When I worked in a gym, I held many consultations with people to determine what they wanted from a training program and what they wanted to achieve. The common criteria for females were: train 3 times per week and with no weights — just cardio.
In my experience, many women wanting to lose a bit of weight or get fitter and tone up will not want to lift weights. In fact, this is the last thing they want to do. I had to convince these clients that weight-lifting was the way to go.
Weight lifting is only for muscle-bound men and bodybuilders.
Lifting weights will make me masculine and bulky.
But if I start lifting weights, the muscle will turn into fat when I stop.
The above are some of the statements that I have heard from females in the past after suggesting that they start to lift weights as part of their weight loss / fitness plan. But these common misconceptions are NOT true. 9 of 10 females who approached me for weight loss advice looked surprise to hear that weight lifting would help them.
As it happens, I was able to change these common opinions and put them right. On some occasions, it turned out that these ladies preferred “pumping iron” than working cardio, and, believe it or not, they did not turn into the incredible hulk!
I believe that the #1 reason women have an aversion to lifting weights in the gym is that they do not want to appear muscular, bulky and masculine.
The truth is (and I know that anyone who has tried to put on muscle — male or female — will back me up here), muscle is very hard to put on; it takes a long time and you need many months or even years of consistency with diet and training to get good gains.
Training and diet are two things but there are also some other major factors that are in play when it comes to female muscle gain. The main reason females will have a harder time putting on lean muscle is down to hormone levels. I want to keep this simple and will do my best.
The hormone testosterone is the reason male weightlifters are able to put on muscle a whole lot easier than female weight lifters. (This still takes a lot of hard work for a guy.)
Because of the lack of this hormone in females, it makes it near impossible for them to put on a massive amount of muscle. “Freaky big” professional female bodybuilders will use synthetic testosterone and this is where the “bulk and masculine look” comes from. But even with this external, it still takes a lifetime of dedication for them to get this look.
As you can see, I am really trying to hammer home how hard it is to put on muscle for any gender and it is so much harder as a female.
I strongly believe that if a woman started lifting weights like a bodybuilder and eat a healthy clean diet, staying consistent with this for a year or two would make her would look more like a fitness model rather than a bulky bodybuilder!
How can lifting weights help you lose fat?
As I mentioned above, I would always advise some form of resistance training to everyone. Lifting weights will help to boost your metabolism, and the more lean muscle you have, the more fat your body will burn.
By lifting weights on a regular basis, you will start to change your body composition. By this, I mean that the ratio of muscle to fat will become in favor of muscle; when this happens, you will find it easier to keep the fat off and your body will be burning fat all of the time.
If you have more fat than muscle at the moment, the results from training will seem slow at first (this, in my opinion is the hardest part of the process, physically and mentally), but as soon as the muscle outweighs the fat, you will see some much faster results and will have to put in less work to maintain.
So, what about my muscle turning into fat — if I stop training?
Right, this is an idea that I hear a lot! The bottom line is that muscle DOES NOT turn into fat. This is what I think:
If you train hard for 10 years, and achieve a great physique, and then just stop everything and decide to sit in front of the TV eating fried chicken, your muscles will atrophy (they will shrink from lack of stimulation).
You will start to put on fat as a result of not doing your exercises; this will be compounded and made worse by the muscle wastage, your metabolism will slow down… soon quickly, you are back to square one!
Muscle does not turn into fat. Your body composition will change if you stop training and neglect your food intake, and the ratio of fat to muscle will become in favor of fat. Females also have a harder time here but will see a turn-around a bit quicker. Unfortunately, this is also due to genetic makeup.
I hope that this article has outlined the importance and value of weight lifting for females. Tammy Wynette said it best:
Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.
And that’s totally correct when it comes to building muscle, too!
In my opinion, it is a huge achievement for anyone to get a ripped lean physique, but it is so much more challenging for a woman to look like this as they do not have the “natural tools.”
My advice to any female who wishes to change her body shape — for fat loss or muscle toning — would be to try a strength program at first for around 6 — 8 weeks and then start to look into bodybuilding.
If you have not tried a resistance program before because you were in doubt or have similar beliefs to that of the quotes at the beginning of this post, I challenge you to talk to a trainer who knows what they are doing and train hard with weights for the next eight weeks… I think you will be surprised at what you discover.
If you are not sure on how to lift or are unsure of correct form in the gym, most gyms will have someone there that you can ask for help. Correct lifting technique is essential as an injury will only push your progress backwards.
Please leave a comment below if this information has been useful, or you have any questions. As always, I am happy to offer you my advice and will do my best to help you out wherever I can.
This book does what it says on the tin! It includes a lot of female specific fitness issues, such as cellulite, weight loss after menopause, etc. I have even included an illustrated short-timed home workout to target the common problem areas that women face. Read more about this by clicking here.