What's in style in fashion is a reflection of the times. Whether everyone you see is sporting luxe garments from YSL or creating their own homemade grunge looks, fashion has documented what 's going on in our world, in its own way, as carefully as any history book. And with that, the way we view ourselves both in and out of our clothes evolves too.
Fitness is no different. Not long ago, men and women trained in two completely different settings. Weight rooms were strictly for the boys, while dance aerobics made women think less about strength training and more about calorie burning— limiting options and results. Today, just like many unisex fashion trends are shared by guys and girls alike, workouts are far less segregated, and far more effective. The science of how men and women train has changed.
There are still plenty of people confused by the notion of lifting weights. In fact, the most typical questions I get from the women I train are:
• Will I get ‘bulky’ like the guys? Will my calves get big and my shoulders get too wide for that incredible Gucci jacket I just bought?
• Isn’t cardio better at getting me bikini ready?
• Won’t strength training make me tired?
What if I told you that strength training can help you keep weight off? It can help you train less and get more results. What If I told you that there is no difference between the way a man and a women should lift weights? The truth is that the general principles of exercise are the same for everyone. The best application of those principles will vary between individuals, but it will have less to do with a person's sex than almost any other factor involved in choosing the best program or routine.
Here are some of the biggest workout and strength training myths, specifically when it comes to women taking on a weight training routine to get strong, sexy and healthy.
MYTH 1: WEIGHT AND REPS
Women do not need to train with higher reps and lighter weight to avoid becoming "bulky". Most women are not capable of becoming overly muscular without using anabolic drugs regardless of how they exercise. With a broad range of loads (aka weight variations) and repetitions (the amount of times you lift this weight), how do you know how heavy to go? More on this next month, but as a rule, it's best to work closely with an expert. It's well worth it to hire a certified personal trainer to help you establish a program. The key factor is to make sure your muscles are being challenged and engaged, so if you lift light and can continue to lift that weight past a rep range of twenty, go heavier, and load more.
MYTH 2: COMPOUND VERSUS SIMPLE EXCERCISES
Women do not need to perform more simple exercises and fewer compound exercises than men. "Compound exercise" means exercise that involves working out multiple joints (a bicep curl is a single joint exercise, while a squat and press is very compound, and includes more than one joint). While both are effective for building muscle (single joint exercise and compound exercise), compound exercises are usually more time efficient, and more effective for increasing metabolic and cardiovascular demand. Your heart rate will go up higher.
MYTH 3: SQUATS AND DEADLIFTS MAKE ME BULKY
Squats and deadlifts do not give you a thick, blocky midsection, legs, or calves. When properly performed, they are some of the most effective exercises to improve the strength of your hip and thigh muscles. Squats are also one of the very best abdominal exercises, better than any crunch or plank. Deadlifts and squats yield amazingly firm glutes, and help you burn more calories during exercise.
MYTH 4: ABDOMINAL EXERCISES WILL GIVE ME A SMALL WAIST
Abdominal exercises will not make your midsection slender and your waist tiny. They strengthen your abdominal muscles, but do nothing on their own to reduce fat in your abdominal area. They can also define muscle and help you keep weight off of that area. Total body exercise, daily activity, and mindful daily nutrition (a healthful diet with no overeating and high amounts of refined sugar) will do much more than daily crunches.
MYTH 5: CREATING A "THIGH GAP"
The same goes for performing hip adduction/inner thigh exercises to increase your "thigh gap" or performing hip abduction/outer thigh exercises to get rid of "saddle bags". You cannot selectively target a body area for fat loss by working the underlying muscles. You must strength train your entire body (sure, include these exercises to strengthen and help you build muscle), but spot reduction is not possible. Typically if you work out regularly and eat well, you will lose weight all over, and the muscle built during these exercises will help you maintain your body composition and a lean firm shape.
MYTH 6: BUILDING A FIRM BUTT REQUIRES DIFFERENT WORKOUTS WEEKLY
You do not need to perform a large variety of exercises to build, tone, or shape your butt. You do however, need to workout consistently (no skipping a weekly or bi-weekly session). Your butt is made up of three muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The maximus is the largest of these, and the one that primarily determines the shape of your butt in combination with overlying fat. Because this muscle only does a few things, you can effectively work it by just performing movements involving hip extension like squats, leg presses, deadlifts, and hip raises. Then, to balance the body and create strong hips, the gluteus medius should be worked as well: think hip abduction exercise.
MYTH 7: YOU CAN "LENGTHEN" YOUR MUSCLES
Exercise does not lengthen muscles in the way they look. You can make your muscles stronger and larger with exercise, and more flexible and mobile with mobility and flexibility work, but you cannot make them longer. You can, however, improve the tone of your muscles and to do that you have to make them stronger. You can also make your improved muscle tone more noticeable by reducing your body fat. You do not need to exercise differently to improve the strength and tone of your muscles. You just need to keep exercising consistently and correctly.
MYTH 8: CARDIO FOR FAT LOSS
Women (and men) do not need to perform "cardio" or aerobic activities to lose fat.
The fact is: no activity burns enough calories to be worth doing for that purpose alone. Do not think that if you ate a 500 calorie piece of cake you will go and burn 500 calories on the elliptical or treadmill to "even things out". For optimal health you should move daily, so do cardio exercises that you like and stay active. But know that cardio alone will not help you build and maintain the body you want.