Women Belong in the Weight Room
Haley Morgan | Writing Contributor Sophie Priore | Photography Contributor
Every woman has seen the videos. “How to Get Toned Abs in 12 days.” “Lazy Girl’s Workout for a Flatter Stomach.” “Do this One Move Every Day to be Skinny.” All of these videos set unrealistic deadlines, negatively target women and suggest that women are only happy in their smallest form. In the meantime, videos targeting a male audience focus on building muscle and increasing strength. Society is convinced that women need to feel and be small. But what about those women who reject societal norms and crave a gym environment where they feel welcomed in a body that is not thin? Women are allowed to enjoy strength training, but there is an abundance of misinformation surrounding women in the weight room. Women deserve to know proper information regarding weightlifting, and they should be able to choose whether it is the right workout for them on the basis of facts alone. Read below to debunk some myths involving female weightlifting.
Women will get too bulky.
First of all, what’s wrong with women trying to bulk-up? Visible muscles on a woman are a symbol of her hard work. Yes, it’s difficult to go against the grain of societal standards, but women’s bodies are not fashion trends. Society shouldn’t tell people to strive for a skinny figure to finally be accepted. Ultimately, people will always put others down based on appearance because they aren’t adhering to “typical” body standards. There is no such thing as “too bulky;” women should have the freedom to work for a muscular figure without judgement.
According to Healthline, it takes months, or even years of strength training and high calorie diets to become “bulky.” It is extremely difficult to bulk up without intentional training and nutritional habits. Women should take pride in the muscles she builds through consistent strength training.
Women should only use lighter weights.
False. False. False. The argument behind this claims that lifting lighter weights and increasing reps will help women achieve a toned look without increasing muscle size. In reality, getting “toned” involves a person shedding body fat to increase the visibility of muscles by eating at a caloric deficit. Calorie deficits are the only way to tone the body. Strictly using lighter weights will not “burn” fat. The heaviness of a weight has little impact on a person’s physical appearance without the changing of outside factors, such as eating habits and stress levels. If getting “toned” is impossible while using light weights, then there should be nothing stopping women from using the heavier weights. Heavy strength training builds muscle, increases overall strength and positively influences mood. Challenging workouts can show how amazing the human body is, and it’s not possible to see that with 2.5-pound dumbbells.
Men belong in the weight room; women should stick to cardio.
For decades, gyms have had a massive gender divide, creating the stigma that women should stick to treadmills and ellipticals. Men are told that building muscle comes from weightlifting while women are told to run endless miles to lose weight. While cardio burns more calories in the short run, weightlifting burns more calories in the long run. Weightlifting creates small tears in muscle fibers, and the body uses calories as fuel to repair those tears, creating a stronger muscle than before. So, an hour of cardio burns more calories than an hour of weightlifting, but the body is still burning calories long after a strength training session. This does not mean that a workout should be chosen strictly based on how many calories will be burned. Not all workouts provide the same benefits, and it is important to tailor a workout to specific needs and goals. Women do not have to do just cardio, and men do not have to do just weightlifting. Strength-training benefits muscles, joints and bones while cardio helps the heart, lungs and immune system. The perfect workout regimen incorporates all types of training, not just strictly cardio or weightlifting.
Weightlifting can also benefit mental health. There are people who adore running solely for their “runner’s high.” This high is actually a rush of endorphins that can be felt through an intense exercise, not just a run. If someone enjoys lifting heavy weights, then they will also achieve that “runner’s high” without ever taking a step on the treadmill.
Women who want to find a workout routine that works for them should try weightlifting, and let their confidence lead them into the gym. People often feel more comfortable taking a friend or meeting a new gym girl when they are trying something completely new. Regardless, challenge the societal norm and lift heavy!
Haley Morgan is a writing contributor for Food and Health. She is a junior majoring in Criminal Justice and minoring in Addiction and Recovery. She can be found either in the gym hitting the weights or divulging in a bowl of ice cream. If she is doing neither of those, then she is definitely taking a nap.