When you take a look around the weight room, men almost always take up the space. We've been conditioned to believe that guys like to pump weights while women go for a run or do yoga. This is a dangerous stereotype to believe; there are some serious benefits to be earned from lifting weights on the regular, especially if you're a woman. Whether you're trying to lose weight or grow some lean muscle, it's time to get friendly with that barbell. Let's start by debunking some common myths.
Myth 1: Weightlifting Makes You Bulk Up
"Most women don't have enough testosterone production in their body to put on huge muscle gains and 'get big,'" explained Lauren Clare, personal trainer and certified holistic health coach. That's because women have way less testosterone in their systems than men do (20 times less, to be exact), and testosterone is one of the primary hormones that promotes muscle growth. So when you see those big, bulky guys at the gym, don't panic, because it's not physically possible for you to turn into the Hulk from a strength-training routine.
Similarly, Clare discourages us from believing the photos you might see in bodybuilding magazines. The buff women you are seeing are taking supplements and training extremely hard, she told POPSUGAR. You won't end up anything like that, even if you lift weights several times a week.
Myth 2: Weightlifting Doesn't Burn Fat Like Cardio Does
If you're only running on the treadmill or hitting the StairMaster, you're not giving your body the tools it needs to burn fat efficiently. The secret to losing weight is gaining lean muscle mass, because this will spike your metabolism throughout the day and help your body burn excess fat. However, sticking to a cardio-only fitness program won't give you the chance to build that necessary muscle, which is why weightlifting is so crucial to overall weight loss.
"When women start strength training for the first time, they usually turn their fat into lean muscle and their body changes in overall composition in a positive way," Clare confirmed. "They become leaner, burn more calories, and most importantly feel much stronger."
Myth 3: It Won't Improve Your Cardiovascular Health
Experts say that a rigorous weightlifting program can be just as much of an aerobic workout as a session on the elliptical machine. Weightlifting also keeps your heart healthy, and Clare said it fortifies your bones as well. Cardio isn't the only way to keep your cardiovascular health in check.
Myth 4: Women Aren't Built to Lift Heavy Weights
You may have been conditioned to think that women aren't meant to lift heavy weights, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Your body is built to do amazing things, and more importantly, it's built to be strong. "Weight training is one of the best ways to get your body toner, stronger, and increase your energy levels," Clare said. This is true no matter what gender you are.
Myth 5: It's Better to Lift Light Weights For More Reps
While there's nothing wrong with lifting light weights for higher reps, keep in mind that the only way you actually gain muscle in your body is by consistently introducing your muscles to change. In other words, if you stick with the same low weights over and over again, your body will plateau out and you won't see any significant weight loss. The more you shock your muscles into getting stronger, the leaner you'll look in the end.