Fact or fiction – busting the myths around strength training for women

Perhaps you’re afraid lifting weights will make you look bulky. Maybe you’re hung up on the fact that you ‘only need cardio’ to lose weight? Or you just don’t think you have enough time for strength?


The benefits of strength training for women are immense. For example, women more than men, need to meet the essential strain for bone remodeling which is required for the reduction of osteoporosis.

Unfortunately however there are several long standing myths and misconceptions that mean many women overlook strength training as a part of their regular exercise regime. Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Kitty Chao, sets out to bust some of the more common myths about strength training for women and remind you of the important role strength training plays in women’s health.


Myth 1: Lifting weights will make me look bulky


Men and women all consist of a different genetic makeup, but the odds are stacked against us as women. Firstly we only possess 5% of all testosterone men possess, this means that on average men have 20 times as much testosterone than women. Testosterone is a hormone that creates muscle hypertrophy for us women we are facing a huge battle to turn into the Hulk! In actual fact it will make you gain a little weight since lean body mass weighs more than fat.


Myth 2: To lose fat, you only need to do cardio


Doing more cardio is the best way to do more cardio.


When it comes to strength training for women there are a lot of myths and misconceptions. PHOTO: Carol Streeter

Ladies this might be had to take in but steady-state cardio burns surprisingly fewer calories than you’d think. One study found that it takes an average of 86 hours’ worth of aerobic exercise to lose 1 kilogram, and a meta-analysis revealed that steady-state cardio in and of itself is not an effective weight loss therapy.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of about a thousand other more useful things I could be doing with those 86 hours than peddling away on a bike.

Rather than steady-state cardio, why not try out interval training also known as metabolic conditioning (met-con) or high intensity training (HIT). Incorporating these types of workouts into your normal routine has found that is produced equal or if not better results than steady state cardio with just a fraction of the obligation. This is due to the increases in excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or energy expenditure following a bout of high intensity exercise.


Myth 3: Light weight is all you need


What this myth is referring to is lifting light weights for more reps. Ever had a goal of nailing your first tricep dip ? Doing light weight tricep kick backs will not help you in reaching that goal.

You will not get bulky from lifting heavy weights, in fact you will get STRONGER and look SLIMMER !

Common strength training myths

Contrary to popular belief, you will not get bulky from lifting heavy weights.

Lifting light weights for more reps will build muscular endurance. Whereas lifting heavier weights will build strength and help you reach that goal.


Myth 4: You won’t have time for strength training


Its already hard for you to fit in your daily runs, walks and cycles right ? Why not try and swap the 30-45 min walk or run for a 10 minute high intensity session and use the remainder 20 minutes for strength training?

It has been shown that 2 full body strength training sessions twice a week is just as effective as 3 times a week.

Myth 5: If I do sit ups it will give me abs


There is no such thing as spot reduction is what this myth is referring to.  Your body cannot spot reduce fat in specific locations. If you have problematic areas in your arms or stomach, doing thousands of bicep curls and thousands of crunches won’t help.

We are all different and our bodies are predisposed to storing fat in certain locations in a certain order.

When you start to lose weight, your body will lose the fat you currently have in a certain order as well – it might come off your arms first, then your legs, then your belly, then your chest, and then your butt. Or in a different order, depending on your personal genetic makeup. It’s different for every person.


Top 5 reasons why you can’t ignore strength training


  • Women more than men, need to meet the essential strain for bone remodelling which is require for the reduction of osteoporosis
  • Strength training increases lean tissue mass and decreases fat which in turn reduces non functional fat to carry and a greater portion of lean body mass which can in turn increase strength
  • Higher metabolic rate due to an increase in muscle and decrease in fat
  • Stronger connective tissues to increase joint stability and help prevent injury
  • Also an increased in self esteem, being more confident with your body.


Exercise Right’s top tips to get started with strength training


  • Start off with light weights if you’ve never had any prior experience, over the next couple of weeks try to increase the weights you’re using
  • Start off with a whole body routine consisting of upperbody and lower body exercises
  • If you are at the gym try out a weights class normally these are called “body pump”.



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