Ladies… put down those teeny dumbbells you found stacked in the corner at the gym and confidently march over to the heavier weights. Do not fear those iron barbells and dumbbells – I promise they will not bite! Do not shy away from the squat rack – it’s not nearly as intimidating as it looks. Do not fear the sweaty, muscle-bound dudes that strut around you – they may look tough, but they’re not going to judge you. In fact, they’re more likely to admire you for ditching the elliptical machines to join them on the other side of the room!
While I don’t believe we can solely blame our apparent lack of desire to lift heavy weights on the great gender divide in the weight room, I do think it plays a part. Along with several other factors, that is.
So often women say, “But I don’t want to bulk up!” It’s possible you already know that lifting heavier weights will NOT make you bulky! If you didn’t know that, now you do. Lifting heavier weights in combination with fat loss will give you that toned look you’re after–hello Jennifer Aniston arms! In fact, adding extra muscle mass can help prevent injuries, enhance aerobic performance, and make your bones stronger! These are all important benefits to consider as women, especially as we age.
Yet we still reach for those cute 3-lbs. dumbbells and continue to knock out 15 reps of triceps kickbacks and other “belly-fat-blasting”, “thigh-slimming” and “waist-whittling” moves instead of progressing our workouts to build more strength.
I think popular women’s health and fitness magazines have a lot to do with this attitude and are probably the worst offenders for spreading the notion that women should exercise differently than men.
As women, when we first start going to the gym we turn to women’s health and fitness magazines to get information and exercise routines. Figuring if they copy the exercise routines in the magazines they’ll get the same results as the fitness models demonstrating the moves. Without even thinking about it, we gravitate toward the quiet area of the gym where the yoga mats, little dumbbells, and other women are to tone up their “trouble spots.” Sadly, after months of working out this way, the “trouble spots” often looked no more toned than they did before they began working out consistently–no matter how many different combinations of exercises they try!
All of that can change by gradually increasing the weight you’re lifting, focusing on simple moves and proper form. And most importantly, stop trying to mimic those complicated routines from fitness magazines.
So why not head to the free-weight part of the gym? I know it can be intimidating… and often feels like we are entering a foreign country, with no knowledge of the language!
I’m sure most women can relate to this feeling…the weight room at the gym still feels like the “guy” area.
So, how do we overcome this feeling? You could go to the gym during quieter hours, join a female-only gym or just work out at home, but what good would that do? The only way to overcome a fear is for more women to frequent the weight room. If not knowing proper form is a barrier, then set up a training session with a personal trainer, or simply ask the trainers at your gym how to use the equipment properly – they want you to be safe while using the equipment, and should have no problem taking the time to show you how to use the free-weights with proper form.
Of course, weight training and heavy lifting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re getting the results you want from your current routine and have no desire to use the weight room, that’s fine too! As long as you’re doing something you enjoy that gets your body moving, and it’s not fear that’s holding you back.
Just remember, there is no shame in leaving the iron pumping to other people… But you don’t know what you’re missing!!
By Annie Farley, Elite Sports Club-Mequon Group Exercise Instructor & Trainer