen if your muscles are placed under sufficient stress, i.e. lifting heavier weights. Placing greater stress on your muscles can be accomplished by progressively overloading your muscles and placing varying stresses on your muscles (periodisation) on a regular basis.
2. Women who lift weights get big bulky muscles
By far the majority of women do not have the high levels of testosterone and human growth hormone required to increase their lean muscle mass to a large extent.
By strength training, you can however, help maintain muscle mass as well as replace muscle lost through ageing and (depending on your genetics) perhaps add a couple of kilograms of lean muscle mass – if you are lucky!
Lucky because more muscle means a higher metabolism and therefore, faster fat burning. The net result will be that you will fit into your clothes more easily and slowdown the ageing process.
3. Our muscle will turn to fat if we stop lifting weights
Muscle can’t turn into fat; it is simply not possible!
What will happen, however, if you stop weight training and continue to eat the same amount of food you were eating while you were training, the extra kilojoules that you used to burn will now be stored as fat. This is due to the fact that when we stop weight training, we begin to lose muscle and therefore, our metabolic rate declines, causing a decrease in our daily energy needs. Any excess calories, regardless of their source, will then be stored as fat.