Women and Weight Lifting


Dr. BledsoeAuthor: S. Bledsoe, M.D.

In the health and fitness industry, there are few areas that contain more misinformation that the topic of women and weight lifting.  I hear this all the time from my female patients, “I don’t want to get big and bulky.”  I have a news flash for you…you won’t!

I want to thank my friends at Whole9 for calling my attention to the above video that simply perpetuates the insanity associated with women and weight lifting.  At one point in the video, this “celebrity trainer” (whatever that is) says this, “No women should lift more than 3 pounds.”  That ruined the whole piece for me and damaged the credibility of this trainer in my opinion.  There were other things that raised my blood pressure, but let’s focus on this BIG one.

Ladies, how often do you have to lift more than 3 pounds?  The answer is probably hourly, if not constantly.  At the Sam’s Wholesale, you have to lift heavy, awkward boxes filed with jars of peanut butter.  At home, you put heavy toys on the top shelf of the closet.  You drag the vacuum cleaner up the stairs.  Even Ms. Paltrow in the video says that she has to carry around her 30 pound child.  Just the effort of standing up from a chair or performing a push-up requires more than 3 pounds of exertion.

The point of your exercise regiment is improve your health, decrease your chances for injury, and prepare you to meet life’s physical challenges.  Looking better in that dress is a fringe benefit.   If you have never trained your muscles to lift more than 3 pounds, what will happen when you need to move that 40 pound bag of dog food from the grocery cart to the trunk of your car?  You will either be unsuccessful or risk injuring yourself because your muscles have never learned to lift heavy objects.

Bria-deadlifting1

So not only will life often demand that you lift more than 3 pounds, but research also directly contradicts this assertion.  I know of no scientific data that would back up the idea of women never lifting more than three pounds.  I do know of a lot of data that reveals the importance of women and weight lifting.  Here are a few reasons why you ladies should lift weights and lift heavy weights at that.

Weight lifting burns body fat efficiently.  A 2002 study from the University of Alabama documented a significant decrease in both intra-abdominal fat and subcutaneous fat in women who underwent a 25-week resistance training program.  In fact, the results for the women were even better than the men in the study.  This suggests that women may have more to gain than men by lifting weights.

Weight lifting helps prevent osteoporosis.  A study out of Tucson, Arizona revealed a significant regional increase in bone mineral density in premenopausal women who were participating in resistance training.  This study would argue that resistance training may have a protective effect against osteoporosis.

Weight lifting builds useful strength.  The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a manuscript in 2011 that revealed significant increases in strength in women who participated in a 12-week resistance training program.  These women saw their strength increase by almost 40% over the training regiment which was more than the men in the study.  Again, perhaps women have more to gain than men from weight training.

Weight lifting is fun.  Alright, I don’t have any scientific research that confirms the “fun-ness”  of weight lifting.  I will tell you that, because weight lifting is very objective (i.e. you added 10 pounds to your deadlift compared to last month) goal-oriented people tend to really enjoy their efforts.  If you can join a community of other females that enjoy weight lifting, such as can be found in my home gym Alexandria Crossfit, your enjoyment will be even greater.

In the field of fitness and nutrition, there can be conflicting answers to the same question with “experts” all claiming they know the truth.  This is certainly true when it comes to women and weight lifting.  Ladies, based on current scientific research, I have three bits of advice for you when it comes to weight training.  Do it…often…and heavy.

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