(Why no. I didn’t train with the Angry Trainer, but I would have if he’d lived nearby!)
For the last twenty years I have listened to women complain that lifting weights will give them big muscles, that it will make them look like a man, and have sat by and watched as they have neglected a very important aspect of any fitness program – strength.
I’ve seen numerous fitness “gurus” promote the use of very light weights or body weight training as the only form of exercise women should be doing to get a sexy, feminine body. Guess what? The Angry Trainer couldn’t disagree more!
The fact is that most women just don’t have enough of the hormone testosterone to support “manly muscles”, and in my opinion staying away from weight training is a grave mistake. Scientific evidence demonstrates that to fight off bone density loss (osteoporosis), and to keep the body strong, it must be externally loaded with resistance, which means using weights.
This is a perfect example of initiating the “use it or lose it” principle. In order to preserve muscle mass and maintain strength, some challenging strength training should be used. It has also been shown that body weight exercises like Yoga, and Pilates, do not have the same bone strengthening advantages that weight training does, as your body is already designed to carry itself.
Think about it, do you think that an exercise program that doesn’t include lifting weights can have the same positive effect on your muscle and skeletal strength? Logic would dictate that answer is of course not.
In my career I have trained all of my clients, both men and women, with weights in some shape or fashion, both in functional training and some traditional forms, and not one woman has ever looked manly, or complained of being too muscular. Instead, they voiced their feelings of being strong, having better stamina, and for those that played a recreational sport, a marked improvement in their game.
Interestingly I’m always asked if I have “men or women exercises” to which I say, “No, I have people exercises”.
The more common scenario is this; when women start to weight train they can gain a small amount of muscle that helps to rev up their metabolism, which can then help them to lose some body fat. With less body fat covering the muscle, it is now more visible, thus creating the appearance of the muscles being bigger.
In the bodybuilding world this was referred to as the perception; the image you created on stage. As an example when I won the heavyweight class I weighed in a 203lbs, a full 15lbs lighter than I am right now. But do to my very low body fat, I look much more muscular than right now- it’s all an optical illusion.
Everybody has abs, shoulders, legs, pecs, etc – it is the amount of body fat covering them that can make the difference between looking toned and muscular, or soft and flabby. Of course I said most women, there are some women who build muscle more easily than others, but that is the exception not the rule.
I’m not suggesting that women, or men for that matter should completely stay away from body weight exercises, or classes such as Yoga. All exercise forms have specialized benefits, and a place within your fitness program. The key is to know what each one is good for so you can plug it into your routine in an appropriate manner.
However, while I think some exercises can be a “take it or leave it” choice, I am suggesting that everyone needs to include strength training in their regime to realize their full fitness potential. It helps to maintain muscle mass, boost hormone levels, and keep your skeleton strong, which is of utmost importance as you get older and hormone levels decline.
To be clear – I said “strength training”, I’m not asking anyone to become a power lifter or bodybuilder, or for women to run out and chest press 315lbs or max squat 405lbs.
I am asking you to include some form of intelligent resistance training in your workout. Interestingly, including weight training in your workout has tremendous “crossover” meaning it will make your other exercise classes even more productive! Of all the exercise “fads” that have come and gone, one thing remains constant – strength training and dumbbells are here to stay.
Pick one up today!
About the Author:
Alfonso Moretti aka The Angry Trainer is a 20 year Personal Trainer and operates Angry Trainer Fitness – a website dedicated to the “truth in fitness” which was created to expose myths within the fitness industry and help people get healthy and fit the right way. He sits on the Sears Fitness Advisory Board, creates exercise programs and monthly content for FitStudio LINK (www.fitstudio.com), and is a contributing Editor to Men’s Fitness And Discovery Health & Fit.