It’s 2021, and you would have thought that by now weight-lifting women would be widely accepted. Expect, that’s not the case. Women have always been told that men are the ‘strong’ ones, and women are left stereotyped as the fragile and delicate sex – even though biologically, men, on average, are physically stronger, it’s important to remember women are strong too. Because of these stereotypical gender tropes, women who lift are ridiculed or dismissed and many women don’t consider weight-lifting at all because of this. I’m here to tell you that we do exist and it IS a viable option.
There are many misconceptions about strength training for women. Fortunately, there are more and more women who now are overcoming these misconceptions and participating in this activity, which is incredibly beneficial. There are several reasons for these misconceptions; women are less likely to be represented in exercise research, women are less likely to participate in physical activity – for which there is a myriad of reasons – and there are still (but decreasing) societal biases against women lifting heavy things.
There are SO many benefits to strength training. Lifting weights is beneficial for pretty much anyone, women included. Lifting weights can help build strength, protect against disease risk, improve self-esteem and self-efficacy, provide a social experience and make you feel so empowered.
So, is there any difference in strength training for women compared to men?
- It has been shown that men may start with more muscles than women due to a better mass to strength ratio.
- Men have a tendency for a leaner body mass compared to women as men have greater testosterone levels and women have a greater tendency and capacity to store fat.
- Women can gain strength faster than men. This is particularly prominent when you start lifting for the first time.
- Women can gain upper body strength at a faster rate than men.
In fact, on average, women’s strength increased by about 27% faster in women than men. But long-term muscle growth and strength gain have been proven to be about similar.
Lifting weights has innumerable benefits, why should women miss out? Strength training is linked with a healthier body and mind. With regular resistance exercise, there is a decreased risk of osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, type2 diabetes and the list goes on. Women deserve to reap the benefits of this kind of movement, in a gym or from home.
Lifting weights makes you physically strong but mentally strong too: it can lead to increased confidence, positivity, and decreased anxiety.
There is no reason why women cannot lift and lift heavy. However, it is important to remember that although similar strength training adaptations can occur, women are NOT just smaller versions of men. Women have hormonal fluctuations throughout the month that can impact their mood, energy, recovery, and strength abilities so strength programming should and can be adapted to suit this. The basics of this include allowing for extra recovery time in the luteal phase and increased training intensity in the follicular phase.
Cosette is a Women’s Specialist Personal trainer, fitness instructor and final year dietitian. You can find her on Instagram at @cosettejacksontraining to find out more.