Champaign, IL—Women often subscribe to fitness fads, hearsay, and offbeat diets to get fit. According to top trainer Irene Lewis-McCormick, women must stop succumbing to pop culture in order to see greater strength and muscle definition. “It’s staggering the amount of misinformation that surrounds women and exercise,” says Lewis-McCormick. “With respect to the myths and misinformation, it’s no wonder women are so confused regarding what they should and should not do to achieve a strong, lean, healthy body.”
In her book, A Woman’s Guide to Muscle & Strength (Human Kinetics, February 2012), Lewis-McCormick dispels five common fitness myths and explains why strength training should be a part of every woman’s fitness regimen.
- Lifting weights creates bulky muscles. Contrary to many women’s concerns, strength training using heavy weights won’t result in a manly bodybuilder-type physique. “Men and women who train similarly have the ability to increase their muscular strength, but because women have lower levels of testosterone and fewer and smaller muscle fibers than men, they do not have the ability to increase muscle size the way men do,” Lewis-McCormick says.
- Weight loss requires more cardio and less strength training. “Many women believe it’s necessary to include cardio only when they have a weight-loss goal, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Lewis-McCormick says. To lose weight, both cardiorespiratory exercise and strength training should be part of an exercise program. “Cardio exercise ups the ante on caloric expenditure and improves the health of your heart, blood vessels, brain tissues, and other vital organs,” Lewis-McCormick adds.
- Workouts must be in the fat-burning zone. Perhaps the most popular myth about aerobic exercise is that there is a specific range of heart rates in which people must exercise to burn fat as the primary fuel source. Lewis-McCormick explains, “Even many cardio machines display a fat-burning zone on their panels, encouraging people to exercise in a specific heart rate range to burn fat specifically.” For losing fat (and therefore weight), what matters is the difference between the number of calories you expend and the number of calories you consume. It matters little whether the calories burned during exercise come from fat or carbohydrate.
- Trouble spots can be specifically targeted with strength training. “Spot reduction is a mythical concept that encourages fat loss in a specific area or muscle group on the body,” Lewis-McCormick says. “Fat is lost throughout the body in a pattern dependent on genetics, sex, hormones, and age.” Overall body fat must be reduced in order for you to lose fat in any particular area. Although spot reduction isn’t possible, spot training can be done to strengthen a specific muscle group through aerobic activity and resistance training.
- Certain exercises burn more calories than others. “Just because you sweat more in a particular workout doesn’t necessarily mean that you are burning more calories than you would in another kind of workout,” says Lewis-McCormick. “It is the consistency of the exercise that causes weight loss.” When you select exercises, it’s important to understand what determines how many calories a body burns during exercise and why the body obeys certain rules that dictate the magnitude of caloric expenditure. With this knowledge, you can create realistic goals with respect to fat loss, increased lean mass, and selection of exercises. “Bottom line, the harder you work, the more calories you will expend, and you have to do this on a regular basis,” Lewis-McCormick adds.
“Strength training is one of the only forms of exercise that offers so many benefits to health and fitness, which makes it a solid choice of regular exercise,” Lewis-McCormick says. “If anything, strength training is especially important for women because it provides maximum opportunity to control weight and achieve many other long-term benefits.”