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Misconceptions About Women & Strength Training


As someone who has been interested in weightlifting since high school, it came to my realization a few years ago that my interest was not something many women I knew in my life shared with me. I was at work a few years ago and a colleague of mine asked what I liked to do outside of work. I told her simply that I enjoyed working out, had a trainer and that I trained at the gym twice per week. She seemed puzzled by my answer so the next day she asked while showing me a video on YouTube “Is this what you do in the gym?” In front of me I saw a woman completing a clean and jerk which is a movement common in Olympic weightlifting and cross fit. I told her no and tried to explain to her what I actually did in the gym, but it left me wondering why she didn’t know what I was talking about. From then every time I brought it up to someone in my life I paid attention to their reaction and responses and eventually I began to understand that there were many misconceptions people had about weightlifting. The main one I came across the most was that many women were concerned about lifting heavy and how that would change their body. Knowing that body image is something we are all made to be aware of in life and that most women are driven to be the smallest versions of themselves, I can understand how this would naturally push women away from approaching the squat rack at the gym. Becoming ‘bulky’ if you lift heavy is one of many misconceptions that I think keep women from experimenting in the gym but these misconceptions are robbing women of opportunities to grow mentally and physically.

Weightlifting Makes You Look Bulky

Women are often drawn to the cardio section of the gym and although any movement is good for the body not incorporating weightlifting leaves a missed opportunity to make some of the best improvements to your health. We often associate lifting heavy with muscle building and stereotypically men are the ones who take more interest in gaining muscle as that is the desired masculine aesthetic. For women, aesthetically looking ‘toned’ is what many of them are drawn to but that too must involve lifting and building muscle; no amount of fat loss will achieve this look unless weightlifting is incorporated. Looking ‘bulky’ is something that most women cannot achieve easily, if anything it would involve weightlifting most days of the week with a diet set to a caloric surplus and even then, it would take a few years of doing this consistently to achieve those results. As most women may be starting with very little to no weightlifting experience, experimenting with dumbbells and barbells at the gym can be a great way to add variety to your workout along with added benefits such as an increase in strength, better body image and mental health, and an increase in confidence. These benefits reach beyond the gym and have positive implications in many other areas of life.

Weightlifting is Only for Men

You can visit a gym at any time of day and most of the time you will see the weightlifting area occupied mostly by men. There are many reasons for this and most of them are not really going to change the fact that generally this can feel intimidating for women. Most women new to weightlifting will not be comfortable even approaching the area that holds the barbells and dumbbells for fear of looking like they do not know what they are doing or that they are taking up space in an area that they feel they do not deserve to be a part of. I felt this way many times throughout my fitness journey whenever I visited a gym and it took a couple of years of exposure and telling myself not to care what others thought of me to feel comfortable using equipment in an area that mostly men were in. This of course can stand as a barrier for some women to feel comfortable enough to experiment with various exercises or even to feel like they can start incorporating weightlifting into their workout routine. The truth is there are many women who have found weightlifting to be the most beneficial and rewarding type of exercise for them because the benefits outweigh the discomfort they may feel when entering a male dominated space. But to view this from another perspective and speaking from personal experience, it is extremely empowering to enter a space that is ‘meant’ only for men. Although at first it can seem like a barrier, when you enter with a plan or a general idea of what your goals are you can have the confidence to navigate the space without the discomfort. The results of doing this are not only an improvement in your physical health but also an increase in confidence and self esteem. See it as a challenge instead of a barrier and use it to push your own mental limits. Although at first it may feel uncomfortable, eventually the contrast of your actions in a space made for men can feel incredibly rewarding and will leave you feeling empowered.

Closing Thoughts

If you feel you can relate to some of these misconceptions, you are not alone as they are extremely common and unfortunately can drive women away from weightlifting in the gym. The truth is weightlifting can be one of the most beneficial types of exercise for both men and women and it is always worth attempting to challenge these misconceptions to gain the benefits of weightlifting for your health in general, you will never regret it.

Guest Writer: Dorothy Rouvas

IG: sdl.30

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