Whew, 1st myth debunked. No, lifting weights will not make you look like a man. “Whilst males and females are structurally similar, there are many physiological differences that affect the sexes ability to gain muscle mass.” This article on Bodybuilding.com goes into in-depth detail about why we basically can’t magically transform into men. I’ve also brought in guest author Zaine Arulogun to discuss her experience with weight lifting and common myths on the topic, I do hope many of you find this useful in some way. I’ve also included a strength training workout to get you started!
Zaine – I’m a late eighties baby and growing up, in my view of working out, there was a clear distinction between the sexes. There were the muscle men; men like the Terminator aka Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rocky aka Sylvester Stallone and Fabio, the man on the cover of all the romance novels, all with biceps that looked like they had their own separate heartbeats. And there were the ladies a la Jane Fonda, in leotards, neon colored foot warmers (comeback anyone?) and brightly colored one-pound weights, if any.
Sure, there were some men in leotards too and some women that could try to put Arnie’s build to shame but generally, that was how it was then; men workout, lifting heavy to look as built as armored trucks and women worked out, lifting rarely to be as lean as can be. A lot has changed since then and the battle of the sexes has made its way into the gym too. No one does a double take when they see women at the weights section. They lift heavy and look more like goddesses than Arnie, as feared. So now we know; strength training being a men’s only thing is just a myth. That’s just one of the myths about strength training I’ve come across and while we are in the moment, I’ll share some more.
“Focus on one part of your body and leave the rest” Do that, and you’ll end up looking like this guy. Your strength training routine should involve your full body. So instead of a schedule that reads as: “Monday – Friday: biceps, abs and chest”, mix it up and work on different body groups throughout the week. Some areas might need more work than others and you can spend more time on those to even it out, but make sure you cover all body groups in your weekly schedule then you can look more like this guy.
“Cardio? No thanks, I only lift” Let’s admit it, we all know that buff guy at the gym who scoffs at cardio and you’ll never find him dead or alive in that section. There’s a myth that any form of cardio will burn those precious muscles you’ve spent time building. But here’s the thing, in the totem pole of what your body burns for energy, your muscles come last. So your body will only burn muscles if you’re overworking it and not feeding it properly (side eye to the no carbs crew). Cardio helps improve your cardiovascular health for better overall strength so throw in some low-moderate intensity cardio routines once or twice a week, with your strength training.
“I’ll get bulky if I lift” Surprisingly, I’ve heard this from both men and women. I’m sure if we asked Arnie and Rocky, they’ll tell you how much work and effort went into building their physique that way (fun fact, they also did some form of cardio too). You don’t have to do 10 reps of bench presses with 110lbs weights when you hit the gym. Have your personal goal and work with a personal trainer or do some research to plan the best types of workouts and reps for you. Sure, some people have a natural tendency to bulk up quicker than others but a complementary mix of cardio and strength training should keep things in balance. If you’re so worried about getting bulky, skip the dumbbells and use only your bodyweight.
“You can’t strength train without equipment” This is usually one of the excuses people use for not adding strength training to their workout routines, usually followed by “I can’t afford the gym or equipment”. Here’s the good news, you don’t need to break the bank to get your strength training in. Use what you have, your body. Imagine you weigh 70kg, if you’re doing squats or doing push ups, you’re easily lifting at least half your body mass, effectively using your body as weights. Sure, having additional weights helps build muscles faster but if you don’t have access to them, no problem, switch up to harder variations of the basic bodyweight exercises or just do more reps. You can check out examples here and here for inspiration.
Strength training and fitness in general should not be focused only on the aesthetics. It’s about being healthy and maintaining a fitness level that’s right for you. Whether you want to have 0% body fat or maintain it at 15-20%, it is all up to you, but by all means, go workout!
About the author (Zaine):
Health issues got me started on my fitness journey over a decade ago and since then, I’ve been on and off the wagon a few times. I’m not yet where I want to be but I am enjoying it and I hope I can inspire you on that journey with me.