I feel for you, I really do.
Not only do you have to contend with the fact that building a great body takes time, dedication and a fuck-tonne of hard work. But you’ve also got to deal with a relative encyclopedia of bullshit fitness myths that continue to dog the world of women’s weight training.
I’ve been hearing these myths for years, and I’ll be honest with you girls – they make me angrier than a bunch of scientists who are stuck in a lift with a group of Herbalife reps.
Today I’m going to bust through 5 women’s fitness myths that must die.
Myth 1: She Needs To Be “Trained”
When I’m working in a gym and a pretty girl walks in, I like to play a game called “Let’s see how long she can train before some guy walks over and offers to train her.”
The record is 18 minutes.
Have you ever seen that movie, ‘She’s Just Not That Into You’?
It’s kinda like that, only a lot more awkward.
If this has happened to you, don’t take offence. It’s just that we, as men, are so threatened by a woman in the free weights area that we take it upon ourselves to display how awesome we are in a bid to impress you with our infinite knowledge.
I’m being sarcastic, of course.
There are plenty of guys who possess the ability to just let a woman get on with her training. But the ones that don’t, well, they make up for all of us.
I remember watching in horror as a guy once interrupted a female Olympic athlete to correct her squat technique, only to be promptly schooled on 10 reasons why every word that just left his lips was dead fucking wrong.
Allow me to save my fellow mankind some time, by answering the burning questions:
- She doesn’t want your number
- If she wants a trainer, she’ll hire a trainer
If you’ve ever experienced this type of behaviour, you’ll love this article.
Myth 2: Women Need To Do High Reps
I was going to include the popular belief that “weights will make women bulky”, but I decided that it’s been done to death.
I think we live in an era where women know that the whole bulky thing is a bullshit myth.
Instead, the thing they’ll get stuck on is the “women should do high reps” myth..
Yup, I’m sure you’ve heard it.
As the saying goes, women should do high reps and light weights if they want to tone up.
I once knew a woman who accidentally sneezed near a heavy barbell. Three weeks later, she had changed her name to Geoff and started her new job as a lumberjack.
Seriously, though, despite the advances made in sports science in the last twenty five years, the toning myth is still big on the agenda of every late night infomercial trying to sell you it’s latest fitness invention, and it’s easy to see why so many women believe this one.
In fact, I once heard a so-called “expert to the stars” use the line “women should be using light weights to tone and lengthen the muscle, staying away from big heavy weights which will cause a bulky, manly appearance.”
Needless to say, said “expert to the stars” looked like a cross between that annoying work colleague who raises an eyebrow as she points out the calorie content of your lunch, and a fasting zombie.
So, allow me to bury this myth once and for all..
First off, a muscle cannot “tone”.
How “toned” a muscle looks depends upon how much body fat you are carrying. Nothing else. The only things a muscle knows how to do is grow (hypertrophy) and shrink (atrophy).
There is no secret mechanism inside the body that makes it say, “Oh, Jenny just did over 20 reps on this set, I’ll switch to toning mode.”
Here’s a basic guide to rep ranges:
- Train in the 1-5 rep range for strength
- Train in the 8-12 rep range for hypertrophy
- Train in the 15-30 rep range for muscular endurance
You should be doing all three.
Well, women have a much harder time building muscle than men due to the fact that the female body lacks high levels of testosterone. So while us guys often complain how hard it is to pack on lean size, girls have it even harder!
So by training in the 15-30 rep range you will build your muscular endurance, enabling you to train through “the burn” for longer. By training in the 8-12 rep range you will maximize lean muscle growth to achieve a curvy, lean frame. And by hitting the 1-5 rep range, you will boost your strength.
Using each rep range has benefits which flip over when you transfer to a different style of training – i.e. a woman who has grown stronger using the 1-5 rep range can now lift heavier when she goes to the 8-12 range, and a woman who has been using the 15-30 rep range can now push out a few more reps with a heavier weight when she returns to the 8-12 rep range.
For more info on rep ranges for women, read this.
Myth 3: She Can’t Eat Cake If She’s On A Diet
There are so many nutrition myths in the fitness world that I really had a tough time deciding which one to include in this post.
We’ve all got that annoying friend who tries to sell detox packs in the schoolyard.
Or that zombie-looking motherfucker at your office who is always Livin’ La Vida Low Carb.
But the myth I decided to tackle here is the one that says you need to eat 100% clean, 100% of the time.
Clean eating can suck my dick.
None of my clients follow traditional clean eating rules.
I make it a prerequisite of working with me because clean eating is just another form of extreme dieting, one which promotes an unhealthy relationship with food and, above all, one which doesn’t work for the vast majority of people.
Clean eating is a meaningless phrase coined by Instagram wannabees who have no grasp on nutrition, and pedaled by celebrities with a total misuse of why their audience follow them in the first place.
This post will explain why clean eating sucks, but basically a more flexible approach to dieting will provide you with a far greater platform to transform your body in the coming months and years.
You don’t need to beat yourself up if you eat a donut. You don’t need to starve yourself tomorrow because your family were having pizza and you couldn’t resist a slice. You’re not going to hell for eating carbs after 7 O’Clock.
Not only do my clients eat treat foods every day, they even have Haribo after every workout.
And I’m guilty of eating Galaxy chocolate bars that were in no way designed for consumption by one human being.
Consider us damned.
But over in the real world, research clearly demonstrates that taking a more flexible approach to food choices leads to a more sustainable diet and, just like anything else in life, how consistent you are is more important than how hard you go.
People who try to cut all treat foods from their diet and focus on things that only come in smug or cardboard flavour tend to fall into one of two groups:
- those who partake in extreme fad diets, falling off the wagon every few weeks and constantly stuck in a cycle of re-starting new fads, i.e. carrot diet, cabbage soup diet, zero carb diet, etc.
- those who eat “clean” Monday to Friday, only to binge on fast food and alcohol at the weekend under the silly guise of “cheat day, bro”. I’m on a roll today, so this post will explain why cheat day is also bullshit.
All the while, you can be using a more flexible approach with your diet and outperforming both groups listed above.
My clients adhere to something I call “The 80/20 Rule”.
By that, I mean that once a client has his/her targets set for protein, fat and carbohydrates around 80% of your daily food should come from healthy options using a common sense approach – i.e. you’re not a dumbass, you know green veg and chicken is better for you than licking lard off the leftover trays in the work cafeteria – and the remaining 20% is used for squeezing their favourite treats into their day.
So long as they hit their macros and adhere to the 80% factor, they are welcome to go 100% or indulge in treats for remaining 20%.
Results will still be achieved either way.
This is an approach which I have used for many years, because it promotes a much more sustainable diet. You are no longer punishing yourself by avoiding your favourite treats, nor are you trying to survive until a designated day of eating junk.
When treats are actually part of your diet anyway, you have a much better relationship with food and portion control, and the temptation to binge eat is massively lowered because of this.
Myth 4: Whey Protein Is Just For Guys
Women still get the short straw regarding supplements.
While guys have an array of products to choose from, including everything from whey protein, to creatine, to preworkout supplements and everything in between, women are often given the ridiculous myth that “supplements are just for guys”.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Women can use any supplement men can use.
The only exception to this rule being that women need a different multivitamin to men (females don’t require as much iron) and women have no need for testosterone boosting supplements (which don’t work anyway).
Despite the hype the supplement industry likes to throw at you regarding how “important” they are to results, you’ll find that supplements play one of the following three roles for you:
- supplements allow you to squeeze in nutrients that you are missing in your daily diet (i.e. multivitamins)
- supplements are a convenient way to hit your macros when you don’t have time to prepare food (i.e. a whey protein shake)
- supplements can boost your ability to train harder in the gym (i.e. creatine or citrulline)
The packaging on whey protein supplements used to be to blame for this, with pictures of luminous bodybuilders wearing shades indoors. Although in recent times it has got better, but we now have to watch out for bullshit phrases like diet whey and claims of “toning” (see myth 2).
Myth 5: Women At The Gym Look Perfect
This one really gets my goat.
In my years working as a trainer, I’ve picked up that most women are quite insecure about going to a gym and putting themselves around others while they workout.
Yet if you browse your social media feed, you could be forgiven for presuming that women only ever train in their underwear and a full face of makeup.
These people train in ideal lighting. They wear perfect gear. They do Instagram squats (ass sticking out at porn levels, duck pout, and so many filters they look like a more tanned version of someone else).
They’re also not real.
And, while I’m at it, what’s with the pressure for women to look “sexy” when doing squats?
This is complete bullshit.
If you’re really pushing yourself, you should look like you are trying to bust a sofa with your teeth.
You do get the odd one, standing around in new gym gear making peace signs and screwing her mouth off to one side while she proceeds to do more selfies than reps. But hey, don’t believe that this warped version of reality posted on social media is how gyms actually are.
It couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not a fucking fashion show.
So, there you have it!
My top 5 women’s fitness myths that must die. There are many others which came close to appearing on this post, so I’ll include them in a future edition.
Do you agree with my picks? Have you experienced them in real life?
Drop me a comment below to let me know.
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