This blog title pretty much paraphrases everything I’ve heard over the last two and a half months from people that are not familiar with heavy lifting and the benefits for women.
So let’s visit some common myths regarding weight lifting and women:
Myth #1 – You’re going to get bulky, ripply, and masculine.
Myth #2 – Weight lifting increases your bust/chest size. (Oh, thank heavens THIS isn’t true!)
Myth #3 – If you stop weightlifting, all that muscle will turn into fat!
Myth #4 – If you weight train, you can eat anything you want. (Oh, how I wish THIS were true!)
Myth #5 – Women should use hand weights in lighter weights; more reps and lighter weight will give you that “toned” look.
So now that we’ve looked at the myths, let’s take a little more in-depth look at what the facts actually are, shall we? Because, honestly, I spent way too many years being afraid of lifting heavy free weights BECAUSE of the above-mentioned myths to even think about picking up heavy shit and putting it down again. I hope that this blog entry will actually catch some she-person before she gets sucked into the mythology of women lifting heavy. Had I known five years ago what I know now? OMG…can you IMAGINE how hot I would be at the age of almost 48?
Fact #1 – In response to that whole ripply, bulky thought process: Women lack one major component that men possess to become “bulky.” It’s testosterone. We, as women, simply do not possess the testosterone that it takes to get “bulky.” I can tell you, from personal experience, that I have been lifting heavy since mid-February. I am eating at a deficit (TDEE-20%) to lose fat off of my overly abundant body. Now…If you plan on shooting up testosterone and doing the whole steroid route, you may need to worry about this, but as a regular “Joe(sephine),” I can tell you that it’s going to take a LOT of work (and appropriate macros and a surplus of calories) for me to bulk before I cut to get lean. I can tell you (in MY experience thus far) that eating at a 20% deficit from my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this acronym) is only going to cost you 1) inches; and 2) pounds. That said? My fears of becoming bulky and musclebound have been totally alleviated.
Fact #2- (And did I mention that I am SOOOO glad this is not true????) While I hate to say it, breasts are composed of fat. Yes, that’s right. F-A-T. I’ve lost about 5 inches off of my chest size since I started working out. Now, many of you may be gasping and thinking, “OMG, NOOOOOO…” please know that I was rocking a hardcore 43.5 inch bust. (I am ashamed to share this, but if it helps anyone? I’m in.) Now, I was doing the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred when I started taking measurements. The day after I started lifting (I measured on February 16, 2013), it measured 40.5 inches. Not bad, considering I was eating about 1200 calories daily and doing the shred in addition to the Couch to 5K program. I measured weekly, and my last measurements (4/6/13) were 38.5 inches on my bust. So you see where the five inches off my bust came in. We’ll discuss my calorie intake when we discuss fact/myth #4.
Fact #3 – Your muscle will not turn to fat! Unless you throw healthy eating to the wolves when you throw your weight lifting to them, as well, your muscle won’t turn to fat…you will gain fat and lose muscle mass. Here’s the thing. Muscle and fat are two different properties. Fat goes away with exercise, and muscle can (and should) be built by doing exercise. Trying to lose the last 12 or so pounds with my elliptical trainer and weights has been a Godsend. I know that to build muscle, you have to eat more than your TDEE, and lots of protein to get there. If you quit lifting AND eating correctly, you’re going to see muscle loss and fat gain. Muscle loss due to inactivity, as well as a lack of healthy diet will make you heavier. Muscle seems to disappear when you aren’t feeding it correctly. This is one of those situations that I struggle with daily. I want to eat to lose fat, but still not starve my muscles. Simply put, if you pay attention to your TDEE, and be honest about it, and eat your recommended calories, you won’t get “fat,” as it were.
Fact #4 – While I know that weight training burns calories after we stop picking heavy stuff up and putting it down, it doesn’t give me license to to go hog wild where food is concerned. Protein is important. REALLY important. I have an open food diary on My Fitness Pal, and I have a friend who will call me on the carpet when I am short on my protein macros. This is important. Protein is a big, hairy deal where muscles are concerned. Eat healthy. Period. If you want to know what your TDEE is, your TDEE-20%, etc, please visit Scooby’s site here. Be advised that you HAVE to be honest about your activity levels, however…
Fact #5 – If you are lifting Barbie pink dumbbells that weigh less than your handbag, then you’re doing it wrong. I don’t mean to be hateful, but let’s look at it how it is…If your handbag weighs more than the dumbbells you’re lifting? That’s simply a waste of your time. (And if you are anything like me, time is a very precious commodity.) Don’t blow it on cute dumbbells. Spend your time wisely picking up barbells with the appropriate weight plates on them, focusing on PROPER form, and go from there.
So, with those myths debunked, let’s talk about the benefits of heavy lifting for women:
You will be physically stronger. This comes in handy when there is a 40 pound bag of birdseed at the feed store available, but no cart. (We feed our wild birds black oil sunflower seeds, and it’s cheaper (cheeper? no pun intended) to buy bulk. Just sayin’.
You will lose body fat. That, alone, should be music to any woman’s ears, provided she’s wanting to lose fat. Have y’all heard the term, “skinny fat”? It’s reserved for people that are skin and bone, uber light weight, that are still squishy. I used to be skinny fat. Weighed about 120 pounds after having my eldest son, at 5 foot 7 inches. I was skin and bone and had zero strength. I gained about ten pounds after the birth of my second son. I was still soft and mushy, even at 5 foot 7 inches and 130 lbs. Let me tell you that body fat percentage is more important than scale weight (to me).
You will gain strength. You never know when your significant other might become disabled and lose the ability to lift and carry the heavy stuff. While I still have 15-20 pounds to drop, however, I can still lift and carry things I never thought possible…and that’s after less than three months of strength training.
You will reduce the chances of osteoporosis. Weight lifting increases bone density. ‘Nuff said. My mom takes Boniva once every however many months, and while I love her? I choose not to follow in those particular footsteps.
You will reduce your chance of back pain and arthritis. The stronger you keep your core and back muscles, the better chance you have of avoiding the aforementioned.
You reduce your chances of heart disease, and diabetes. These two items alone make me happy. For more information, click here.
To further back up my statements, I encourage you to visit the following sites:
Myths of Women’s Weight Training and Bodybuilding
Why You Don’t Have to Get Bulky
Until next time….
YAY!! GOOD JOB!!! Proud of you!!
Thank you, SD!