Body Building Resources

Nine Myths About Weight Training for Women
By Jean Lam

Many women dismiss weight training as a fitness option because of certain misconceptions. There are many myths surrounding the sport, especially for women-from the idea that women who lift weights will wind up looking like Arnold to the hope that you can target just the areas of your body you'd most like to change. Here are nine myths about body building for women-that we hope won't keep you from giving it a try.

Weight training is just for the guys. Many women dismiss bodybuilding and weight training as too "masculine." Actually, women can gain important health benefits from weight training. It strengthens bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis later in life-and since about 80% of women over 50 develop symptoms of the disease, weight training is a valuable prevention that will benefit most women. It also strengthens joints and muscles, allowing your body to stay healthier longer.

Weight training will make you look like a man. There's a common misconception that lifting weights will make women look bulky and masculine. Nothing could be further than the truth. Women do not produce enough testosterone naturally to make them look as bulky as a male bodybuilder-and they never will, no matter how much they work out. To be honest, only a handful of physically gifted men ever bulk up that way naturally; most take steroids to look that bulky. Female bodybuilders take steroids as well, which may be where the preconception comes from-those women do look bulky, but they need help. Unless you consciously take steroids, you won't look bulky and masculine as a result of strength training.

Weight training will make your breasts bigger. Working out your pecs will not make your breasts bigger. Your breasts are made of fatty tissue, not muscle-so it's impossible to increase their size through working out. The muscles in your back will increase, so your overall measurements might increase as well-but your cup size won't.

Weight training isn't safe if you're pregnant. Not true. Weight training can be done safely while you're pregnant. You do have to be careful and avoid certain exercises, however-it's often safer to work on machines than with free weights while pregnant, as machines provide more support and there's less risk of falling. You'll also need to avoid abdominal exercises including full-body exercises that include your abs, and cut any exercises that require lying on your stomach or back out of your routine. Get your doctor's advice, but in general you can continue weight training while you're pregnant.

If you gain lots of muscle and then stop exercising, you'll get fat. This is a myth that both men and women believe-that muscle will turn to fat if you stop exercising. Muscle cannot turn to fat any more than iron can turn to gold. However, many people who work out regularly also have big appetites. While they're working out, they can burn the calories-but if they stop, they may gain extra weight while they lose muscle tone.

Weight training will decrease your flexibility. Not if it's done right. Weight training can actually increase your flexibility. Many full-body exercises are done through the limb's full range of motion, testing the muscle's limits on every rep. In addition, a good warmup and cooldown routine should include stretching exercises. If you exercise the right way, your flexibility should increase with strength training.

You can get rid of that unsightly bulge through weight training. The unfortunate fact is that there is no such thing as spot training. You can't target your least favorite bulge and make it disappear. If you do want to get rid of unsightly bulges, your best bet is to reduce fat everywhere through a combination of weight training and cardiovascular workouts. Cardio burns fat, while weight training builds muscle that works to burn fat further-some experts estimate it takes approximately 50-60 calories to maintain each pound of muscle.

Weight training takes too much time. Many women believe it takes an immense time commitment to see results. As a matter of fact, you generally shouldn't work out more than an hour a day-or even every day of the week. The only way to gain in strength and see results is to work a muscle until it is momentarily fatigued to the point where it physically cannot do another rep. This doesn't take endless repetitions to achieve; with a weight at the limit of your lifting ability, it can take only a handful of reps. Most trainers will suggest that you do at least two sets of each exercise-and use a weight that's heavy enough so that you have a hard time lifting it by the end of the second set.

Everyone at the gym will be looking at you. Men and women alike often suffer from self-consciousness when they first go to a gym. But women in particular tend to feel the pressure to be slim and perfect-looking before they'd dare walk into a gym and work out in front of other people. The truth is, everyone starts somewhere-and all the other fit, toned people at your gym probably started with less-than-perfect bodies as well. In addition, most people at the gym are there to work out-they won't be looking at you.

Body building isn't just for men. It's also a healthy way for women to get fit and toned. No matter whether you're pregnant, over 50, or under 20, you're sure to see improvements in your body image, energy level, and fitness if you give it a try.

About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.

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