Women and Weights: The Myth Behind the Mass
by Paige Jernigan and Jason Borne
It’s that time of year where so many want to be bikini body ready for their summer in the sun. Army Ranger Christopher Ryan and business owner of Custombuilt Performance Fitness Nutrition sent in this article to educate our audience and start this conversation that continues to transpire daily. This first appeared in The Havok Journal May 24, 2019.
After several years of coaching individuals and groups, I have come to understand what most women fear in terms of fitness. They don’t want to sacrifice femininity for fitness. They don’t want too much muscle, a deep voice and masculine facial features. They don’t want to look like a man! This is often communicated during the initial consultation with things like “I just want to tone up some” or “I don’t want to look bulky.” This is often followed up quickly with a statement such as “I want to get stronger.”
Marketing has largely contributed to the myths of fitness in an effort to attract more clients. Workout videos are some of the worst when it comes to brainwashing potential customers. The videos display women with “rock-hard” bodies and perfectly sculpted buns doing various exercises with dumbbells in the 5-8# range. They tell you how doing these exercises a few times per week will get you the results you are looking for. NEWS FLASH…. this is FALSE! These models did not get those great bodies by lifting 8# dumbbells for only 30mins/day! These ladies train hard with heavy weight! When I say “heavy”, I mean they are doing things like deadlifts and barbell back squats with hundreds of pounds. They are pushing their bodies to the limit AND adhering to a strict, often high calorie diet to get those types of results. If you want to look like they do, then you have to do the same types of things.
Another unfortunate myth with women and weightlifting is the rampant disbelief that supplement use will lead to hulk-like bulking. This is simply not true. Supplementation, by definition, is supplementing your diet with products designed to fill the gaps that food alone cannot fill – assuming you are eating a balanced diet that is covering as much of your needs as possible already. Supplements are convenient ways to bridge those gaps and add where time or convenience doesn’t allow for eating a prepped or freshly prepared meal. Supplements like multi-vitamins, protein, amino acids, and pre-workouts are all a great way to get an edge in the weight room and take your results to the next level.
In the fitness industry you hear people talk about doing “cardio” to get lean. While aerobic training (I don’t like to use the word cardio) is a method used to lean out, if you do not have any muscle underneath the fat you are trying to lose, you will look like a bag of bones. Strength training builds fast twitch muscle fibers and increases metabolism, resulting in increased fat loss WHILE building muscle, which will ultimately lead to that coveted “toned” body.
Genetics and body type also play a roll in what type of results a woman will achieve. Everyone knows that no two people are exactly the same. Some people are tall, some short, some with wide shoulders, some with narrow shoulders; some have blonde hair while others have dark. You get the point. However, people often don’t consider this when they think about getting into shape, specifically with lifting weights. Women often think that if they pick up anything heavier than 8#’s they are going to grow 20” biceps overnight. While this is an exaggeration, the truth is, that your body is going to do what it is genetically designed to do. If you are naturally tall and fairly lean, then the chances of you getting “bulky” are nearly impossible. Conversely, if you are of shorter stature and/or maybe more athletic build, it is possible that your body will build muscle faster and therefore you may have to modify your training to achieve your desired results. The level of dedication that bodybuilders have far exceeds what the average person looking to get “fit” has. So, when you say “I don’t want to look like that” while pointing at some female bodybuilder, chances are you won’t!
So what does all this mean for the average female? Strength training needs to be the foundation of all of your training. Not only will it help you lose fat but it will also strengthen your bones and help fight off osteoporosis. And after 5+ years in the fitness industry I can pretty much guarantee you won’t wake up one morning “looking like a man” with average weight and aerobic training. So, don’t be afraid of gaining some muscle, adding some curves, and losing some fat! Get in there and pump some iron.
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