Health Library

Weight Training for Women

Misconceptions about weight training—often based on unproven fears of becoming too muscular—can keep women from pushing their fitness levels.

That’s unfortunate because weight training provides several important health benefits for women. Most important, it helps them maintain a healthy weight as they approach and pass menopause. It also can help them avoid osteoporosis and prevent back problems. If you've never lifted weights, consider working with a trainer for your first few sessions.

Muscle size

Misconception. Women who lift weights develop huge muscles.

Reality. Not necessarily. For women who follow a sensible weight-training program, the result will be a trim, healthy look, not bulging muscles.

This is because women naturally develop much less muscle mass than do men. Women have fewer muscle cells, particularly in their arms and shoulders. When either a woman or man works out, muscle cells grow larger, but don't multiply.

Making time

Misconception. Weight training takes a lot of time.

Reality. You can take as much or as little time as you like. It is recommended that you do 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise at least twice per week. With warm-up and stretching, each session should take only 30 minutes to 45 minutes.

Once you’ve passed the beginner stage, you’ll get stronger only if you lift heavier weights and do more repetitions. Once you’ve gotten as strong, fit, and toned as you want, you can maintain your fitness level by continuing to lift the same amount of weight.

Fat vs. muscle

Misconception. The scale doesn’t lie.

Reality. The scale can mislead you. Muscle is more dense than fat. With a weight-training program, combined with a good diet and aerobic exercise, you may lose inches from your waist, thighs, and other trouble spots without losing any pounds. You may even gain a few pounds, but feel and look healthier.

When you stop

Misconception. If a woman stops working out, the muscle will turn into fat.

Reality. Muscle and fat are 2 separate tissues. If you stop working out, your muscle may waste away. Meanwhile, more fat may be stored in already existing fat cells. But one isn’t changed into the other. Even if you stop working out, you can build muscle again whenever you restart weight training.


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