Walk into most weight lifting rooms in the U.S., and you’ll probably notice something immediately: there are hardly any women there.
At Tonal, we believe that strength training is important for both women and men, and it’s not a coincidence that half of our Coaching team are females. Why is it that so few women lift weights, and why is it so important that more of us start strength training?
Some of the main factors keeping women away from lifting iron are the bulking myth, lack of knowledge, availability of time, and using bodyweight exercises as a substitute, so let’s talk about solutions, and also why it’s so important for women to strength train.
The Bulking Myth
Once upon a time, somebody told a woman “if you lift weights, you’ll get bulky like a guy”, and then that woman told her friends, who told their friends, and here we are in the present time, when a lot of women are afraid that if they lift heavy weights their muscles will suddenly look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This is the bulking myth, and in reality, due to our estrogen levels and also that our muscle mass is less than males, it is very difficult for females to achieve the muscle mass of the bodybuilders that most women imagine when they look at a dumbbell.
In fact, it’s pretty hard for men to achieve this too! Bodybuilders practice exercise and diet routines that are calculated specifically to get those body types, and most work at it for years. Often, they are taking additional supplements to help them get there. Literally the only way to get bulky from lifting weights is if you really, REALLY work at that goal, so if that’s not what you want, you can let that fear go!
Lack of Knowledge
Lifting weights can be intimidating if you don’t know how, and you may also worry about creating an injury or aggravating an old one with incorrect form. Tonal has got you covered on this one! Our demo videos, along with our Coaches’ instruction, are designed to teach you how to lift weights properly and safely.
Our coaching cues have proven to be the most effective in our years of personal training, and we are so excited to share that knowledge with our Tonal community. In addition to this, the Tonal’s AI is designed to know when your form is off and when you need a spotter. We really want you to master strength training!
Women have a lot on their schedules these days, and when the Center for Disease Control polled Americans on their fitness, only 17.9% of women said they were able to meet the recommended guidelines of both aerobic activity and resistance training.
With Tonal, you don’t even need to leave your home to fit strength training into your schedule. With strength training programs designed to meet whatever time you have available, even 20 free minutes means you can overcome this barrier to exercise.
Bodyweight Exercises Only
That same person that told that woman she would get bulky from weights, also told her she only needed to do bodyweight exercises to gain strength. The problem with bodyweight exercises is that you only weigh so much, and your weight alone can only make your body work so hard before it plateaus and is no longer challenged.
Hold that thought while you also learn this: Osteopenia, and later Osteoporosis, is a condition in which there is a decrease in bone mass and density as well as an increase in space between bones, resulting in porosity (having tiny holes) and fragility. You hear that? A bunch of tiny holes in your bones! This is important because out of the 10 million Americans living with osteoporosis, 80% are women, and most of these are postmenopausal women.
Besides getting enough calcium, one way to prevent osteoporosis is by achieving Peak Bone Mass as a young adult. New bone formation happens when we place stress on the musculoskeletal system, and to do this consistently, people must remain active enough to ensure adequate stress is being placed on their bodies.
Bringing this back to bodyweight exercises, using only your bodyweight to build strength simply doesn’t put enough stress on your system to create bone mass, but you can have one guess as to what does. Strength training! Which is why when we design our Tonal workouts, we include bodyweight exercises along with LOTS of weight lifting.
“Not only does strength training help preserve and enhance your muscle mass, it also develops strong bones” says Coach Bianca, and added that “it can boost your energy levels, and help you sleep better so let’s get moving ladies!”
There are loads of other benefits to strength training too, which is why it’s so important that women take advantage of this activity, so we don’t miss out on all these bonuses.
Gain Confidence and Strength
When you gain confidence in what your body can do, you can gain confidence in yourself. Knowing that you are capable of carrying your groceries, your suitcases, lifting your kids, or helping a friend move, can be a huge boost of pride.
Better Balance and Flexibility
Nobody says you need to audition for the ballet, (unless you want to!), but weight lifting strengthens your bones, your muscles, and also your joints, tendons, and ligaments, which can prevent falls. Practicing exercises that require balance and using your full range of motion increases your flexibility and helps your body to perform everyday tasks as simple as walking, and you will thank yourself later.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five Americans suffers from a mental illness, but in addition to this, women are more likely than men to have a mental illness, and certain types of depression are unique to women. However, the NIMH also recommends regular physical activity and exercise as one way to help alleviate mental illness and stress. Endorphins are released during strength training that can boost your mood, mental illness or not!
A lot of us begin exercise programs with the goal to get healthier, and great indicators of health are reduced injuries, and good ranges for blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 289,758 women in 2013—that’s about 1 in every 4 female deaths.
Most people don’t realize that pumping iron can also keep your heart pumping. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that people who do 30 minutes of weightlifting each week have a 23 percent reduced risk of developing heart disease compared to those who don’t lift weights.
And who doesn’t want to prevent injuries? “Think of your strength training workout like it’s your laboratory, your controlled environment” says Coach Natalie, “If you practice lifting heavier loads in a safe environment while you’re being mindful of all your movements, when you get to the real world, you’ll be much better prepared for whatever life throws at you, and less likely to become injured”.
Let’s start spreading the truth about strength training instead of repeating reasons that can hold women back from being their strongest and healthiest selves. If you still have reservations or questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Coaches individually to find out more about why strength training is so important for women.