the joy of strength training

Gubernatrix

October 30th, 2008 at 1:01 am

Is it really about looks?

Catherine Imes painted kettlebells
A woman’s weights: Catherine Imes’ painted kettlebells

It struck me recently that whenever the topic of women and weights crops up, we feel the need to address the ‘fear of bulking up’ issue. The usual argument proferred in defense of weight training is that it doesn’t make you bulky or masculine; actually it can help you get leaner.

The thing is, by going down this particular route of argument it turns into a debate about what will make you look better. Very quickly, the central idea of actually getting stronger and fitter is lost by the wayside.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your looks but perhaps too much credit is given to exercise in changing appearance, when much of it is down to diet. It is more exciting to think that by going into a gym and doing something positive like lifting a weight you can make a difference to your appearance, rather than giving up your favourite treat food.

This is particularly moot for women as they don’t have the hormones to build significant muscle size. So all that work in the gym won’t really show up unless there is an eating strategy alongside it.

Bodybuilders know this but they hide the fact because they don’t want people to know their secrets. Most people on the street recognise the sort of exercises bodybuilders do in the gym, but they have no idea what their eating strategies are. The myth has to be maintained that bodybuilders get that way simply by working hard in the gym but the truth is that it has more to do with diet (well, that and those other things we won’t mention!).

In physique competitions, says an article in Male Pattern Fitness, getting on the judges’ shortlist “means three things:  diet, diet, diet.” Telling the story of new physique competitor Karen Williams, the article explains: “Starting ten weeks before the show, she went cold turkey on virtually everything except, well, cold turkey…..Williams didn’t alter her training much, however.”

Jessica BielWhat turns a fit, strong ex-sportswoman into a physique competitor is the diet regime. So it’s ironic that women are afraid of turning into bodybuilders by lifting weights, but are perfectly happy to launch into the latest fad diet with no fear!

Anyway, I digress somewhat from my original point, which is that women often are not aware of exactly what they can get out of weight training, and when told vaguely that they won’t bulk up, they’ll get slimmer (and I’ve made this argument myself several times), this doesn’t really clarify the situation.

Actually what weight training gives you is strength and confidence. Most women would be very happy to have more of these. Weight training has many benefits for women, both physical and psychological:

  • you can do something you previously thought impossible;
  • you can see the benefits of your hard work week by week;
  • you can get good at something that is traditionally the preserve of men;
  • you can expand your vision of what being a woman means;
  • you can get stronger, which is functionally useful.

All women know how great you can feel after you’ve been to the hairdressers or bought a fab new dress. You can get this feeling from weight training as well. It’s a feeling of confidence and power and willingness to take on anything.

Men might find it odd that I am putting a new haircut and a deadlift PR in the same category – but women will know what I mean.

Yes, weight training can help you to reach your aesthetic goals. But it won’t turn a stocky, pear-shaped person into Angelina Jolie or Jessica Biel. However, it might get you closer to some of the characters they play: confident, self-possessed, strong and sexy.

Read more

A weighty topic

Why do most women still avoid the free weights room?

Why women should train with weights

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  • 1

    Interesting post. I’ve changed my approach a little recently and when i talk about free weights, I tell people that they’re likely to get the body they train for. If you’re scared of looking like a bodybuilder, than don’t eat/train like one!

    Rooroo on October 30th, 2008
  • 2

    I like it! “Get the body you train for” – that is a very succint way to put it.

    gubernatrix on October 30th, 2008
  • 3

    Weight training is my favorite because it doesn’t involve cardio, which I despise, LOL. I do both, but weightlifting gives me more pleasure at the end. There is definitely a direct relationship btw. lifting more weight and feeling more empowered.

    I’d love to get the bulkier muscles, though. I’ll really have to tighten up the nutrition part, in that case.

    Joyce on October 31st, 2008
  • 4

    Beyond the frontiers of leanness-diet connection, which is right, and the strength versus bulking up issue which has been fully covered, we could add the health benefits, the glowing skin, and of course the better posture, the beutiful movements of a trained body.

    Demetre on November 2nd, 2008
  • 5

    @ Joyce: agree, lifting more weight is addictive isn’t it!

    @ Demetre: yes, posture and bearing make such a difference to the general impression someone gives. I also find that lifting weights has given me better posture sitting at my desk; with a stronger and more flexible back I find it much easier to sit up properly.

    gubernatrix on November 4th, 2008
  • 6

    I just ran into the fear of bulking up issue today, so I just had to comment. It gives me great pleasure when I explain to a woman that she won’t get bulky unless she consumes massive amounts of calories, lifts like a bodybuilder, and, ahem, supplements her efforts, and she actually believes me. It’s even better when I get them to pick up the heavier weights as we progress through the training sessions 🙂

    Jay on November 9th, 2008
  • 7

    […] I have said before that I no longer believe that the simplistic argument that weight training makes you look good is effective. I don’t want to appeal to women on the level of image, for two reasons. Firstly weight training has so many negative images associated with it that it’s difficult to overturn these with mere words. A woman called mae on a strength training message forum once wisely pointed out: “Any female who expresses concern about getting “bulky” has seen a woman she considers bulky and knows that she doesn’t want to look that way. And everyone has their own idea of what “bulky” means: while most people on this forum would disagree, there are plenty of girls who would say the Crossfit women are too bulky. In other words, women are capable of getting bulky–it just depends on how one defines “bulky”. […]

  • 8

    […] I have said before that I no longer believe that the simplistic argument that weight training makes you look good is effective. I don’t want to appeal to women on the level of image, for two reasons. Firstly weight training has so many negative images associated with it that it’s difficult to overturn these with mere words. A woman called mae on a strength training message forum once wisely pointed out: “Any female who expresses concern about getting “bulky” has seen a woman she considers bulky and knows that she doesn’t want to look that way. And everyone has their own idea of what “bulky” means: while most people on this forum would disagree, there are plenty of girls who would say the Crossfit women are too bulky. In other words, women are capable of getting bulky–it just depends on how one defines “bulky”. […]

  • 9

    […] I have said before that I no longer believe that the simplistic argument that weight training makes you look good is effective. I don’t want to appeal to women on the level of image, for two reasons. Firstly weight training has so many negative images associated with it that it’s difficult to overturn these with mere words. A woman called mae on a strength training message forum once wisely pointed out: “Any female who expresses concern about getting “bulky” has seen a woman she considers bulky and knows that she doesn’t want to look that way. And everyone has their own idea of what “bulky” means: while most people on this forum would disagree, there are plenty of girls who would say the Crossfit women are too bulky. In other words, women are capable of getting bulky–it just depends on how one defines “bulky”. […]

  • 10

    […] Is it really about looks? […]

  • 11

    […] Is it really about looks? […]

  • 12

    […] I have said before that I no longer believe that the simplistic argument that weight training makes you look good is effective. I don’t want to appeal to women on the level of image, for two reasons. Firstly weight training has so many negative images associated with it that it’s difficult to overturn these with mere words. A woman called mae on a strength training message forum once wisely pointed out: “Any female who expresses concern about getting “bulky” has seen a woman she considers bulky and knows that she doesn’t want to look that way. And everyone has their own idea of what “bulky” means: while most people on this forum would disagree, there are plenty of girls who would say the Crossfit women are too bulky. In other words, women are capable of getting bulky–it just depends on how one defines “bulky”. […]

  • 13

    […] I have said before that I no longer believe that the simplistic argument that weight training makes you look good is effective. I don’t want to appeal to women on the level of image, for two reasons. Firstly weight training has so many negative images associated with it that it’s difficult to overturn these with mere words. A woman called mae on a strength training message forum once wisely pointed out: “Any female who expresses concern about getting “bulky” has seen a woman she considers bulky and knows that she doesn’t want to look that way. And everyone has their own idea of what “bulky” means: while most people on this forum would disagree, there are plenty of girls who would say the Crossfit women are too bulky. In other words, women are capable of getting bulky–it just depends on how one defines “bulky”. […]

  • 14

    […] I have said before that I no longer believe that the simplistic argument that weight training makes you look good is effective. I don’t want to appeal to women on the level of image, for two reasons. Firstly weight training has so many negative images associated with it that it’s difficult to overturn these with mere words. A woman called mae on a strength training message forum once wisely pointed out: “Any female who expresses concern about getting “bulky” has seen a woman she considers bulky and knows that she doesn’t want to look that way. And everyone has their own idea of what “bulky” means: while most people on this forum would disagree, there are plenty of girls who would say the Crossfit women are too bulky. In other words, women are capable of getting bulky–it just depends on how one defines “bulky”. […]

  • 15

    No, I don’t know what you mean? Those are stereotypes… I’ve never been to the hairdresser (too expensive, at least in my country; plus it seems like a bore and more annoying than cutting your own hair unless you really fear to hurt yourself with scissors/clippers or to do it badly/mess it up, seems like a chore except you pay for it which makes it even worse than a chore), but buying a dress is just that: buying a dress even if it looks good. That’s no more satisfying than buying anything else, and surely not as satisfying as weight-lifting.

    Mary on April 11th, 2015
  • 16

    Damn I commented on a years-old post again! Sorry this happens.

    Mary on April 11th, 2015

 

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