Strength training is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it improve overall fitness and physical health, but it also has a host of mental and emotional benefits.
Most of you reading this know that already, however, there are a lot of people who avoid strength training (which is fine, you do you) due to misconceptions about what lifting weights will do to their bodies.
While anyone can have misconceptions, in my experience, I mostly hear them from women that I know or female influencers I see online.
But where do these misconceptions come from?
There's no doubt that hearsay is a problem, however, that's just a symptom of the actual culprit, which is social media.
Social media platforms, such as TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, are filled with images and videos of fit and "toned" individuals and influencers who promote quick fixes and unproven workouts that are misleading. This shapes the way millions of women perceive what a "good" workout or diet looks like, which has a seismic impact on the way they work out.
Female clients see people online and ask me how they can look like them. Having visual goals isn't bad motivation, but I advise them to focus on balance and consistency in their own journey and not focus on unhealthy distractions.
Some may feel pressure to conform to a certain body type or fitness level they see on social media and may compare their progress to the often-edited images they see online. This can lead to unrealistic expectations, feelings of inadequacy, and even eating and body image disorders.
In an attempt to right these wrongs, let's look at and challenge 3 common misconceptions.
"I only work lower my legs and glutes (🍑)"
It's common for women to focus on training their lower body more than their upper body. One of a variety of reasons for this bias is that many women are more concerned about the appearance of their legs and glutes, so they prioritise exercises that target those muscle groups.
Additionally, some women may feel more confident and comfortable performing lower body exercises, while they may feel self-conscious or intimidated by upper body exercises.
Most of my friends and I don't care much about having toned arms or a toned back, we just want more toned legs. I'd say it's mainly for aesthetic reasons, but I don't even know what the health benefits of training upper body are.
My 19-year-old cousin
And, honestly, that's fine, (again, you do you) lower body exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusters are not bad exercises. These are compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups and are oftentimes more effective in building strength compared to isolation exercises.
However, outside of training particular muscle groups for specific sports or fitness goals, it's often more beneficial for overall health and fitness to target all muscle groups—total body training—and not just focus on 1 or 2 specific areas.
"I just want to tone up"
The term "toning up" is commonly associated with women's workouts and ways to describe a woman's figure. It is used to describe the process of developing a firmer and more defined physique and you'll see it time and time again on the covers of women's magazines and all over social media.
But you cannot tone muscle.
To achieve a leaner and more defined appearance, you must increase muscle mass through strength training and get rid of excess body fat through a combination of diet and/or cardio exercise. This is the only way to achieve that "toned" muscle look.
"I don't want to look too bulky"
Many women believe that lifting weights will cause them to bulk up and look like a bodybuilder. This perception is fuelled by societal and cultural expectations and stereotypes of women needing to be smaller and less muscular than men.
Additionally, this may be due to a misconception about how muscle growth works. In reality, it's tough for women to achieve noticeable muscle mass due to differences in hormones—women tend to have less testosterone than men—and genetics.
A muscular physique comes from consistent weight training, progressive overload over time (hypertrophy), and a diet that supports muscle growth and weight management. It's not something that happens overnight or with a few sessions in the gym, it takes consistent effort and dedication.
One of the biggest benefits of a total-body strength training program is its ability to increase muscle mass and bone density, which we naturally lose with age. Strength training can help to slow down and even reverse this process, keeping you stronger and healthier for longer.
It also helps to improve cardiovascular health, can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and help with weight management and overall body composition. And the benefit is not only physical, it can have a positive impact on your mental and emotional well-being too.
All this can be achieved through a variety of methods, including bodyweight exercises and lighter weights with higher repetitions; strength training doesn't have to mean lifting heavy weights. There are some great female fitness influencers online, who share excellent advice and free workouts:
It’s essential to consult a doctor or a personal trainer before starting any strength training program, especially if you're a beginner, you are pregnant, or have a history of any injuries or chronic health conditions.
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