The Stigma Surrounding Women WeightLifting

“I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles.” – Audrey Hepburn

Hello again! If you were here for last week's blog, I talked about me falling in love with lifting. It wasn't always the case. Over six months ago, when I started training with Rex at Legion Sports, the first thing I told him was that I absolutely did not want to lift weights because I didn’t want to get big and bulky. I was already overweight; why would I want to get any bigger? I’ve seen guys that lift heavy weights on TV, and they are absolutely enormous! I don’t ever want to look like that. Believe me when I tell you this dude laughed at me like I had 3 heads. I didn’t know that I was believing something super crazy for so long and because of that, I failed to see the benefits behind weight training.

The Myth

I recently had the opportunity to gather a handful of some pretty bad-ass females, who have chosen weightlifting, and fitness to be a large part of their life. They all come from different backgrounds, but when I asked them what they believe to be the biggest misconception surrounding women weightlifting, it was super cool that they (not surprisingly) gave me relatively the same answer, which proves my point. Here is some of what they had to say on the topic:

“One misconception I personally ear often is that many people think that women will become masculine, and bulky if they lift weights. I’ve been lifting for about 6 years consistently, fairly heavy, and still do not feel masculine or too bulky. It is frustrating because this faulty way of thinking often results in women avoiding weightlifting all together.” – Kirsten

“I think the main one that everyone thinks about is the idea that if you lift heavy weights then you’ll automatically get bulky. Women get bulky when weightlifting for two reasons. 1) they start weightlifting and forget that nutrition plays a key role in weight loss or weight gain. 2) They purposefully gain weight/get bulky to build mass and lean out later on or to fill a weight class for certain sports like powerlifting.” – Theresa

“Automatically we’re portrayed as manly looking and big, which is not the case 90% of the time. We can be viewed as intimidating. I’ve gotten that so many times off of the way I train. Most women are afraid to lift heavy because they think it will make them look manly. If anything, it makes us look more shapely and womanly.” – Kae

“I work in the fitness industry and as you can see I live this lifestyle. I’m here to say that you will NOT become bulky, or my other favorite, look like a man from lifting. Those women you see with those gorgeous curves? Those (well most) have been built from lifting. Clean eating and lifting.” – Amanda

“That lifting weights will cause me to look bulky/manly. To be honest, I feel that’s mainly the reason why I dismissed strength training years ago. Back then, my training regime focused more on running long distance. Understand it’s genetically impossible to look super bulky or manly unless that’s your fitness goal. My fitness journey changed from bodybuilding to powerlifting and both have given me two different incredible physiques. Both I’m proud of. So ladies, don’t be scared to lift heavy.” – Upuia

The Truth

BEING STRONGER DOESN’T EQUAL BIGGER!! One of the main reasons I love to lift is because the feeling of being strong is so satisfying. Scientifically and biologically, we as women, create VERY little testosterone.  This actually helps us in the preventing of bulking and getting larger while lifting. Lifting weights and strength training aids us in the toning of our muscles.

“She was powerful not because she wasn’t scared but because she went on so strongly, despite the fear.” – Atticus

About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, a disease that runs in my family, and that I have a pretty good chance of ending up with. Of those 10 million, about 80% are women. Weightlifting can also increase bone density and prevent muscle loss in postmenopausal women.  It increases spinal bone density and when a woman combines weightlifting with increased calcium intake, defending or even coping with osteoporosis can become a great deal easier. On another note, weightlifting can aid a lot in the prevention of injury. When your body builds muscle, it also strengthens your joints and protects them from injury. It also does wonders to increase your balance and coordination.

Once a woman reaches and goes beyond the age of 30, we tend to start losing muscle mass. This, unfortunately can be a huge cause in the unwanted and dreaded lose skin. Taking the proper precautions and making the adjustments in your workout routine can help prevent this. A study that was reported in Science Daily stated that muscle loss was greater in people who only did cardio. Many people believe that you can only lose weight by doing lots of cardio. In fact, strength training will produce a more efficient form of weight loss than a cardio workout. It also helps us raise metabolism, which in turn is a huge help in weight loss. Each muscle gained, will help you burn 30-50 more calories a day!

Weightlifting is also a full-body workout. Pushing, pulling, jumping and squatting are the four main movements we look to better ourselves at by working out. Weightlifting and strength training specifically target these areas in ways other exercises don’t. That’s why so many different athletes add strength training into their normal fitness regimes. Doing compound movements, cause a lot of different muscles to all work at the same time and together, causing more calories to be burned as a result.

Healthy Body AND Mind

Not only are there many physical health benefits to weightlifting, it’s been known to have a huge impact on mental and emotional health in women. I know for me, a lot of my anxiety, and self-loathing attitude came from not being happy with what I saw in the mirror. Weight training has been proven to give you drastic and measurable results, thus improving your body image and giving you that sense of accomplishment.

“Doubt is a killer. You just have to know who you are and what you stand for.” – Jennifer Lopez

You should also notice a difference in your energy levels. Weight and strength training will wake up your muscles and help them work together to utilize your food intake in the best way possible. Rex at Legion Sports has told me repeatedly, you’re eating to refuel your body. And now I understand exactly what he means. Weight training also is a good stress reliever. A lot of the reason behind this is because so much focus is required to prevent injury. Just think about it, when you focus on your form, you’re not thinking about work, or home. This will in turn lower your anxiety, help with depression and have an overall stress-relieving effect.

Women Weightlifting in The Olympics

If these 5 women I’ve enlisted to help change the thoughts surrounding the stigma of women weightlifting wasn’t enough, one of the strongest PEOPLE on the planet, not just for a woman, is Morghan King, national champion weightlifter. King is about 5 feet tall and all of 115 pounds and one of the most successful Olympic weightlifters. Had the Olympics not been postponed this summer, she would have been a front-runner.

Women in weightlifting as a competitive sport is relatively new. Men have been competing in the sport since the first World Championship was held in 1891. The first World Championship for women was held in 1987. In 1997, the “lady bar” was introduced into competition. It was designed to better suit smaller hands, and weighs five kilos less.

With the rise of competitive women weightlifting, scientists are intrigued. Why are so many smaller humans gravitating and dominating the sport? One thing that was found in research is that many of these women weightlifters are operating on mostly fast-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch generates bursts of movement. For the longest time, many have assumed that women possess more slow-twitch muscle fibers, geared towards endurance sports, like long-distance running. The lower levels of testosterone (about 10% that of a man’s level) in a woman’s body might be affecting our ability to train harder, and recover faster. Piggy backing off of that, our levels of estrogen could be the reason we are able to recover so quickly and easily.

Meet These Badass Ladies!

“And one day she discovered that she was fierce and strong, and full of fire and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.” – Mark Anthony

Now that we’ve had the chance to hopefully change your mind on the topic of women weightlifting, allow me to introduce you to the 5 BEAUTIFUL, STRONG, BADASS women that helped you see the light! They also wanted to share a tip with you, if you are looking to add strength training and weightlifting to your regime.

"Find a reason to start without your only reason being to look good, whether it has to do with improving your mental health or getting stronger. Find the ultimate reason. When I started my fitness journey, I never felt satisfied, because I was working towards my ideal 'dream body.' This led to years of issues with my body image and eating disorders. I never felt like where I was in my fitness journey was enough, until I found the sport of powerlifting. It wasn't until my goal of wanting to look good to wanting to be as strong as possible changed the way I thought about myself. I now have a purpose when lifting that doesn't effect my mental health and I treat and nourish my body with respect." -- Theresa


"Figure out why you want to get into weightlifting. What's the reason, and if it's not solely for you, then why are you doing it?" -- Kae


"Do your research. Hire a trainer/coach. YouTube (which everyone suggests) is great for those who have already been lifting and understand proper form. If you're just starting, social media sites like YouTube will not be something you want to heavily rely on. A trainer or coach will be your guide, your accountability. YOUR FRIEND, because we all need one of those. This journey is NOT easy. BUT it is worth it. Health waits for no one." -- Amanda


"Understand that we all start from somewhere. Powerlifting is a very competitive sport, and the biggest mistake you can do as a new lifter is comparing yourself to the seasoned lifters. We are all built differently, therefore some progress faster than others. Be patient and focus on your own journey. At the end of the day, we all want to be stronger and the best at what we do. Stay humble and have fun." -- Upuia


"Trust the process and do not rush results. Focus on form and perform slow and controlled repetitions to ensure you develop a strong neuro-muscular connection, before you attempt advanced lifts, or heavy reps." -- Kirsten



1 comment

Rex Jackson

Great read! Really Impressed with all the research, and thoughtfulness of this piece. Thank you all!

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