Can women get bulky lifting weights?

4 Fitness Myths Explained

Fitness is complex. It seems like new articles are always popping up to tell us about the next best thing. It can be tough to keep up with real exercise science and stay mindful of companies or magazines that are really just trying to sell you a quick solution (for example: “Try this one crazy trick to lose belly fat!”).

For people who aren’t actively researching this stuff (which is 99.9% of us), seeing through harmful fitness myths and understanding how to achieve your personal fitness goals can be a challenge. Let’s talk about some of the ones we hear at our gym.


Myth 1: Lifting weights makes women bulky.

This myth is one of the most searched queries about women’s fitness on the internet. Clearly, women are concerned about the impact weightlifting will have on their bodies.

Weightlifting doesn't make women bulky

Using heavy weights won’t give you giant, bodybuilder-style muscles. Hormones like testosterone, which play a crucial role in muscle development, are much higher in men than women. Combine that with more and larger muscle fibers, and this means that men build muscle faster and easier than women do.

Additionally, the bodybuilders you see train and eat like crazy to have that physique. Body types aside, even men have to work hard to pack on all that muscle.


Myth 2: Cardio is all I need to be in shape.

Weightlifting is good for womenThere’s no denying cardiovascular exercises like running and swimming are good for you, but long bouts of cardio every day can be detrimental in the long-run. Fitness is about more than just your endurance–it’s measured by your strength, agility, balance and more.

Fitness is also about longevity. Women are often cautioned away from weightlifting or gymnastics, but the truth is that it’s especially good for us. Staying strong as we age can help us stay independent for longer. Resistance training also combats medical conditions like osteoporosis or lymphedema (a result of breast cancer treatment) that impact women at higher rates than men.

To top it off, varying your routine to include shorter, high-intensity workouts has proven benefits. It boosts endurance, improves blood flow, and elevates your metabolism for longer.


Myth 3: You can target fat burn.

You can't target fat burnWe’ve all seen articles claiming to target “problem areas” with specific exercises, and you’re likely familiar with “fat burning zones” displayed on exercise machines everywhere. Both are myths, and here’s why.

Spot reduction: When you expend energy (calories), fat is lost throughout your body in a pattern that depends on genetics, hormones, gender and age. That means doing 100 crunches will show up everywhere, not just your tummy. Toning is nothing more than having low enough overall body fat to see the muscle tissue underneath. Those crunches aren’t for nothing, though–you’re still building muscle and expending energy.

Fat burning zones: Because low exercise intensities encourage your body to use more fat than carbs for fuel, people often assume that longer, low-intensity exercise is best for burning fat. The truth is that humans can use both fat and carbs as fuel during a workout, and it’s likely you’ll use some combination of the two. Ultimately, it’s not super important to figure out whether you’re burning carbs or fat as fuel, as long as you’re not eating more calories than you burn.

Additionally, the calories we burn through exercise are a very small portion of our daily energy expenditure. About 90-95% of the calories we burn throughout the day are taken up just by existing (aka: sleeping, sitting, eating, and moving around doing normal activity). This means that dedicated exercise contributes only 5-10%. By building muscle through strength training, you increase the amount of calories you burn even when you’re doing nothing.


Myth 4: Weightlifting is dangerous.

This myth’s very common, especially when it comes to CrossFit.

Weightlifting isn't dangerousIn fact, just the opposite is true. If done safely and consistently, weight training has the potential to help you prevent injuries and minimize health complications throughout your life. Generally speaking, the stories we hear about back and joint issues can be attributed to a lack of strength, as well as training with bad technique and using an inappropriate weight. Good gyms will assess your ability and help you build up your strength while teaching good form.


About the author: Claire Mulholland

Claire Mulholland, personal trainer and coach

Claire is a full-time coach, and head coach of the Women’s Only Program. She’s passionate about proper nutrition and working with people from all fitness backgrounds. Read more about Claire.

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