As a local strength coach, I am confronted on a daily basis by the insecurities of society based on fallacies, myths and let’s call them “old school tails” of the strength world. To such an extent that Mary from accounts is adamant that what her neighbor told her is true, and my 12 years in the industry, doesn’t account for anything. My tried and tested methods that I have learnt from the greats, human biology and the science of human movement in general is still not enough proof or evidence of what is true and what is in fact fiction.
One of my favorite myths that must absolutely fall but just won’t disappear at all is the ever cliché phenomenon that women who train for strength will gain mass amounts of muscle from lifting “heavy weights” and appear like the women who grace the pages of “bodybuilding magazines”. Six years on as a strength athlete and I am still awaiting the bulk, no, I am not a genetic freak – I train for strength not for size. The difference in muscle mass between women and men comes down to our hormonal profiles, more specifically our bodies ability to produce testosterone.
On average men produce ten times more testosterone than their female counterparts. Unless you are a woman who makes use of anabolic steroids or other male hormones, lifting weights, training for strength WILL NOT MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE A MAN! Most women in fact struggle to gain muscle mass compared to men. Male hormones and the distribution of muscle mass between men and women is vastly different. Ladies, if you want to lose fat, and transform your bodies – you need to get into the weight room.
Another myth I would love to absolutely abolish is that strength training is dangerous for children. Apparently, strength training is damaging to a young child’s bone health and may stunt their growth. Yet parents do not hesitate to have their growing children participate in gymnastics, rugby, cricket and swimming to name a few sports. The truth is, children who run, climb, jump and tackle their friends in the playground actually creates a load on their bodies that is ten times greater than most strength exercises could. Mass = force x velocity.
Those demands on the playground or school field are harder on the body than resistance exercises and by not allowing your child to take part in strength training from a young age is in fact increasing your child’s risk for injury on the field and on the playground. Strength training builds a solid foundation for better movement, a stronger core, stronger bones and development. A properly designed and supervised resistance training program put together by specialized coaches is recommended. Children shouldn’t lift maximal weights, but they should lift weights that can be lifted for at least 6 reps with proper form. The benefits far outweigh the risks.
Those who know me personally, know that this next myth I would like to DEBUNK is a firm favorite. Lifting light weights at high reps will “tone” your muscles. Firstly, a muscle can either be made smaller or bigger, this granddaddy of strength myths will not go away.
Apparently shifting around little weights for reps on end will make your muscles magically take on a beautiful shape without you getting “bulky and manly”.
Truth is the difference between a physique that is toned and one that is bulky comes down to the fat that covers your muscles. What women want is the lean muscle that stays hidden
below the layers and layers of fat, and the best way to reveal this muscle and remove that fat is through strength training. Remember that muscle on your body is what gives you shape, having muscle increases your metabolism which helps your body burn calories. No muscle means higher body fat, and “skinny fat” gives you the same health issues as “fat”.
My biggest rule, no matter what I’ve heard, witnessed or been told otherwise of, is that compound exercises, big exercises give big results. I hate gimmicks and gadgets and new ideas, balancing on balls, hanging from ceilings and wasting time on the small things when the big things are what give big results.
We as women should not be subjected to the “yes no” machines, ab classes, stomach crunches and butt blasters. It’s all about the fundamentals, sticking to the basics that have always worked. If you want to lose fat and build lean muscle, do big exercises. Don’t believe the myths. Deadlifts, overhead pressing, heavy squats, rows, pull ups, dips, push-ups and the assistance exercises that accompany them. I do these, I know, this works.
Personally, as a woman, it’s not just about achieving a great body, there is something empowering about being feminine, being a woman and being able to lift heavy.