About a week ago, while deadlifting, I saw something that confused the Hell out of me. It’s not something new, but something that has always confused and bothered me. This particular day, it drove me crazy. What I saw involves one of the infamous “gym myths” (much more on that next week…). The “gym myth” that I saw was: “Women shouldn’t lift heavy”.
Why this is still a topic of conversation is beyond me, but it is and I feel the need to address it…AGAIN. Mark my words, my posts will get the “That’s true.”, “Spot on!” and “Couldn’t say it any better myself!” comments with some likes and, if I’m lucky, a bunch of shares. Unfortunately, it stops there. We will continue to see the same thing in our gyms and worse, people seeking our help just to tell us “I was told I shouldn’t lift heavy” or insert any other insane thing that isn’t true.
Side note: Comments like this are part of the reason I had stepped away from writing–why I actually almost quit being a trainer altogether and had stopped using my fitness page on Facebook for a little bit. I’m dead serious, I almost walked away from it all. I fell in love with training and reaching out to people that don’t know to try and help them. I arm myself with the most current up to date knowledge I can offer, but it often seems like people yes me to death to do what they want or they give up because there isn’t an easy way. Most people don’t bother trying to further what they know and they keep spreading outdated ideas, disproven diet strategies, etc. It feeds the myth fires and undoes everything I set out to do. It can be frustrating!
Back to the gym a week ago…While we were deadlifting in a huge area designated for such a thing, a female comes walking up, ready to unleash the beast. She had the eye of the tiger and she was set to release the fires of Hell! Of course this caught my attention…then she picked up two, eight pound dumbbells and proceeded to do this workout for almost an hour: forward lunge, curl; reverse lunge, curl; switch sides; forward lunge, curl; reverse lunge, curl. Now I’m not saying that particular exercise is wrong, and to avoid lunge/curls. But that was it. Someone showed her that and said “This is all you need”. Worse…she clearly believed it.
People don’t realize this, but women are actually scary strong. Maybe because of their small stature, people assume that women are weak and that is ridiculous. Think about the daily activities of women — especially mothers. To put it best, here is a quote from my favorite author:
“I watch moms pick up, put down, lift, swing, load and carry fairly large loads all the time. We call these loads ‘children.’ Yet, when we get to the gym we seem to think a woman needs to use very light loads” – Dan John
Now, I am not suggesting that every woman go out there and pick up the heaviest thing she can find. If you don’t know what you’re doing, give me holler or shop around for a good trainer. Seriously shop around for one, avoid this , and learn the basics.
The basics include, bench press/push-up, row (seated or bent over), shoulder press/side raise, pull-up/medicine ball slams, deadlifts/bridging, squats/lunges, weighted carries, and planks.
Master the basics and get STRONG. That’s for EVERYONE, but especially you, women! I promise you, when you look at females with great bodies, they didn’t get that way from lunge/curl workouts and eating 1,200 calories or less. They got that way from squatting and deadlifting heavy— they get it from working out hard. They don’t have time to take selfies and post how their bike ride and eight pound dumbbell circuit was #BeastMode because they’re sweating too hard, letting their heart rates come down, and taking on what else the day throws at them.
Here are a few “before and after” pics of ladies at different stages of their fitness. These ladies lift heavy without lunge/curls or lying curls, or curly curls. They are normal people who got to where they are with hard work. They also dispel several weight training myths for women.
Myth: Lifting heavy weights will make you look “manly”. This is my friend Shannon Handlon. Shannon is the perfect example of what happens to women when they get strong. You wouldn’t know it by seeing her in person at the store or something, but she trains for and competes in “strongman” type games. To put it simply, she probably trains harder than me or any of your friends. My point is: Shannon is strong as Hell and still looks very much like a woman.
Myth: Weight lifting makes you look bulky. This is my friend Jamie Wilson. Jamie is fairly new to strength training. She had been training with us out of the gym where I work. Lately she’s been zeroing in on the basic lifts: squat, deadlift and bench. She’s getting very strong, very fast with a 185 pound squat. She has no excuses. She gets to the gym early in the morning or at night after work. Once she started seriously lifting, her body changed VERY quickly–for the better, note: there’s no bulk. Not only did her body change, but her self confidence reached new heights.
Myth: You have to eat 1200 calories or less per day to get a really fit body. This is Meg Mancini. It’s clear that Meg watches what she eats and trains very hard. What I can tell you is that she also isn’t afraid to eat. She does NOT live on a 1200 calorie a day diet. That’s the beauty of getting really strong with weights as opposed to marathon bouts of aerobics. When you train with heavy weight, your body becomes similar to a furnace–even after you are done lifting, you’re still burning calories. No, you can’t eat whatever you like if you lift weights, but you can allow yourself a “cheat meal” and not feel guilty.
Meg is also able to do something that all woman should strive to do. That’s body weight pull-ups. Body weight pull-ups (in my opinion) are the marker of true strength for a female–getting at least one pull-up without kipping. If you struggle getting pull-ups, ditch the useless bands and either use a chin-up assisted machine or just jump to get them. More on that in the future.
Those women are only three examples of MANY that I could tell you about. Women are so much stronger than many men and sadly women themselves give them credit for. Women are built for lifting!
In conclusion, if you are a woman and you aren’t weight training, what are you waiting for? What excuse could you possibly have? Too weak? Nope. Scared of what it’ll do to your body? Not that either! It’s time to get out there and be strong!
Coming soon, myths that won’t die. Both for nutrition and weightlifting.
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