I am going to explain  why weight training is a must for women looking to shape up and burn fat. In this article we are going to banish three commonly held myths.

Myth 1: Strength training makes muscles short and bulky

Women may believe in the above myth and perhaps do yoga instead of weight training as they think that this method alone will contribute to long slender muscles.

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I’ve heard this so many times if I had a pound for each occasion I’d be a rich man indeed. I had a huge argument with an ex-girlfriend about this very subject…

Needless to say I stuck to my guns and am now single! It always amazes me how common this misconception is. Muscles are the shape they are because of where they are attached to your skeleton.

These attachment sites are referred to as origins and insertions. A muscle is attached to the skeleton by tendons. The point at which the tendon meets the skeleton dictates if a muscle will appear long or short. These attachment sites will not move regardless of whether you engage in vigorous weight training or endless yoga and stretching. It’s just genetics, pure and simple.

Some people are blessed with long muscle and short tendons, giving an appearance of long, flowing muscles, whilst other people have shorter muscle and longer tendons giving the appearance of short ‘bunchy’ muscles.

There are no special exercises that will magically change the length of a muscle. Don’t waste precious time doing weird and wonderful movements alleged to lengthen your muscles.

We can make our muscles bigger, firmer and improve their condition, but their length is predetermined – if you don’t like the length of your muscles, blame your folks, not your weight training routine!

Flexibility is a completely different matter of course and stretching, whilst having little impact of how a muscle looks will effect how well it functions so do stretch for muscle health.

Myth 2: Weight training just takes too long and I just don’t have time!

The power of weights2

When I hear this one, it’s safe to make the assumption that this woman has trained with a man who fancies himself as a bit of a bodybuilder and has been exposed to the multi-day split systems of training.

With the split training system, different muscles are trained on different days e.g. Monday is legs, Tuesday is chest, Wednesday is back, Thursday is shoulders and Friday is arms (ready for a weekend out in town wearing a t-shirt two sizes too small!).

This type of training is fine for bodybuilders but for the majority of exercisers it requires way too much time in the gym. The average exerciser should seldom adopt a split training programme and instead stick to whole body weight training sessions where the body is exercised as a single synergistic unit.

Whole body training is time efficient, easy to plan and requires only 2-3 hours of gym time a week, leaving lots of time to do other things.

By using exercises which are deemed to be ‘compound’ i.e. there is movement at more than one joint, we can work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

By way of an example, to work the lower body effectively using isolation exercises (an exercise where movement is limited to one joint only) you would have to perform 6 exercises… leg extensions, leg curls, hip extensions, hip adductions, hip abductions and calf raises. Or we could just do squats.

Weight training really can be that simple and straight-forward. It is possible to train the entire body using just 6 exercises and still have time to perform some cardio or core work and be finished in an hour or less.

Organise the 6 exercises into a circuit and you have an amazingly effective fat burning/cardio workout in the time it takes the average male trainer to do his ‘guns’ workout! So women, leave those split routines to the bodybuilders.

Smart women do whole body workouts.

Myth 3: I can’t strength train because I have back/knees/shoulder pain

Which came first – the chicken or the egg? It’s the same for this myth. Is your back/knee/shoulder pain a consequence of not weight training?

Once a doctor has given the all clear and confirmed that any pain is not due to musculoskeletal or neurological injury, it’s not uncommon to find that after a few weeks of corrective weight training chronic aches and pains start to disappear.

The body is an amazing machine – far more complex than any automobile. To run at optimum efficiency, it needs to have all its parts working in balance.

By balance, I mean our muscles (which are generally arranged in opposing pairs on either side of a skeletal joint) need to be equally toned. If muscles on one side of a joint are stronger than those found on the opposite side, a dysfunctional joint will develop and pain may well be the result.

Many of our day-to-day tasks are uni-directional requiring the use of muscles on one side of a joint only. This means that within a pair, one muscle maybe stronger than the muscle that opposes it. With prescribed weight training exercises, we can rebalance the muscles on either side of a joint and return that joint to full function.

Strengthening the lower back can cure lower back pain, strengthening the muscles of the thigh (the quadriceps and hamstrings) can prevent knee pain, strengthening the muscles of the upper back can improve posture and prevent neck pain. Some time ago, I had an email personal training client.

The deal was I would write a programme and the client would take it to her local gym and the resident instructor would then teach her the exercises.

This client was suffering from some lower back pain which had been attributed to muscle weakness so we agreed that she needed to improve the strength of her back and I prescribed dead-lifts.

The instructor, on hearing about the client’s bad back removed the dead-lifts from her programme and replaced this great exercise with the leg curl machine.

Needless to say, when I heard about this I was aggrieved!

What the instructor failed to realise was the client had three growing children who regularly needed to be picked up and carried and she needed to prepare her back for the rigours of this frequent occurrence and the fact the kids were getting heavier all the time! She needed to dead lift!

Weak muscles shouldn’t be favoured or ignored but challenged so that they cease to be weak.

I’m sure many more myths are still yet to be busted so if you know of any others please feel free to drop me a line so I can expose them to the world!

I’m sure you can now see, weight training is an essential form of exercise suitable for almost everyone – young and old, male and female.

The huge benefits that can be gained from lifting weights (improved strength, bone density, muscle tone, joint stability, posture, fitness and so on) far outweigh any perceived risks so I strongly urge you to take up weight training and reap the benefits.

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