Misconceptions of weightlifting for women

(Kaledbf/Flickr)

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(Kaledbf/Flickr)

Caitlin Cooke, Contributor

Protein shakes and sweat rags line the floor; an unpleasant mixture of body odor and AXE body spray wafts from weight rack to weight rack; and men in muscle tanks give each other aggressive pats on the back, hovering while waiting for the next available dumbbell.

For many women at the gym, this scene screams ‘no, thank you.’

Well, it’s time to reconsider this rejection.

Resorting to the elliptical is a mistake. The false assumptions that stem from “bro culture” have women thinking weightlifting is a man’s sport, when in reality, the resistance training can improve women’s health and fitness in ways that cardio and floor exercises cannot.

Let’s address the fallacies behind lifting, and get more women into the weight room.

“The weight room is intimidating and I totally get judged if I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Yes, diving into the sea of men carrying 250 lb. weights, dripping in sweat, and sporting a look of determination — think Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible movie — can feel overwhelming. It’s amplified by the fact that, on any given day, there are probably 10 guys to every one woman in the room.

“Some girls don’t lift because they are scared of being judged [by] guys, but really guys could care less,” said Emily Williams, a petite 5′ hospitality and tourism major, and frequent lifter at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Recreation Center.

Let’s face it: when it comes to lifting weights, guys spend more time checking out their form and admiring their own muscles than they do judging others.

Joshua Schlegel, a regular lifter and kinesiology major said, “There is way too much testosterone in the weight room, especially when there are so many benefits to overall health when doing resistant exercises like weightlifting.”

Guys in the weight room know this, and if anything, want to encourage women to lift. Realizing this squashes the apprehensions towards taking the initial step into the weight room.

“Sometimes I ask a friend to join me in the weight room because it not only makes it more fun, but also gets more women to lift,” Williams said.

“Okay, but I don’t want to get bulky from lifting.”

You can’t turn into a bodybuilder overnight.

Testosterone, the dominant male sex hormone, is responsible for an increase in muscle and bone mass. According to Julie DeBenedetto, a kinesiology major and certified personal trainer, “women don’t produce anywhere near the amount of testosterone that men do to make them bulky.”

So, putting in a few hours in the weight room when you can will not make you look like the Hulk.

Women who build have both an intense schedule in the weight room and a strict nutrition plan. Some even take steroids (and fail to mention it), leading women to believe that lifting anything above an eight lb. weight will make them look masculine.

Bottom line: you get stronger, not bulky.

Check out fitness gurus like Kayla Itsines and Jen Selter. They did not get rock hard bodies from doing cardio alone.

The gain in muscle and strength “is a confidence booster,” said Williams.

“Yeah, but cardio burns more calories than weight lifting, so its more efficient.”

While putting in endless hours on the treadmill burns calories quickly, ultimately, “muscle tissue burns more than fat while resting,” according to DeBenedetto.

That wobbly-arm feeling, followed by days of soreness after lifting, is the physiological disruption in the muscle tissue.

“Post-exercise, muscles and organs are drained of energy and require replenishment,” according to the National Council on Strength & Fitness.

To put it plainly, at rest, the body uses more calories to repair and maintain muscle tissue than it does with fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories are being used up overall.

Katelyn Noyes, a junior hospitality and tourism management major and frequent gym-goer, said that incorporating lifting into her workout has given her more energy.

“I used to take at least one nap per day, and now I hardly do,” Noyes said.

The less time you spend snuggled in bed during the day and the more active you are also increases the overall number of calories you burn.

* * *

Weightlifting adds variety to workouts and, even better, you can goto the gym with a lifting partner; don’t shy away from it. If you don’t know where to begin, workouts on BodyBuilding.com will get you started.

“A program that alternates aerobic and anaerobic activities provides the best balance for optimal health,” said Elaine N. Marieb in her “Human Anatomy and Physiology” textbook.

Aerobic cardio exercise and anaerobic weightlifting are both essential parts to an effective workout.

Email Caitlin Cooke at [email protected].

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