Weighing the Myths of Women and Weight Training
by Catherine Wilbert, MFS, CFT, SPN
Master of Fitness Science, Certified Fitness Trainer
and Performance Nutrition Specialist
If you have yet to learn the benefits of weight training, or are still debating
whether or not to try it, this information is for you.
Tufts University conducted a study on the benefits of weight training which
involved forty postmenopausal women. The control group - half of the
volunteers - simply maintained their lifestyle for a year. The others lifted weights
twice per week.
At the end of the year, the sedentary women's bones and muscles had aged.
They had lost bone density and strength. And they were even less active than
Contrary to that dismal scenario, the bodies of the women who lifted weights were fifteen to twenty years
more youthful. They gained bone density and their strength level soared to levels typical of women in their
late thirties or early forties. They traded fat for muscle, therefore, looked trimmer and dropped dress sizes.
The women who lifted weights actually got smaller, not larger, once again debunking the myth some
women still believe about weight training making them bulky. These women gained nine percent muscle,
and lost a corresponding amount of fat. Since muscle is denser than fat, they were smaller, leaner and more
toned and no one complained about looking unfeminine.
Aside from the physical changes, the women who lifted weights felt happier, more energetic and had
greater self-confidence. These women also became more active as they got stronger. They not only felt
younger, they were leading younger lives. Physical changes caused emotional changes, which impacted
their lives positively. They regained enjoyment of life they thought they had lost forever. All of that for two
workouts per week!
Although research has shown that when women maintain a regular strength training program they will
benefit from the long list of health advantages, many women are still held back by the many myths
surrounding women and weight training. It’s time to dispel those myths so women of all ages will begin
participating in weight training and can start feeling the life long benefits that come with it.
Myth#1 -I should lose weight before I start weight training
Fact – Why wait when weight training burns fat best. Weight training is the best way to loose weight
because it permanently increases your metabolism. It is important to understand that dieting without
exercise causes the body to lose muscle, which slows the metabolism. Only the combination of weight
training and positive nutritional changes makes it possible to lose fat and keep it off. As you add muscle,
your resting metabolism increases, so you burn more calories all day long. For each pound of muscle you
gain, you'll burn 35 to 50 more calories daily. So, by gaining only three pounds of muscle, you’ll burn an
average of 120 more calories per day, or approximately 3,600 more calories per month. That equates to a
loss of 10 to 12 pounds in one year!
Myth #2 - Aerobic exercise is better than weight training to burn fat
Fact – If you really want to lose fat – and keep it off -- the best way to do it is with weight training. While it
may feel like running on the treadmill for an hour (while you are dripping with sweat) is burning tons of
calories, it’s only burning calories while you are exercising and for one to two hours after. Weight training is
the most effective way to burn fat because the more muscle you gain, the more fat you burn all the time –
24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With more muscle, you are not just burning fat one or two hours when you’re
exercising, but every hour of every day, whether you’re exercising, eating, sleeping or sitting at your desk.
Myth #3 - If I weight train I will get bigger and I want to look smaller
Fact – Muscle actually takes up less space than fat, so ultimately, by weight training, you will be smaller,
firmer and toner…and your clothes will fit better. What about weight? Yes, you may end up weighing the
same or even more because muscle weighs more than fat, but remember the true test is how you look and
feel – not what the numbers on the scale say.
Myth #4 - Weight training will make me bulky and masculine – I don’t want to loose my femininity.
Fact - No worries - weight training will not turn you into to an Arnold Schwarzenegger look alike over night.
Women don’t become overly muscular – it’s just not possible. Women don’t naturally produce enough of
the hormones it takes to grow massive muscle. Weight training will, however, give you that toned look you’
re striving for – you can’t burn fat off to see muscle tone that doesn’t exist. Crash diets that burn precious
muscle tissue only leave you with a temporarily smaller version of your original fat self. “Skinny fat” is still
flabby, but muscle is sexy! If you want curves and definition, and a tight toned body, weight training is the
way to go.
Myth #5 - I’m too old to start weight training.
Fact - It’s NEVER to late to start weight training. Studies have shown strength improvements and numerous
other benefits from weight training are possible at any age, even in subjects well into their 70s and 80s. In
fact, a recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that post-
menopausal women can reduce their body fat, increase muscle mass, build up their bones, and improve
their balance by lifting moderately heavy weights on a regular basis. Biologically, the women were about 20
years younger then they were at the start of the yearlong study. Research has also found that weight training
can increase spinal bone mineral density by as much as 13 percent in six months. So weight training is a
powerful tool against osteoporosis. The benefits of weight training are now indisputable, both to prevent
the effects of aging in pre-menopausal women and reverse the effects of aging in post-menopausal women.
And if all that isn’t enough to convince you the weight training is the single most effective way to burn fat,
increases metabolism, build strength and increase bone density, here are a few other benefits you may want
1. You will Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem for women and men.
Research indicates that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in four
2. You will Fight Heart Disease. Strength training will improve your cholesterol profile and blood pressure. And
the benefits only increase when your regimine also includes cardiovascular exercise, flexibility training and a
good nutrition and supplement program.
3. You will Be Able to Fight Back Pain and Arthritis. A recent 12-year study showed that strengthening the
low-back muscles had an 80 percent success rate in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Other studies
have indicated that weight training can ease arthritis pain and strengthen joints.
4. You will Be a Stronger Woman Physically and Mentally. Studies have shown that moderate weight
training increases a woman's strength by 30 to 50 percent. Extra strength will make it easier to accomplish
daily activities, such as lifting children or groceries. Most strength differences between men and women can
be explained by differences in body size and fat mass. Pound for pound, women can develop their strength
at the same rate as men. In addition, a Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced
symptoms of clinical depression more successfully than traditional counseling did. Women who weight train
commonly report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their program.
As you can see, the benefits of weight training far outweigh any myths that might be associated with it. So
hit the weights -- and get ready to reap a host of health benefits that you probably never imagined possible
with just one small lifestyle change!