Myths About Women and Strength Training
1. Women can't get as strong. Not true. Women have a potential for developing muscular fitness (particularly in their upper bodies) that often remains untapped. In fact, the average woman gains strength at a slightly faster rate that the average man does.
2. Strength training de-feminizes women. Fortunately, the wide array of potential benefits of strength training (functional, physical, mental, and health) are just as appropriate and available to women as they are to men. Tight, firm, muscles have nothing to do with the objectionable term "de-feminize."
3. Lifting weights will cause women to develop relatively large muscles. In reality, women don't have the genetic potential to develop large muscles because, except in very rare instances, they don't have enough testosterone, which is needed for the development of muscle bulk.
4. Strength training will make a woman muscle-bound. Muscle-bound is a term that connotes lack of flexibility. Not only will proper strength training not make a woman less flexible, in most cases, it will make her more flexible.
5. A woman's muscles will turn to fat when she stops training. Muscles cannot turn into fat. Muscles simply don't have the physiological capacity to change from one type of tissue to another. Muscles have the property of "use it or lose it." If a woman doesn't use a particular muscle, that muscle will literally waste away (atrophy).
6. A woman can take protein supplements to enhance her physique. A woman cannot enhance how her body looks by using protein supplements, because her body can't use the extra protein. An excessive amount of protein is not used to build muscle tissue. Rather, it is converted to fat and stored in the body.
7. Rigorous strength training can help a woman rid her body of fat. Research shows that, although strength training can firm and tone muscles, it does not burn away fat.
8. Strength training increases a woman's need for vitamins. The vitamin needs of a physically active woman are generally no greater than those of a sedentary one. Because vitamins do not contribue significantly to a woman's body structure and do not provider her with a direct source of energy, a woman who engages in strength training receives no benefit from taking an excessive dose of vitamin supplements. Eating a variety of healthful foods will ensure that a woman's intake of vitamins is adequate.
9. Strength training is for young women. It's never too late for a woman to enhance the quality of her life by improving her level of muscular fitness. Proper strength training offers numerous benefits to women of all ages and fitness levels, including the fact that it can help extend a woman's functional life span.
10. Strength training is expensive for a woman. Not true. Muscles respond to the stress applied to them, not to the cost of the machine. All other factors being equal, muscles can't discern 50 pounds of stress on an inexpensive barbell from 50 pounds of stress imposed by a high-tech machine costing thousands of dollars.
James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the United States Military Academy.
Copyright 2010 by the American College of Sports Medicine.