Fitness Myths For Women: Strength Training and Psychosocial Stresses
Gym myths have been around fitness circuits for so long they have become accepted as the truth. These myths have obscured maximized fitness potential for many female fitness enthusiasts. Ladies, I understand your concerns and why you approach strength and resistance training with caution.
Resistance and strength training will not cause your biceps, forearms, and quads to rip through your shirts and pants. A sad irony is that many women feel they will become too muscular simply by being in the same proximity with a bench press and a set of dumbbells. Ladies, it's hard enough for most men to build muscle. Ask any man in the weight room that is not using steroids or supplements.
For example, take a man and woman that have similar training methods, they both have the ability to attain muscle strength and mass. However ladies, because of your Endocrine System you do not have the capability to increase muscle size the same way men do. (Testosterone is not exclusive to men. Keep in mind, genetics is the key factor in some females producing more testosterone than other women, allowing them to be naturally bulkier.)
Ladies, if you think your favorite celebrities slim silhouette and svelte bods come from eating right and exercising in their lavish homes, think again... Many of them go through extremely unhealthy lengths to stay pin thin.
Are you being conditioned or persuaded by trends and "FADS?" Celebrity fitness sells!!! Think about it, over half of fitness product ads (on any media outlet) feature a celebrity status icon in one way or another. There are a lot of social illusions and pressures to be tiny, skinny, and small. Don't get it twisted, just because your are small and tiny "ICONS" doesn't mean that you are healthy. Sadly we live in a culture in which people and social icons are cutting their faces, adding implants, and undergoing secretive tucks and suctions all over their bodies to look prettier, healthier, and more toned. Now that's unhealthy!!!
Many social stresses and stimulants come from television, movies, and fashion magazines, which try to paint a perfect image of what should or shouldn't be less than a desirable physique or look. These images are then purveyed by stressful fitness "FADS" and trends that are unrealistic and incompatible with natural exercises and fitness. Are you comfortable in your skin?
STAYING IN CONTROL
Bottom line ladies, you can engage in strength training without ending up looking "swollen" like Mike Tyson or Hercules. If your goal is to incinerate fat and sculpt a more defined physique, you definitely want to add some type of consistent strength training or resistance training into your regimen at least two to three times a week.
Lifting weights is the icing on the cake... Ellipticals allow you to burn calories during your run. Lifting weights and resistance training increase muscle mass (not bulkiness) and amp up your metabolism, transforming your body into a fat and calorie burning machine hours after you've concluded your workout. Why not add a little cardio and resistance training?
"Accept NO ONE'S definition of your life; define yourself." - Harvey Fierstein
Ladies, here are a couple of weight resistance exercises to keep a toned, feminine, firm physique while limiting increase in size. With these, keep in mind you want the muscle to have a strong contraction. Oh yeah, keep it varied with new challenges. Let's hit it...
*Basic Squats (Straight Bar) - "Critique form (technique) until each rep is comfortable to your range of motion (ROM)"
- With weight resting on your back, place feet shoulder width apart.
- The abdominals, torso, and back muscles should be engaged (tight).
- Descend into the squat position until your upper quad is parallel to the floor.
- When ascending, once you are back at the top of your lift squeeze the glutes to keep your lower back safe.
- Rinse and repeat.
*Bench Press (cable machine or free weight) - Keep in mind, always bench press with a spotter - don't want to get stuck midway through reps...
- Grip the bar tight. The tighter your grip the more control you have. Your grip should be slightly outside shoulder width. Too wide or too short will reduce optimal optimal potential and benefit of lift. Use a wide foot stance to increase stability. Tighten the back bringing shoulder blades together.
- Pull the bar off the rack. Keep the bar above your elbows at all times. Chest up, do not allow the chest to go flat. Arms are full extended with the weight directly over the chest (sternum). Lower the weight at a controlled speed and smooth motion in a straight line. Allow the bar to barely touch the chest.
- Press the bar back up in a straight line.
- Rinse and repeat.
*Lat Pulldown (Overhand or Reverse Grip) - In my opinion a beautiful lift chiseling the back, or Latissimus Dorsi. Here we go...
- Adjust thigh pads on the machine to secure your knee position. Make sure your feet are flat on the ground and your knees are properly angled. Establish a comfortable grip palms down, then sit with the body in an upright position, slightly leaning back from the hips. You should now feel the lats being recruited (engaging).
- Squeeze shoulder blades together pull the bar down, try not to pull the weight with your biceps as much as possible.
- Slowly release the bar back to the starting position by extending or straightening your arms.
- You're done, rinse and repeat
*Deadlift- another beautiful lift, for women working the hamstring and glutes.
- Stand behind the bar, so that it is over the balls of your feet. Feet should be shoulder width apart. Alternate hand grip (one overhand, one overhand).
- Squat and grab the bar, hands are slightly outside shoulder width.
- Upper thigh should be parallel to the ground, back tight, chest up, and arms straight.
- Lift the bar using the legs, keep the bar close to the body, keep a soft bend at the knees ( do not lock your knees).
- While standing upright complete the lift by shrugging your shoulders.
- With controlled technique and the bar close to your body, lower the weight to the ground.
- Rinse and repeat.