Hi I’m AJ! I’ve been an exercise enthusiast since I was a freshman in high school training to make the varsity fastpitch softball team. Over the last 14 years, my purpose for working out has changed tremendously, but it has always remained a staple in my life. It is also the backbone of my confidence. Like most teenagers who fumble through their way into adulthood, I found exercise as a way to build myself both physically and mentally. I’ve since found personal training and fell in love with being able to help people positively change their lives. My passion within fitness is the ability to connect the gap between women and strength, and to squash the stigma that women should be skinny and weak beings. I believe empowering women to be strong and confident individuals will positively impact the rest of our society. You can find more about me over on my blog, Breaking Barriers Health!
Time and time again, as a personal trainer I’ve battled overcoming the resistance to.. well resistance training! So, I want to vet the big questions I hear regarding lifting weights and then break them down into 5 facts and myths about weightlifting and whether or not YOU really need it in your exercise routine.
- If I lift heavy weights, I will bulk up and look masculine. MYTH
This is by far the biggest concern I’ve heard surrounding lifting weights. Both men and women fearing they will turn into Mr. or Mrs. Olympia the minute they touch the iron. I’ve even had a few people explain they’ve experienced the “bulk” before and are afraid it will happen again. The issue is we are accusing the wrong suspect. Adding unwanted bulk to your frame is not an exercise problem, it is a diet problem. Exercise, more specifically lifting weights, is a catabolic activity. This means it breaks down tissue in the body. What you eat after you exercise will decide how your body changes shape. If you eat at a calorie deficit, your body will not have the sufficient building blocks to put muscle on your frame despite your weight lifting program. On the flip side, if you consistently eat an excess amount of calories, your body will store that energy as fat on the body. This is more often than not, where people think they are “bulking up”. Be conscious of what you eat while you lift weights, and I guarantee you will be happy with the results.
- Men and women should not follow the same weight lifting program. MYTH
This myth gets my blood boiling. I see far too many personal trainers out there that train men
and women differently despite having the same goal. The only difference between men and women regarding strength training and the effects on the body is the amount of free testosterone our bodies. Men have a much higher level meaning they will put on muscle much quicker. That’s it. So ladies, don’t be afraid to lift with your men, or at least follow the same program if you enjoy it!
- Lifting weights trumps cardio for losing body fat. FACT
This is where is gets a bit dicey. The statement should really read: Only lifting weights trumps only doing cardio for long term fat loss (when done properly). The truth of the matter is that you should actually incorporate both aspects into your exercise routine. The reason I wanted to throw this fact in there is because too many people jump on the treadmill for hours looking to lose weight and find themselves never changing. There are a lot of physiological factors in play but let’s talk about why lifting weights is a better way to spend your time. When you add muscle to your body by lifting weights, you’re actually increasing your body’s resting metabolic rate. Meaning, you’ve increased the amount of energy, or calories, that your body needs to function at REST. When you exercise, the caloric need is also greater because you will have more muscle to feed to work. Bottom line, more muscle equals more calories burned during the day.
- Women should lift higher repetitions so they can tone their muscles. MYTH
If #2 makes my blood boil, this one makes my eye twitch. Let’s address the word tone for a second. Tone is not an aesthetic characteristic of a muscle but rather an action. Muscle tone is actually referring to the amount of tension in a muscle while it’s in a resting state. It has nothing to do with how muscles look on the body. So what does society think “toned” means? Typically, it would be defined as someone who has low body fat and muscles that define the curves of the body. Wait a minute. So do you have to build muscle to get toned? Yes! “Toning” is really just building muscle and losing body fat. So come on ladies, let’s ditch the improperly used term “toned” and just call it building muscle. As far as how many repetitions you should be lifting, it depends on your goals! If you’re looking to build power and strength, keep your reps to 6 and under. If you’re looking to build muscle, about 6-15 reps will do just fine. Finally, if you’re looking to increase your muscle endurance, you’re looking at 15+ reps.
- Lifting weights has many health benefits. FACT
This should be obvious, but it’s not. I think I’ve made it clear that lifting weights will help you build muscle and lose body fat, but what other benefits are there? Lifting weights tremendously increases bone density which declines quickly with poor diet and/or age. Lifting weights also improves the body’s insulin sensitivity and the effectiveness of other hormones in the body. Psychologically, lifting weights is a huge reliever of stress and anxiety, making it most effective before, during, or after a hectic work day. Lifting weights improves confidence and self-esteem, positively affecting practically every other area of life. Finally, lifting weights teaches the mind that patience, hard work, and consistency bring positive results.Needless to say, lifting weights is a necessary part of your exercise routine and should be added in for just about any goal. If you’re new to the weight room, I would highly recommend hiring a personal training to teach you proper form and mechanics first. Just like you probably wouldn’t attempt to fix your car brakes without the help of a mechanic (assuming you’ve never done it before). The personal trainer is like the mechanic of your body. If you want to look and feel a certain way, they are going to teach you the most efficient and safe way to achieve that goal.
If you’re interested in lifting weights but still find yourself a little unsure or intimidated, check out my blog post, “Ladies, Take Back the Weight Room” !