6 Myths About Strength Training for Women

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” — Yoda

What follows is my opinion based on my research and experience. Here’s a different way of looking at the beaten path:

What is the secret to those chiseled abs and toned muscles? I have unearthed the secret: there is none. Lift. Move. Repeat. Unstagnate. Make this your daily mantra and you will love the way your body responds.

In every woman’s magazine, in every fitness studio, I constantly see crazy marketing gimmicks that make me want to vomit. Women are promised new workouts that guarantee crazy results by ‘toning muscles’ with lightweights. Women spend thousands of rupees on diets that promise to target belly fat, and ab workouts, butt workouts, and thigh workouts that are designed to hit those problem areas.

None of the fitness centers I’ve been to focus on promoting strength training for women. Cardio and ab workouts top the list for women when it comes to fitness workouts. This makes women fear or dislike strength training because it is shrouded in myths. All I’ve ever heard is that lifting heavy makes women bulky, it’s dangerous, it’s bad for your joints, and once you have muscle, you can’t stop lifting or it will all turn to fat. What I learned was simple—women should and must lift heavy weights. A year into resistance training and I can confidently tell you that all those myths that keep you from lifting are absolute bullshit.

My blood markers have never been better. I’m in the “pink” of my health and my energy levels have skyrocketed. I often hear women and men tell me that I look like a college kid, and it isn’t because I diet or watch what I eat or starve myself to look lean. My exercise routine coupled with my diet has worked its magic, but most of all, teaching my body to burn fat has catapulted my overall strength and definition.

I know this post will taste like a bitter pill to those who do a lot of cardio (zumba, yoga, pilates, etc.) with the sole purpose of fat loss. While these fitness routines have their place, they will not help you lose body fat. Strength training is the key!

Read it nevertheless. I’ll be interested to know what you think.

The myths below are just that. Learn for yourself and go grab that strong “you” that you’ve always wanted.

– The myth of the pink dumbbells: Lifting those 2 pounders will get you nowhere. As you age, you lose muscle. Women especially need to lift weights since lifting weights stresses muscles and a 2-pound dumbbell will not stress your muscle. I find it interesting that we will lift our babies, grocery bags, and buckets of water as part of our every day life without even blinking. These things alone will easily weigh over 10 pounds; but the moment we step into the gym, a fitness instructor who will convince us to do a few kickbacks, step-ups etc, easily mollycoddles us into believing that training with heavy weights is just not for women.

My only advice for the pink dumbbell–annihilate it!

– Burn baby fat away with ab workouts: For most women, it is nearly impossible to regain your pre-pregnancy bodies. Your genetics/body determines where the fat comes from and how you lose it. The muscle you exercise (abs) and where you lose fat (tummy) are not related, so if your instructor has been making you squeeze your way towards those 6 packs, you have something else coming your way. Cardio and crunches are essential for different reasons. Core workouts will help you gain stability and strength, but certainly will not make you lose weight. You must exercise all your muscle groups and compound exercises usually help with that.

You want to really lose weight, eat better.

– Eat less if you want to lose weight: This one is my favorite because I want to squeeze the hibijibies out of anyone who believes in this silliness. No. Eating less does not do you any good. If anything, you will gain all the weight you lost starving yourself and add some more on top of it. When women reach out for a salad bowl for lunch or dinner because they are “watching” what they eat, I can’t help but smile. Eating a bowl of salad for the rest of your life will kill you. If you feed your body fewer calories than it needs, believe me, it will fight back. The fight that ensues is ugly!

Just eat real food. Your body will love you ten folds in return.

– To aerobic or not to aerobic: Exercise in any form is good. If you lead a sedentary life style, then even 30 minutes in a week will give you some benefits. Remember though that the benefits lie in the margins. If your aim is fat loss and toned muscles, then jumping up and down or moving to a salsa beat will not get you the results. Yes, you will lose a few pounds but you will easily put it back on if you offset let’s say a good run, by eating a sandwich. When you limit your calories, you lose muscle and this in turn could cause a weight gain when you stop your diet.

Group fitness classes are fun and exciting. Just know what you are signing up for when you do. More importantly, set a goal for yourself and see if it can help you achieve that.

– A certified trainer knows everything: This one is hard. I’ve been to a gazillion gyms to find the right instructor, and let me tell you, a certification means nothing. My first challenge was to identify an instructor who would understand my requirements. I got the same old, “you will be good ma’am. We could design a program with lightweights and cardio to help you reach your goal.” The design was a one-program-fits all method. Be warned. Every woman’s body is different; we all have differing metabolisms, so what works for me will not work for you. You will need to try different things before you settle down on one or a combination of many.

Frustrated, I decided to venture out on my own. I fumbled and faltered several times before finding my rhythm, watched endless videos and signed up at a gym where I trained on my own. It took me nearly 8 months before I found my wonderful instructor.

– Form doesn’t matter. Just do your thing: The only time you should consider lifting lighter weights is when you are perfecting your form. Perfecting your form is the key to reaping long-term benefits of strength training. A lot of women end up with injuries because form is never emphasized enough. Your spinal column is prone to injuries, and therefore, learning proper alignment is extremely important to prevent injuries.

• Chicken Gunea
• Dengue
• Severe post viral symptoms
• Lumps in my breast
• Anaphylaxis

All in a span of a year and half wiped me out clean!

I ran from doctor to doctor and checked off one test after another in the lab, but couldn’t understand what the underlying problem was. When I finally did, it became a game changer. The reason I list my ailments candidly is to help women both young and old understand how building yourself from within can kick immunity and other disorders right out the window. I’ve been a lifelong exerciser, and also an academic with interest in, and access to, research, so I tend to read the research about most things I do regularly. Nobody in my family exercises the way I do, so there were no guides or predecessors who set or raised the bar for me! Let’s just call it a lucky coincidence that I stumbled my way into strength training.

I always post my workout videos without any explanations. Although this time, I felt the necessity to explain because I see how young women wanting to lose weight are going about it the wrong way causing grave, long term damage to themselves. Don’t venture alone on this path without arming yourself sufficiently with basic knowledge on physiology and diet. Seek and you shall find!