Misinformation within the health and fitness industry is rampant.
Unfortunately, this is an unyielding truth that we have to come with terms with.
While I feel that exercise professionals (such as myself) can help play an important role in changing the poor practices that this misinformation does produce, it is not as simple as it may sound.
This misinformation is spread frequently and expertly within mainstream health and fitness magazines, TV commercials, and YouTube videos AND despite zero scientific evidence (and arguably zero logical thought progression) to support it, it is gobbled up due to clever marketing that plays heavily on our insecurities.
One such claim that seems to circulate a lot more frequently than some others, is the suggestion that females should train differently to men.
This suggestion is an absolute joke that does nothing more than perpetuate the myth that if a women lifts heavy weights she will become ‘big and bulky’.
This, from my perspective, has two negative repercussions.
1. It leads to the suggestion that weight training is not a suitable form of exercise for women – which the title of this post suggests, is a load of rubbish
2. It continues to build the idiotic perception of an ideal female body. Seriously, who has the right to suggest that a female with a muscular physique is unattractive? What people find attractive is none of your business. Furthermore, people show a large number of anatomical and physiological differences (AKA we look different) – as such there is no such thing as an ideal body.
So building on that first point, I am here to tell you that women should lift heavy ass weights, and subsequently, gender specific training is misinformed jargon spread by mainstream fitness 'gurus' who haven’t trained a real client in their lifetime.
Strength is King
Lifting heavy weights build strength.
I don’t care what anyone says, strength is incredibly important for EVERYONE, no matter their goal or current training level. Strength limits the amount of work we can perform in a session, it dictates our upper limit of power production, and it plays a large role in our rate of functional decline.
By increasing strength, we can improve the amount of volume we can handle in a given session. This can improve our ability to achieve body composition related goals (AKA losing fat and building muscle).
Furthermore, as we age our strength declines. This will eventually limit our ability to perform general tasks of daily living. Subsequently, by maintaining strength we can maintain our functional capacity into our older age.
This will allow us to maintain a high quality of life for our lifetime.
I don’t think you would find a single person who would say that those are not important for females (or males for that matter - EVERYONE should strength train).
BUT wont lifting heavy weights and getting strong make me big and bulky?
In short, no, probably not.
While building strength (and lifting heavy) does unquestionably play an important role in building muscle tissue, this process is actually quite difficult for females.
This can be put down to a a number of various gender specific differences in hormone levels and physiological factors.
Ultimately, to summarize without getting too wordy, women will have a much harder time putting on a muscle mass than men.
While lifting heavy will add a small amount of muscle mass, it is not going to turn you into a body builder (not that there is anything wrong with that).
In fact, I have written extensively HERE about how strength training can improve body composition and promote fat loss WITHOUT causing massive increases in muscle mass.
While this may be a little on the boring side, it still holds significant importance.
Females are susceptible to becoming osteoporotic later in life (even more so than males). This susceptibility actually increases after the onset of menopause.
While there are a number of dietary factors that can play a role in maintain a high level of bone density, so can strength training.
Heavy loading has shown to stimulate an increase the production of bone cells. This can lead to a significant increase in bone density, reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis. As a result, strength training can play a HUGE role in osteoporosis prevention both before and after menopause.
Strength Training Builds Confidence
There is nothing better than hitting a new PB in the gym.
Overcoming something that you have been working towards steadily for months truly shows that the hard work you have been putting in has been paying off.
I believe this is truer for strength goals than body composition goals as they provide a tangible measure of improvement.
Getting stronger and achieving new strength goals is rewarding – way more so than lifting a 3kg dumbbell repetitively (unless your into that of course – who am I to judge?).
And maybe more important than the knowledge that you are getting stronger in the gym, is the knowledge that this strength carriers over to other aspects of life too.
This might be as simple as being able to move your own furniture without assistance, change a car tire easily, or escape from a horde of hungry zombies.
All silliness aside, you get my point.
Being able to do difficult things independently is both empowering, and a massive confidence booster.
So, to conclude.
Gender specific training is a joke.
Lifting heavy has HUGE benefits for males and females alike. This holds true from a health perspective, a body composition perspective, and a performance perspective.
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