When many of us think of heavy weight lifting, we probably conjure up images of huge men lifting incredible weights, screaming and high-fiving as they go. It’s totally normally to be afraid of this. Who wouldn’t? But this image is nothing more than a stereotype associated with weightlifting that needs to be debunked.
Instead, lifting heavy weights should be seen as a challenging and rewarding exercise that can help you achieve a high level of physical fitness. For this reason, thinking of heavy lifting as scary should be added to the list of misconceptions about women and weightlifting.
Before you start any lifting program, it might be a good idea to check with a doctor or trainer just to make sure everything is in order. After that, go ahead and give it a shot. As you’ll see, there is no reason to be afraid.
An Illogical Fear
Some of the biggest fears regarding women and heavy lifting deal with the idea of “bulking up.” Many women don’t want to have big muscles because they think they aren’t attractive on women. Well, first of all, don’t ever shy away from something because of what others might think. Second, bulking up doesn’t happen “by accident.” When you see men or women with huge muscles, know this is the result of years of work, a stringent diet and close monitoring of hormones and proteins. So, if you’re afraid of “getting too big,” remember this won’t happen unless you want it to.
If you don’t want to get big, simply alter your workout routine to focus on tone. This might involve lifting lighter but with more reps, or it might mean doing some different exercises to target certain muscle groups. No matter what you do, remember you control the results you get, so determine what you want, work towards it, and don’t be afraid of any unintended consequences.
Another source of the fear some women have for lifting heavy comes from the idea that women are biologically/genetically unfit for heavy lifting. This is simply false. While men do have more testosterone and a different body build that allows them to grow more muscle, there is no reason women can’t lift. What’s more, study after study has shown no discernible link between heavy lifting and some of the more delicate aspects of female anatomy.
The evidence against the fear some women have of weight lifting is too convincing. This is very much a fear that comes from a misunderstanding of the differences between men and women and some societal stereotypes that could do with some breaking.
Heavy is Relative
Another reason women might be afraid to lift heavy is that we are unsure what is meant by heavy. If we are talking about benching 250 lbs or squatting 1,000, then yes, we should be afraid, as only people who have trained for years can do this.
Instead, we should think of heavy as a fluid concept. It all depends on your experience, body type, tolerance, form, etc. Knowing this should help you approach heavy lifting with a different mindset. You don’t need to work out with what is considered heavy for others, but rather what is heavy for you.
There are plenty of ways to determine how much weight you should lift, but one of the most effective is simple trial and error. Start out with something really light and slowly add weight. You want to be able to do three sets of around eight reps each. If you can’t make it to eight, you’re using too much weight, and if you can easily do 15, you aren’t using enough. It’s that simple, and if you do it this way, there is no need to worry about hurting yourself from too much weight. This approach allows you to control the process so that you can build strength and confidence and shed away your fears.
You’re Not Alone!
We all know the phrase “safety in numbers.” Well, in a strange way, it can also apply to women and weightlifting. Maybe some of the fear women have of weightlifting comes from the thought that they will have to figure everything out on their own, or that they won’t have help from others when they need it. This simply isn’t the case.
There are plenty of people, men and women, beginners and experts, who are unsure about how to proceed with their weightlifting careers. Connect with these people by talking at the gym, joining groups on social media or attending training sessions. This allows you to ask questions, get advice and learn from others’ mistakes. When you’re at the gym, it is totally normal practice to ask someone to spot you or to watch your form. Take advantage of these people to learn more about lifting and you’ll find yourself becoming more and more comfortable doing it.
There are also lots of resources available, such as apps for your smartphone, that allow you to learn about workouts, plan routines and track progress. These tools are great because they break down your routine into clear parts, allowing you to approach weight lifting with a plan.
Since we know preparation produces results, you’ll watch your fears disappear and get replaced with a thirst and enthusiasm for your new hobby. For these apps to work well, though, they require you to enter some personal information. For this reason, it is a good idea to run your activity through a secure network. This way, if you’re using public WiFi at the gym, you won’t have to worry about anyone getting hold of this important data.
Hopefully, you’ve now realized that you shouldn’t be afraid of weightlifting as a woman. There’s no science to back it up and a lot of the fear just comes from misconceptions or misunderstandings about lifting heavy. If you prepare properly, inform yourself and are open to change, you’ll soon find lifting heavy isn’t that scary at all. And since the best way to overcome a fear is to meet it straight on, it’s time to get to the gym!
Do you have any fears about lifting? What are they and where do they come from? How did you get over them? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Caroline is a health and fitness writer for a variety of different blogs and is active on Twitter at @eHealthInform. She was an athlete growing up and always wanted to lift to be able to get better, but she was afraid she couldn’t. After getting over that fear, she has been able to enjoy the benefits of a regimented lifting routine and she frequently writes to try and encourage other women to take up the practice.