Top Five Fitness Fallacies: Women and Weight by Kyle Castles
Read the Top Five Fitness Fallacies Facing Women and Weight Training.
1) Heavy weight training will make you bulky.
Nope, and definitely not overnight. It takes years of high volume training (lots of reps and sets) dedicated to gaining size and plenty of extra calories to gain a lot of muscle. Most men would be lucky to gain 2 solid pounds of muscle a month, this rate will usually be slower for women due partially to hormonal and bone structure differences (though the exact rate will vary greatly person to person). Training for strength on the other hand generally involves less volume (less total reps and sets) which when combined with the appropriate amount of calories will allow you to continue becoming a stronger, more bada$$ version of you without significant muscle gain if you're already happy with the amount of muscle you have. As an aside "Bulky" is also a very subjective term, everyone has their own goals and ideals when it comes to muscularity, leanness and body shape.
2) Women should train differently than men.
This ties into number 1 a little, but the short answer is no. You should train in a manner appropriate to your abilities that will best allow you to achieve your goals and this varies greatly from person to person. While we're on the topic of women and men let's discuss strength differences, there isn't one (or at least it's almost negligible). The reason men are usually stronger is because they generally start out with more muscle and less bodyfat due to hormonal differences, but in equally trained men and women 97% of the strength difference was attributed to the difference in total muscle mass, with a tiny difference coming down to presumably muscle fiber type ratio and build.
3) Steady State Cardio is necessary for fat/weight loss.
Again another resounding nope. Weight change is primarily a function of Calorie balance, granted it's definitely a little more complicated than Calories in v out (food quality and macronutrients definitely matter) but total calories makes the biggest impact. There are two main ways to tip the scales towards fat loss, remove calories through activity or remove calories through diet. Cardio can be a useful tool for adding activity but so is weight training (with the larger recovery demands of weight training using extra calories for long after training ends). If you enjoy long duration cardio then by all means have at it but don't feel like you must do it, especially if you don't enjoy it, the health benefits can be achieved through much quicker interval work.
4) Long Lean Muscles
Unfortunately just another marketing ploy. Be it stretching, Yoga, Barre or another the promises of longer muscles are a bit of a stretch (get it?, I crack me up), muscles have fixed anatomical attachment points and no amount of stretching will move bony or fascial attachments. You may see improvements in flexibility but this is an improvement in stretch tolerance rather than a change in muscle length, essentially your brain stops perceiving the end range stretch as so much of a threat and allows you to move further into it. Without learning to control these new ranges they either disappear again or cause problems down the line from a lack of stability, this is where resistance training comes in (including the isometrics and static positions in Yoga etc.) by learning to stabilize and control available ranges before attempting to gain more we can safely increase flexibility, if it's necessary for your goals. As we covered above "lean muscle" will be the result of diet more so than any training or style of exercise.
5) I need to be in better shape before I try...
This doesn't just apply to weight training but all activities, the best shape to get started in is the one you're in now! Everybody starts somewhere, the important part is starting, enjoying the process and striving to improve.
Bonus Nutrition Tip!
6) Protein for women.
Be wary of any product sold under the guise of; diet protein, protein light, low calorie protein or any pink "Especially for Women" packaging, these are generally marketing tools used to charge a premium price for what is a pretty universal dietary supplement, I mean you don't see "Chicken for Women" or "Low Calorie Vegetables" sold in flashy pink packaging. Pretty much all protein supplements serve the same purpose, to add extra protein to your diet, where this comes from is largely irrelevant; whey, casein, egg, pea etc. are all perfectly fine sources (apart from any form of collagen protein, these are pretty useless filler proteins). Supplements with additional carbs/sugars will have higher calories, ones that don't, won't. And if supplements aren't your thing.... just eat more protein rich food to hit your needs for the day. Supplements are supposed to be supplemental after all, a solid diet is always key.
Want to learn more about women and weights? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kyle Castles, Striation 6
National Weight Lifting Champion, Strength Coach and ISOPHIT STRENGTH TRAINER