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5 Excuses for Why Women Don’t Strength Train

And why they should ignore them.

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Ripped photograph of acolorful dumbbell
Party of One
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I am proud to be called a pioneer. After all, my first workout was released in 1981, on vinyl, and we had to make sure we didn’t jolt the turntable as we did jumping jacks. The following year, I produced my first video, the “Ultimate Video Workout,” and the year after that wrote my first book, Aerobics

For forty years, as attitudes and fitness crazes have changed, I have made it my mission to keep people up to date with the latest research in the world of fitness, health and wellness. I am proud of the role I have played in helping people lead healthier, more vibrant, more passion-driven lives. I, too, have role models: Who didn’t admire Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her mid-80s, going through her workout routine — this while she endured cancer treatments for years? 

She wasn’t dancing a nice salsa. She was strength training. Our generation has redefined femininity. We respect athletic power and skill. We watch Wonder Woman and other films starring female superheroes who, by the way, hit the weights hard before stepping in front of the camera. The benefits of strength training go far beyond building muscles; these routines build a better life. From sharpening your brain to preventing type 2 diabetes to protecting your heart. From depleting depression to strengthening your bones.

No more excuses!

Excuse No. 1

I Don’t Want to Look Like a Bodybuilder

Strength training is the way to a better shape, not a bulky shape. Muscle mass naturally peaks for women in their 20s. Would you say 20-year-old women look more masculine than women in their 40s who’ve lost much of that muscle? Think of strength training as simply a way to recapture the shapely firmness that age-related muscle loss takes away. Your genetic makeup ensures that you won’t gain excessive bulk. Women who strength train can expect to develop toned, trim, feminine figures.

Excuse No. 2

I Don’t Want a Bunch of Dumbbells All Over the House 

The days have long passed since women’s magazines promoted Campbell’s Soup cans as the ideal exercise equipment for women. But you also don’t need a bunch of oversized, heavy equipment. Many beginning-level exercises are effective without equipment. For instance, wall sits or counter-height push-ups use only your body weight as resistance.

When you are ready to start working with weights, two sets of dumbbells, some elastic straps or tubing and a mat or padded rug are enough to build a solid routine. As you progress, you can add more weights, a stability ball and a bench or step if you do not already have comparable items at home.

I also recommend creating a dedicated space that signals to your brain the importance of this activity to your life. You need enough room to stand, sit and lie down, preferably without having to move things around between exercises. The corner of a room or garage will work.

And finally, keep a journal to plan out your routine and track your progress.

Excuse No. 3

I’ve Never Strength Trained and Don’t Know Where to Start 

Start by clearing your strength-training plan with your health care provider. The next step seems simple enough: You take a weight and make it go up and down. But putting a routine together, then performing each move with proper technique and form is where the intimidation begins. For the beginner, I like the idea of using strength-training books and fitness magazines. They allow you to take the time to study each exercise, learn what muscle should be activated and the technique for doing it correctly. Then start without weights, focusing on the muscle and proper form.

There is also an abundance of resources online. YouTube videos, virtual fitness memberships and training apps offer workouts for every ability level. By starting out without weights, you’ll be able to feel the muscle and hone the proper technique. As you add weight, make sure you’re able to do at least 12 repetitions. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing 12-15 repetitions of each exercise to make one set. Do 2-3 sets of each exercise 2-3 times a week. Focus on form and progress slowly.

Excuse No. 4

It’s Too Boring 

If you are used to being in high-energy classes, it’s hard to imagine enjoying the more solitary pursuit of strength training. It requires a different focus. It requires a bit more of you. I like to take a more Zen approach to my strength training, using breathing as my focal point. It fuels my workout and keeps me feeling energized. If this approach isn’t enough for you, here are some suggestions: 

1. Keep a journal. You can make it more interesting by making notes of your progress.

2. Listen to music. Allow the music to help you tune in to your movement while tuning out everything else.

3. Find a workout buddy. You are likely to work out harder, and time will pass faster. 

4. Change it up. Challenge yourself to add a rep, increase the weight or do a new exercise. This rush of accomplishment is definitely not boring!

5. Take your screen with you. A new YouTube workout, a Zoom class or a strength training book is as close as your pocket! With a change of focus, you can get out of your head and into the experience. That’s when it comes alive. That’s also when it becomes fun. 

Excuse No. 5

I Already Do Cardio 

Strength training makes cardio workouts easier and is one of the best things you can do to prepare your body for a cardio routine. It is a non-impact activity that strengthens muscles and connective tissues, making you less susceptible to injuries. As a beginner, jumping into a cardio program can be a significant shock to the body, particularly if you’re carrying a few extra pounds. The repetitive impact can tax your joints and slow your progress. Keeping your joints strong is the best way to ensure your ability to train aerobically at the highest possible level without strain. 

Many think a cardio workout is the best way to burn calories and be fit, but it’s not. It only works on the cardiovascular system while you are in motion. The physiological benefits of strength training carry on while you are at rest, continuing to burn fat and elevating your metabolism. Which one is better? It’s best to do both. You can improve your cardiovascular system through a cardio workout, and you’ll get a nicer butt from strength training. There is no better boost to a woman’s confidence and vitality than to be strong. If you haven’t started a love affair with strength training, the time is now. We learned from Ruth Bader Ginsburg it’s never too late to start lifting. I am 69 and will never stop!

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