Content of article
Strength Training Myth #2: You Can Reduce Fat in Specific Areas
When it comes to lifting weights, everyone has an opinion. One day you hear heaving heavy weights will leave you looking like a linebacker (it won’t). The next day, rumor has it that supermodel limbs are a mere 10 minutes away thanks to the Miracle Machine du jour (not in this lifetime). The fact is, those little hand weights aren’t the only dumbbells lurking around your gym. If all this conflicting information is enough to make you burn your jog bra and bag working out altogether, fear not: We sought out two of the most in-the-know pros in the fitness industry to clear up your confusion once and for all.
1. If you lift weights, you’ll bulk up. «It’s physiologically impossible,» says Michael Wood, director of the Sports Performance Group in Cambridge, Mass., and an exercise physiologist at Tufts Research Center on Aging. The reason? Testosterone is responsible for a muscle’s bulk, and women simply don’t have enough of this predominantly male hormone to build Schwarzenegger-sized bulges. «Because muscle is denser than fat, strength training actually makes muscles shapelier,» Wood says.
2. Weightlifting will get rid of saddlebags and any other unsightly bulges. If you buy that, rumor has it there’s a Chiseled Cheekbones Through Self-Hypnosis franchise looking for investors. The sorry truth is that there is no such thing as «spot reduction.» If you have a ripple here or a bulge there, your only recourse is to reduce fat all over. The best way is with a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training, says Norm Meltzer, a former competitive weightlifter. Here’s why: Regular aerobic exercise burns calories and helps melt flab. Combine it with strength training (via free weights or weight machines), and you’ll beef up your lean muscle mass, turning your body into a round-the-clock calorie-burning factory. (Experts estimate you need to take in an extra 50 to 60 calories per day just to maintain each pound of muscle you add to your frame.) «Area-specific exercises can improve appearance,» Meltzer says, by tightening underlying muscles. «But it’s wishful thinking that you can choose where to burn fat.»
3. In order to see results, you need to work every muscle individually. Not only is it unnecessary to work each of your more than 600 muscles separately, you actually get a better workout (as in faster results in less time) by performing compound moves. Think squats, lunges, dips, push-ups. «Multijoint movements burn way more calories than single-joint exercises, so you get double the bang for your buck,» says Wood. Another benefit: Unlike single-joint exercises (like a biceps curl or leg extension), compound moves mimic activities you’re likely to perform in everyday life. This greatly reduces the chance you’ll pull a muscle performing simple tasks like vacuuming or hauling groceries.
4. You need to eat a lot more protein if you lift weights. Your recent Perdue stock purchase aside, probably not. «The RDA protein requirement is .8 grams for each kilogram of body weight [1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds],» says Wood. «With athletes, the number is only slightly higher, at around 1 gram per kilo.» For a 130-pound woman, that translates into roughly 47 to 60 grams of protein a day. According to Wood, your liver and kidneys can only assimilate so much protein. Despite the pasta phobia that seems to be sweeping the nation, if you’re underconsuming anything, it’s probably healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, rice, cereal, and juices — all key nutrients for muscle building. «Carbs are our bodies’ main source of fuel and should make up between 50 percent to 60 percent of your total caloric intake,» Wood says. «Without adequate amounts, you may have difficulty sustaining a workout.»
5. For maximum definition, the more repetitions of each exercise, the better.Au contraire, mes soeurs. «The only way you will ever see gains in strength, size, or power is by taking a muscle to momentary fatigue,» Wood says. That means that you have to lift a challenging weight. «Once you can easily perform 12 repetitions of an exercise, increase the weight by 5 percent.» Meltzer adds that as a part of a multidimensional approach to training, low-weight workouts aren’t entirely without merit: «Repetition builds endurance, which is important — especially if you participate in a sport,» he says. In general, try to do at least two sets of each exercise and use a weight that’s heavy enough so that you can barely lift it by the end of the second set.
6. If you stop working out, your muscles will turn to fat. Think apples and oranges: Fat and muscle are two different substances, and one cannot, will not, and has not ever turned into the other. Less of one simply means more room for the other. «When you stop using your muscles, your body becomes significantly less efficient at burning calories, which allows the pounds, in the form of fat, to creep back on,» Wood says. If, say, a 150-pound woman stopped strength training, she may continue to see the same number when she steps on the scale, but her ratio of fat to muscle will shift dramatically. Women who work out with weights can slow the 10 percent loss of strength per decade that occurs in women who don’t train with weights.
This is one myth about weight training for women that we are all too happy to put to rest. This myth about weight training for women has a robust and long history, but it is undeniably untrue. Weight lifters who are bulky are that size because of thousands of hours of training, eating specific diets that are designed to help gain bulk, and regimens of supplements that sometimes even include testosterone.
When you lift heavy objects, your muscles get stronger and denser. But stronger doesn’t always equal bigger. Women’s bodies naturally create very little testosterone, only about 10% of what a man produces, which helps keep the risk of the dreaded bulk down.
Further, studies have shown that training with heavier weights can actually help you lose weight! In addition, weight training for women can also increase bone density and prevent muscle loss in postmenopausal women.
Many women believe that they can weight train in certain areas to help reduce fat in just that one section of the body.
Our bodies cannot reduce fat in specific, localized areas. Our bodies are already genetically predisposed to store fat in particular areas in a certain order. When the body does start to lose weight, it will also lose fat in a certain order as well.
For fat to disappear all over the body, some simple things need to happen:
- Eat Better. Choosing leaner foods with less saturated fat and sugars, and focusing on lean proteins and more whole vegetables, is the best thing you can do to improve your eating habits. Your diet will be responsible for 80-90 percent of your fat loss.
- Take the Right Supplements. Eating the right types of healthy meals is great, but supplementing them with the right vitamins and nutrients is even better. Supplementing your diet with a beneficial whey protein powder for muscle gain or energizing pre-workout drinks can make all the difference in your energy level and your recovery time in between workouts, which helps you get back to the gym faster.
- Strength Train. The key with strength training for women is doing big compound movements that recruit lots of muscles to do the work, thereby making your body break down and then rebuild lots of muscle, which requires more calories burned—even after you’re done working out! Strength training utilizes numerous muscles and therefore burns extra calories. So getting on a smart program to develop strong, lean muscles is one of the best things you can do for your overall strength, and muscle to fat ratio.
If you happen to love to run, bicycle, or even jazzercise, that’s fantastic! But there is a more efficient way to lose weight and get fit.
Strength training for women will produce a more efficient form of weight loss than the same amount of cardio workout. When we strength train, our muscles go through a process of breaking down and then begin the process of rebuilding over the next 24 to 48 hours.
While your body is working, it requires more calories and energy; this is often referred to as the “afterburn effect”. This also means your metabolism operates at a faster pace even when you are at rest after a workout.
It’s not necessary to run a marathon or bicycle a hundred miles to lose weight. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn, so it’s actually a good idea to build up those muscles if you’re looking to lose weight. However, we’re always up for a different cardio workout to spice up the game.
Weight training for women is as varied as there are types of women looking to get into shape. This is great news because it means there are many different ways to get a stronger and healthier body!
Strength training myths can lead to getting discouraged when trying a new routine, so remember to keep it varied and do things that you like. Your workout doesn’t have to be given by a boot camp coach at the most expensive gym in town. It can be as simple and varied as:
- Carrying Your Groceries to Your Car
- Doing Bodyweight Exercises
- Carrying Your Dog
- Carrying Your Kids
- Swinging Kettlebells
The good news about our bodies being different is that even if something doesn’t work for you, you can try something else. Just remember to track your results so you can learn to develop a strong mind/body awareness as you continue to get stronger.
No matter what, the benefits of strength training as a woman go far beyond the gym and can help improve overall health, reducing your risk of diseases including osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.
There is a false belief that as women get older (and after menopause especially), they shouldn’t strength train. This is another strength training myth that is anything but true.
After women go into menopause, the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis increases, and women tend to shy away from weight training for fear of injury; however, this is actually the most ideal time for weight training for women.
For postmenopausal women, it’s especially important to help keep up bone density, mass, and strength. With the right program and guidance, older women should do strength training that helps keep them strong and healthy and prevent fractures.
Now that you’ve got the skinny on weight training for women, get out there and have fun strengthening your body! It’s the only one you’ve got, and there are so many incredible ways to get stronger and healthier to live a more enriched life.
Want to learn more? Visit our blog today to learn more about fitness plans, delicious recipes, and motivational workout stories that will help you get up and go!
MYTH 1: Lifting weights will cause you to bulk like the Hulk.
This is a common concern women express when embarking on a weight-training programme, despite having fat-loss and strength as their main priority. Some don’t fully understand the amount of training that is required for women to gain significant amounts of muscle mass that could lead to a ‘bulkier’ physique.
Women have far lower levels of growth hormones than men so muscle growth with the same level of lifting will be significantly lower.
Of course weight training will create some degree of muscle growth, but do not fear. It’s muscle that will help you achieve a leaner, defined, stronger physique that is more efficient at burning fat. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
Muscle and fat are two completely different components. If you stop training, your muscles eventually will shrink and waste away… but there’s no way they can actually turn into fat.
There’s a theory that the human body works harder to maintain a pound of muscle than it does to maintain a pound of fat, meaning that if you lose muscle you will burn less calories on a day-to-day basis.
If you lose muscle, but continue to eat the same calorie intake, then there’s a chance you could gain fat as your body isn’t working as hard anymore. So gain muscle, eat more (of the right stuff) — sounds great, right?!
As a fitness coach, I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard women dismiss strength training because they «don’t want to get too big» and would rather «just tone.» But unless you plan on taking anabolic steroids, have insane genetics, and dedicate multiple hours daily to training, then you’re never going to look bulky.
The cold, hard truth is that women have 1/15 to 1/20th the amount of testosterone as men, and testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for muscle growth. So it’s genetically impossible to develop a hulk-like physique, unless that is your actual goal—and even then it’s extremely difficult to achieve.
Perhaps you strength train, but you’ve fallen victim to the idea that using tiny dumbbells for an endless amount of reps is going to give you the «toned» look you’re after. Resorting to this negates the real muscle-building benefits of strength training.
Sure, it’ll increase muscular endurance, but it won’t help you increase muscle mass or build a more athletic physique. If you want to increase lean mass (muscle), you’ll want to stick to a lower 6-12 rep range and use a heavier weight.
Not sure how to choose the right amount of weight to lift? Start light and see how many reps you can do. If you’re aiming for ten reps, but you’re able to perform 14, then add about two pounds, rest for a minute (so your muscles aren’t exhausted and you get a better idea of what you’re able to lift), then go again. Do this until you’re using a weight that allows you to perform the desired number of reps.
Another clue: Pay attention to how you feel. You should be able to complete the last two to three reps with proper form, but they should feel tough. Quality always trumps quantity, though, so don’t push yourself so hard that you can’t perform the exercise properly. Find a reputable personal trainer, learn the proper technique and challenge yourself.
As for that whole «long, lean muscles» concept, well, it’s not realistic either. You cannot change the length of your muscles, just as you can’t make yourself taller by stretching. Muscles have a fixed origin and insertion point.
No amount of stretching or training (regardless of the method) can change that. What makes you look long and lean is muscle definition, which you get from lifting. (See: What Really Happens When Women Lift Heavy Weights.)
Myth 4. I have to have access to a gym with dumbells and barbells
Nope! Let’s smash another weight training myth! Body weight training is an extremely effective form of weight/strength training. In fact, a 2012 study found that some increase in muscle size occurred as a result of using as little as 30% of the maximum weight that the subject could lift.
What bodyweight exercises can I do?
- Pulls ups
- Push ups
These are just a few of the wide range of body weight exercises you can perform as a weight training session to increase strength and improve body composition. The world can be your gym — just be consistent and integrate these into your routines to keep up your fitness levels.
So before you glance at the weight section and dismiss it from your workout, check the facts and consider picking up some dumbbells. Muscle strength and tone has huge benefits to the body and can help you in every activity that you want to do.
For help finding the right training and nutrition plan for your goals:
Not only does strength training add more definition to your entire body (hello, abs!), but it has a ton of other health benefits too. My favorite: It increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which means you’ll burn more calories throughout the day—even when you’re not working out.
And because I like lists, here’s one full of other health bennies you get from strength training:
- Increased bone density
- Better balance, coordination, agility, power, and mobility
- An ability to do everyday activities without worrying about getting hurt
- Fewer symptoms associated with arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity, and back pain
- Improved sleep patterns, mood, and stress levels
As you can see, strength training does more than make you look—and feel—confident AF. And the benefits only multiply as we get older. As we age, our bodies are at an increased risk of sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and osteoporosis (decrease in bone density).