It is a common misconception amongst women that the body outcome of strength training is undesirable. This is problematic on a number of levels. Not only are our "body standards" completely skewed and ill-informed, but there is a complete misinterpretation of what strength training actually is, and how it presents itself in a well trained body.
Myth One: Women need to be skinny.
I would say it is ridiculous that I even need to state this, but with the standard we were raised with and have become accustomed to via social media and diet culture, it's no wonder that we grew up in pursuit of a 6”1 runway model body.
Of course, it’s easy to forget that a lot of what we aspire to be isn't real. Celebrities alter their body through surgery and photoshop, bodybuilders rise to fame through highlight reels that only showcase their leanest form the month of a competition, and neglect sharing the long off seasons of eating and gaining muscle.
We also like to compare ourselves to genetically tiny people. In reality, it’s abnormal and, in cases, unhealthy to maintain such a low percentage of body fat year round. Women require a higher body fat percentage for a plethora of reasons, one being to protect our precious reproductive organs and feed future foetus’. Yet it is men who are encouraged to gain size and mass, while women are distastefully encouraged to take up less space.
Skinnier isn’t always healthier. Unless a doctor has told you there is too much visceral fat surrounding your vital organs, losing weight rapidly will likely do more harm than good.
Myth Two: Strength training makes you big and bulky.
First of all, define “big and bulky”. Perception of size is so individual, but whatever the expectation you have fabricated in your head, I promise you won’t “accidentally” obtain it through strength training. Gaining muscle is HARD. Gaining muscle takes a lot of time, and a steady surplus of food.
Secondly, we need to understand the difference between building muscle (Hypertrophy), and gaining strength. While they compliment each other, strength training in itself doesn’t necessarily mean the goal is to increase the amount of muscle fibres we have, but the conditioning and strengthening of said existing fibres, to increase strength output. The perks of this? Gaining strength promotes overall competence in everyday life activities, bone density, longevity, and a multitude of mental benefits. Generally the body and health that we desire requires heavy compound lifting, anyway.
Generally, the women I introduce to strength and weight training, gain a few KGs of lean muscle mass at first, then gradually lose some body fat percentage as a result of having such a great base of lean muscle mass. This is what we call “Body Recomposition”. It never ends with them overweight, bulky, or so jacked with muscle that they “look like a man”. Gaining strength and shape is stepping into one's divine feminine energy.
Embracing strength is one of the most empowering things you can do in your fitness journey. You will be surrounded by like minded go-getters, who are drawn to the space for more reasons than vanity. Results in strength gain are quick, and exciting!
Most women who venture into strength training wind up sticking at it a lot longer, because they actually enjoy it, and the community that accompanies it. There truly is no better feeling than conquering a lift you never imagined you would be capable of.