Another Great Article from Blaithin Lynch.
Ok, so what’s the problem with women lifting weights? Most women that I’ve spoken to quote the time-old excuse “I don’t want to get too muscly”. Then I ask them, what’s their definition of “too muscly” most reply with some conjured image of a female version of Sylvester Stillone or Dwane Johnson. So, I think it’s time to dispel a few female weightlifting myths and impart some needed encouragement to all women out there to start weightlifting.
Common Myth – Weightlifting makes women look too “muscly”
Here’s the thing ladies. Like it or not, we’re built differently to men. We have different physical and neurochemical compositions to our male counterparts. Unlike guys, we naturally have a higher body fat percentage, wider carrying angles at our hips and biochemically less testosterone in our bodies. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, testosterone along with other growth hormones promote muscle growth in both males and females. Women have naturally lower levels of testosterone than men. For women to reach the muscularity feared by most, it would involve extreme training with heavy, heavy weights. Female bodybuilders dedicate countless hours precisely training muscles in isolation in order to achieve the defined look they’re aiming for.
Crossfit does not focus on muscles in isolation. You will never go to a Crossfit box and hear a coach say “Ok, today we’re going to work the anterior deltoid fibers”. Women in Crossfit do become stronger through the weightlifting and gymnastic training, but they also become much leaner due to the global muscle training Crossfit incorporates. Weighted movements such as front squats, thrusters, split jerks, kettle bell swings use every muscle in your body from your feet to your shoulders. All muscles are trained, all are strengthened and the result is a leaner, fitter, stronger body. One that moves more efficiently, burns more calories at rest and ultimately looks better!
Lifting weights is good for you!
Weight training has also been found to help combat conditions such as osteoperosis. This is an important consideration for women. As we get older, in particular when we reach menopausal age, the hormonal changes in our body can lead to osteoperotic bones, fractures, reduced mobilty and ultimately a loss in quality of life. Studies have shown that placing bones under stress (such as the force exerted on them by tendons of muscles while bearing a load i.e. weight training) stimulates bone growth thus slowing down age-related osteoperotic changes. The load needn’t be that high either. Shea et al (2011) found that even training with resistance bands prevented further bone demineralisation in their review of data from several medical databases.
Weightlifting is for everyone
Women of all ages (well, from the age of 16 and upwards) and all builds can benefit physically from lifting weights. Like everything in Crossfit, the weights you lift are scaled to your current physical fitness and ability, thereby ensuring you complete the maximum effort you can physically do at this time and minimising the risk of injury. As outlined above, weightlifting is greatly beneficial in helping reduce the possibility of developing conditions such as osteoperosis in later life. It’s also instrumental in losing weight and becoming leaner and fitter.
Some misconceptions women also hold is that weightlifting will cause them to gain weight because of the myth that muscle weighs more than fat. Well, tell me this…..what weighs more…a pound of fat or a pound of muscle?! See….it doesn’t really make sense! What does make sense is the fact that muscle takes up less space in your body, so you actually do look leaner, firmer etc as you gain muscle and lose fat.
Just something to think about!
How to get started
Hopefully, a little spark has been ignited and you’re now thinking it might be worth while looking into starting some weight training. A few things to consider though before you do get started.
- Get a medical checkup, especially if you haven’t trained properly in a significant period of time, or if you have underlying health issues such as high blood pressure. A medical checkup is a necessity anyway if you’re embarking on a new fitness regime having not trained for a few months…or longer!
- Find a gym that caters to weightlifting beginners. Here’s where I would strongly recommend Crossfit. The coaches are all highly trained in teaching absolute newbies proper weightlifting basics such as foot position, core stability, movement etc. They also monitor your progress so you don’t increase your weightlifting load too quickly or lift with poor technique, minimising injuries.
- Another reason why I would recommend Crossfit for all you ladies out there thinking about starting weightlift to improve your health and get fit, is that the lifts encorporated in Crossfit vary every single day. The number of reps you do will vary daily, the types of lifts, the percentage weights of your 1RM (rep max) you lift….all of these will differ from day to day. This means that your body will be challenged every single day you take on a WOD. Challenging your body is so important when it comes to losing weight, getting stronger and generally shaping up. Doing the same biceps curls, tricep dips and regular sit ups will only get you so far….Crossfit takes you a whole lot further when it comes to body conditioning.
- The final step would be to call into a Crossfit box and see it in action for yourself. Maybe even give an intro class a go where you’ll get a taste for what you can expect to experience when you finish your Elements course and start training as a Crossfit athlete.
Howe TE, Shea B, Dawson LJ, Downie F, Murray A, Ross C, Harbour RT, Caldwell LM,Creed G (2011). Exercise for preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women (Review). The Cochrane Library. Issue 7.