Myths of Women Lifting: Science and Practice of Strength Training

     Those that have trained female athletes and female clients for that matter should respect these next few myths that come from Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training book.  I have just begun skimming over this book even though in due time I will be diving full force into it.  Vladimir Zatsiorsky is one of those guys who has books and a great reputation in the strength training world.  In his book he provides a few myths about training women that have unfortunately not been the norm with regard to training women.  As a result, I think that this should be known to all ladies and trainers who think that lifting heavy is not for females.  Get ya mind right! The resource to find this information is found from Ebben and Jensen 1998. “Strength Training for women.  Debunking myths that block opportunity.”



Myth # 1: “Strength training causes women to become larger and heavier.”

     “The truth is, strength training helps reduce body fat and increase lean weight.  These changes may result in slight increase in overall weight, since lean body mass weighs more than fat.  However, strength training results in significant increases in strength, no change or a decrease in lower-body girths, and a very small increase in upper-extremity girth.  Only women with a genetic predisposition for hypertrophy who participate in high volume, high intensity training will see substantial increases in limb circumference.”

Myth # 2: “Women should use different training methods than men.”

     “Women are often encouraged to use weight machine and slow, controlled movements out of a fear that using free weights, manual resistance, explosiveness (high velocity, low force), or exercises that use body weight as resistance will cause injury.  In fact, no evidence suggests that women are more likely to be injured during strength training than men.  Proper exercise instruction and technique are necessary to reduce the risk of injuries for both men and women.  All strength training participants should follow a program that gradually increases the intensity and load.  Furthermore, sport-specific exercise should closely mimic the biomechanics and velocity of the sport for which an athlete is training.  The best way to achieve this is to use closed-kinetic chain exercise that involved multiple joints and muscle groups and the ranges of motion specific to sport.  For example, the push press–rather than tricep kickbacks–offer superior arm extension training stimulus for improving the ability to throw the shot put in track and field.”

Myth # 3: “Women should avoid high intensity or high-load training.”

     “Women are typically encouraged to use limited resistance, such as light dumbbells, in their strength exercises.  Often such light training loads are substantially below those necessary for physiologic adaptations and certainly less than those commonly used by men.  Most women are able to train at higher volumes and intensities high enough to cause adaptation in bone, muscle, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.  When exercise intensity provides insufficient stimulus, physiologic benefits may be minimal.  To gain maximum benefit from strength training, women should occasionally perform their exercises at or near the repetition maximum for each exercise.”


I swear you will not become Chyna if you lift heavier than 10 lbs.

       Working with female athletes and also reading other strength coaches blogs there’s easily enough evidence to support these statements which makes them not just “book” statements but practical information that is used day in and day out at some of the top facilities around the nation.  Here is Nia Shanks, doing work on the deadlift.  She is a serious lifter who lifts correctly, smart, and  heavy yet she is not someone you would say looks like the picture above (pharamceutically enhanced).


Categories: Injury Prevention, Strength Training

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