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Busting 4 Common Myths of Strength Training for Women – PART 1


In regards to strength training for women there are so many myths floating around it’s not even funny. These myths make it so hard for any woman to know exactly what to do when it comes to exercise, in particular strength training, to get the best results. This is when confusion and disappointment sets in, as their goals are not achieved.

In part 1 of myths of strength training for women we look at the following four topics:

•    Strength training will make you bulk up
•    High repetitions, low weight will work
•    Strength training for women should be different to men
•    You can spot reduce fat

There is a lot of information out their which is not fact at all and leads women in all sorts of directions. Here, we answer all those myths to set you back on track. Strength training is actually pretty straight forward if you know the research backed facts about strength training and get rid of all the false information.

Myth 1: Strength training will make you bulk up
We hear this time and time again; no you will not bulk up and become the muscly hulk that you think weight or strength training will cause you to become. There are specific reasons why females cannot do this and if they are, then they must be taking something to cause them to look that way, it is just not a natural phenomenon amongst females.

So, why is it that females cannot bulk up like our male counterparts? Well, females do not have the testosterone levels that males do. Sometimes, males do not even have the amount of testosterone needed to develop that hulk looking physique we know you are all thinking about.

Testosterone is the male sex hormone responsible for the increase in muscle size and mass in males and as females we only have the smallest amount of this hormone. The female sex hormone is estrogen, which we have heightened levels of and controls the feminine aspects of our bodies, which ensures a lean and toned physique rather than excessively large muscles. Yes we will get strong, but not big!

Lightweights induce muscular endurance where as heavy weights will induce muscular strength, which causes your muscles to get stronger and not necessarily bigger. The stronger your muscles, the higher your metabolism and thus the more calories they will burn. The fat layered on top of your muscles will be burned and reveal your muscles to give you that ‘toned’ look. A pound of muscle tissue takes up less room in your body than a pound of fat tissue does, an of course it is more metabolically active (think calorie furnace) than fat too!

Remember ladies; strength training is great for that lean toned look and you will definitely not become bulky and too muscly. All toned females will participate in some form of strength training to allow their bodies to develop that way. If you too want to get lean and toned, start strength training today!

Myth 2: High repetitions, lightweights will work

Many ladies think that lifting heavy weights will not allow them to loose weight or body fat, rather light weights, low sets with high repetitions is what has been drilled into everyone. Even some personal trainers believe this, which according to research is not right.

By strength training with lightweights for high repetitions you are only training your muscles for endurance and not building your muscles up for strength. Strength is where the calories are burned, as you need more muscle to do so. Heavy weight for low repetitions with build new muscle tissue and increase strength.

Lifting heavy weights for lower repetitions and high sets is much better. As we have mentioned, heavy weights are what will build and develop your muscles to be stronger and more efficient. This means you will have greater muscle mass, higher metabolism, greater capacity for burning calories during and post workout and thus reduce body fat all at the same time. The leaner someone is, the higher their metabolism. Essentially, building and strengthening muscle is important for your metabolism, which will help regulate and manage your weight.

So change your ways and stop fretting about walking past the cardio section and into the weights room. Try to opt for heavy weights not light; unless you are training your muscle t endure something or a long period of time the lightweights are not doing you any good in achieving your weight and fat loss goals. Even if you are a little older, lifting heavy relative to the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition will get you to where you need to be in regards to managing your weight. A little more muscle wont hurt; in fact it will keep you lean, strong and more able to participate in the things you love for longer as you get older! Not a bad reason to lift heavier than usual.
Myth 3: Strength training for women should be different to Men

Again, the answer is no. There is no reason as to why female’s strength training should be any different to males. That ladies, is a definite myth. Yes, we may not have the ability to lift as much in some cases but it does not mean the exercises we use to strengthen and build our muscles should be any different. Think lunges, squats, overhead presses, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups and many more. Men can do these and so can women. While males will quite possibly do these types of exercises to get bigger muscles, females can do them too but instead develop lean, dense, tight and toned muscles to get that look most females are looking for.

Again, those sex hormones testosterone and estrogen play a big role in how the male and female body responds to strength exercises. Yes there are women specific programs, but that is only to do with the small programing differences needed for women to get he best results more efficiently, not necessarily in the types of exercises.

It is all about the woman’s goals whilst training in the gym, doing heavy lifts may be appropriate for eth female involved and if it is the best way to achieve that goal then by all means she should lift heavy and utilise the same exercises that a man might. Its not about your sex or gender, it is about your goals.

Women have just as much of a right as men do to be in the weights rooms. Unfortunately it is common for men to dominate this area yet so many women can benefit from the effects of strength training. So, move over guys the ladies are coming through!

Myth 4: You can spot reduce fat

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately not ladies, spot reducing is impossible. Fat will deposit where it wants to deposit and all you can do is eat and exercise correctly and hope that the fat from those areas will be burnt, as fat storage around the body is genetically predisposed. Your genetics may be programed to store fat in certain areas first and thus when loosing fat, come off other areas first, say arms, then legs, them stomach, then chest and then your bottom. But everyone is different and this order of where fat is lost or gained first varies. No amount of targeted exercise will alter how your fat disappears.

What you can do to help yourself is eat well and strength train to increase muscular toning and reduce fat by recruiting lots of muscles and burning more calories.

Your diet and eating habits contribute 80 – 90% of your fat loss and thus focusing on what you are eating an when if an important factor. In combination with strength training you will see the best results.

By increasing your muscle mass you will have a leaner more toned looking physique in the particular areas you’re looking to target. With more muscle comes an increased metabolism, which will influence the burning of fat, which can aid in reducing whole body fat percentage, but not target specific areas. The best types of exercises to induce this effect are compound exercise. Compound exercises are those that utilise the whole body as they activate major muscle groups as well as the smaller stabilizing muscles.

Four common myths on strength training for women, BUSTED! Ditch the myths and follow the facts, and you should notice a difference in how your body responds. Make sure you read part two of myths of strength training for women answered to find out more on what other information you have been told that is not fact but fiction and ruining your success.

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The Benefits of Exercise for Baby Boomers, Seniors and Retirees


As we age, there are certain declines in bodily functions that occur, particularly to the female body. These changes cannot necessarily be stopped, however, we are able to prevent them from developing or occurring later rather than sooner. No, it is not through a pill or some form of medication.  It is through the power of healthful eating and regular exercise. Yes, exercise! Exercise can be just as powerful if not better than some medications in reducing or preventing the effects of certain health issues that develop as we age.

Many difficulties and chronic diseases, which develop as we age, are a result of inactivity or sedentary lifestyles. As a result your chronological age (numbered) may be 55 but your biological age (physical) may be 35 due to an active lifestyle and vice versa for a sedentary lifestyle.

Regular exercise should be an important factor in the lives of senior and retiree women over the age of 55. There a multitude of health benefits that result from participation in regular cardiovascular and strength based exercise.

Participating in physical activity has shown to help with reducing the symptoms of menopause, risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis just to name a few. We will go into more detail on these benefits in the following.


  1. Bone healthBone health is an important factor for females as they age as they are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones due to decreased bone mineral density (BMD). BMD is the density of calcium and other minerals within the bones that keep them strong. A combination of reduced exercise, physical activity, dietary calcium intake and aging impacts the development of osteoporosis.

By undertaking weight bearing exercise such as walking and stair climbing over the lifespan and into older age you can increase or maintain your BMD to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.

  1. Muscular healthMuscular health pertains to the strength and endurance of the muscles which work in accordance with your nervous system and skeletal system within your body that allow movement and stability in everyday and leisure activities.Keeping your muscles strong means you are able to functionally complete daily tasks and leisure activities due to increases stability from your muscles. You are also able to maintain or increase your metabolism with increased muscle mass and strength and thus will reduce the risk of putting on weight if you maintain your healthy eating regime as you age.
  2. Cardiovascular healthCardiovascular health pertains to the function of your heart, blood, capillaries and blood vessels – veins and arteries – which work to pump blood and thus oxygen and nutrients around the body in order to function optimally in daily tasks, physical activity and exercise. It is also responsible for removing carbon dioxide and other waste products from the body.Cardiovascular disease such as coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis and heart valve dysfunction are leading causes of death as we age. A healthy cardiovascular system can reduce the risk of cardiac disease.Increased levels of physical activity and exercise can aid in reducing the risk of developing or dying from cardiac disease. Exercise enhances the function of your cardiac muscle (heart) plus increases blood flow to your heart and other muscles throughout the body.
  3. HypertensionHypertension is excessively high blood pressure, which places undue stress on your arteries as the blood struggles to pass through. It is characterized by a resting blood pressure of Systolic blood pressure (top number) greater than 140mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of greater than 90 mm Hg, taking anti hypertensive medications or being told by your GP on more than two occasions that you have high blood pressure (BP).

Regular exercise can aid in the reduction of high blood pressure over time. In individuals with hypertension aerobic exercise can lead to reductions in resting BP by 5 to 7 mm Hg. Aerobic exercise should be emphasized on most days of the week and supplemented by moderate intensity resistance training 2 – 3 days of the week.

  1. Metabolic diseaseMetabolic disease is the combination of multiple (at least three) health issues pertaining to cardiovascular disease risk factors. These include abdominal obesity, diabetes, hypertension, being female, high cholesterol and high blood triglycerides. Together these risk factors pose a greater risk to health than they do alone.Changes in nutritional intake in combination with moderate increases in physical activity and exercise can help to combat metabolic disease. This includes at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity on most days of the week.
  2. DiabetesType 1 diabetes is a result of autoimmune destruction and type 2diabetes is a result of excess body fat.Type 2 diabetes usually develops, as we get older and is characterized by an increased level of fasting glucose due to a deficiency in insulin secretion or inability to utilise insulin. Sustained elevated glucose levels places your body at risk of disease.In those with type 2 diabetes glucose levels can be controlled through regular exercise. Regular exercise can increase glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity and thus decrease insulin requirements.

    Those at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes can also reduce their risk of developing the disease through exercise participation. It is recommended that moderate intensity exercise be completed for at least 150 – 300 minutes a week in order to aid in reducing the risk of or controlling type 2 diabetes.

  3. FallsThe risk of having a fall or multiple falls can occur, as we get older due to a natural decrease in muscle mass and strength. Decreased hip, thigh and core strength can predispose an individual to increased falls risk.

As we age it is important we partake in regular exercise that works to increase the strength of our core, hips and thighs to maintain stability during everyday activities. Having strong muscles also allows us to quickly respond to certain actions such a slips and trips, which we would usually respond to automatically.

  1. StrokeStroke can occur as a result of a blockage or hemorrhage in the brain stopping blood flow to the brain tissues and thus limiting bodily function.Eighty percent of strokes are preventable and are caused by lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet, and blood pressure. Exercise can help to prevent stroke as well as aid stroke survivors. Moderate aerobic exercise such as walking is recommended and can reduce the risk of women having a stroke by 20 percent.
  2. ArthritisOsteoarthritis is a common occurrence as we age due to degradation of the cartilage between the joints causing swelling, inflammation and pain.Exercise can reduce the symptoms of arthritis by increasing mobility and strength in and around the joints.Regular balanced exercise is important for those with arthritis and should engage in various types of exercise such as strength, aerobic and mobility training. Activities such as swimming, water aerobics, walking, strength training and tai chi are effective low impact forms of exercise.
  3. Mental HealthAnxiety and depression will impact most people at some point in their lives and as we age this becomes more apparent. Exercise can be an effective form of therapy for these mental health issues and improve your mood and mental fitness.Regular moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging can reduce tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep patterns as well as self-esteem. As little as five minutes can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

A variety of different types of exercises should be completed on a regular basis. This includes aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching. Each type of exercise has an important role in maintaining and improving optimal function of your body as you age.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise encompasses activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, stair climbing and even dancing, gardening and housework. This type of exercise works to improve the function of your cardiovascular system, which includes your heart, blood and blood vessels – arteries and veins – that together keep blood and thus oxygen pumping around your body!

Strength training

Strength training encompasses lifting free weights, machine weights or utilizing your body weight to improve your strength and posture in addition to improving bone strength and reduces the risk of injury. It is best to try target multiple muscles within the body in order to strengthen the whole body.


Stretching encompasses exercises such as yoga and Pilates, which move through the joints range of motion and work to improve range of motion (ROM) and flexibility. Completing this type of exercise helps to reduce injury and soreness.

It is important to note that these health benefits as a result of regular exercise are integral to a long and healthy lifespan. Late life exercise has been accepted to have positive benefits for strength, aerobic fitness and ROM/flexibility. The next few articles we provide you with will go into more depth on how regular exercise is essential for particular benefits for senior and retiree women over the age of 55 as they age, in order to have a full and happy life.


  1. ACSM’s Introduction to Exercise Science, Jeffery A. Potteiger, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011
  2. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription Eighth Ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010
  3. Health Promotion for Older Women: Benefits of Nutrition and Exercise Programs, Ronni Chernoff, Et Al, Vol 18, No. 1, Sept 2002