Posted by Pam!
DALLAS — You’ve probably heard it before — if women lift heavy weights, they’ll end up more Arnold Schwarzenegger than Michelle Obama.
Personal trainers and many lean, fit women are debunking that myth, demonstrating how it’s impossible to get overly bulky without the assistance of steroids. And they say a weightlifting program is beneficial for women of all ages and all fitness levels.
Yet many women still get the wrong ideas about weightlifting from fitness magazines, says Katie Brumley, fitness coordinator at Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center.
“A lot of the fitness magazines show women lifting 3-pound or 5-pound dumbbells,” Brumley says. “If you want to improve body composition and gain muscle, you have to make sure you are working in the appropriate repetition ranges and using appropriately heavy weight in order to elicit that kind of a response from your body.
“The so-called toning these magazines advocate is not going to give you what most women are looking for.”
If you’re thinking of adding weights to your workout, here’s how to avoid the traps.
Start with a trainer: Brumley says a good personal trainer will take you through different protocols for strength, muscle growth, muscle endurance or power. Your goals determine the weight, reps and sets you would do. Dr. Riva Rahl, medical director of the Cooper Wellness Program at Cooper Aerobics Center, recommends getting a trainer for at least a few sessions to learn some of the basic exercises and how proper form looks and feels and to develop an idea of the amount of weight you should be lifting.
Choose the right equipment: Trainer Kim Williams tells her clients who are trying to gain strength that they need to decrease repetitions and lift heavier weight. “If you come in here and lift 10-pound dumbbells every day, you’re not stressing your body and, if your body never has to stress itself, it will never build itself back up stronger,” she says.
Change weight depending on the exercise: “The mistake I’ve seen women make is they grab those tiny dumbbells and do every exercise with that weight,” Brumley says. “You’re not going to see any real changes doing that.” One exercise Williams uses with clients is the farmer’s walk, in which you carry weights in each hand and walk a prescribed distance, such as 10 yards down and back.
Create a home routine: For women who work out at home or who can’t find time to make it to the gym, it’s still important not to rely on one weight for every exercise. Purchasing different weights for lower body and upper body can get expensive. Brumley says bands of varying resistance are a sensible option, as well as TRX suspension equipment, which helps you do bodyweight exercises with a set of straps that anchor to a door. Williams says women who don’t have a gym membership or a personal trainer could weigh down buckets to do a farmer’s walk and do bodyweight exercises, such as rows, tricep dips and pushups. For pullups, try using the monkey bars at a playground.
Know how many repetitions to do: Brumley recommends working in the eight- to 12-repetition range for three to four sets to increase lean muscle tissue. She says that if the weight you’re using is heavy enough, you shouldn’t feel as if you can do five more reps — you should feel as if doing one more would be a challenge.
But take it easy: Rahl says some women starting a program make the mistake of beginning too quickly without having proper form, putting themselves at risk of injury. She also says women tend to think they need to do a lot more than they do. She says anyone can benefit from the levels recommended in the government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: eight to 10 muscle-strengthening activities and doing even just one set of eight to 12 repetitions, twice a week.
Integrate weights into the workout: Williams and Brumley stress the importance of a weightlifting workout, rather than using it as an add-on to a cardio workout. “I think that women focus too much on cardio,” Brumley says. “They’ll get on the elliptical for an hour, then do a couple sets of bicep curls. I think that’s a really big mistake. I think women don’t understand how resistance training can improve the way that your body looks.”