3 strength training myths that must fall

As a strength coach, I’m confronted on a daily basis by the various insecurities that pervade society. However, many of these ‘myths’ are based on fallacies, half truths or old-school tales of the strength world.

It has became so bad that many women today are adamant that what their neighbours tell them, or what they read on Facebook, is true, so much so that my 12 years of experience in the industry often accounts for nothing.

My tried and tested methods, which I’ve learnt from the greats, and my understanding of human biology and human movement science is often insufficient to convince women about what is true and what is, in fact, fiction.

READ MORE | Lift Like A Lady: Lessons From A Female S&C Coach

Myth #1: Heavy weights build massive muscle

One of the more common myths, which absolutely must fall, but just won’t disappear, is the clichéd phenomenon that women who lift for strength will gain massive amounts of muscle. Many women incorrectly believe and often perpetuate the myth that training with heavy weights will make you appear like the women who grace the pages of bodybuilding magazines.

After six years as a strength athlete, I’m still waiting for the bulk… And, no, I’m not a genetic freak. That’s because I train for strength, not for size.

The difference in muscle mass between women and men comes down to our hormonal profiles – more specifically our body’s ability to produce testosterone.

Men produce on average ten times more testosterone than women. Unless a woman uses anabolic steroids, or other male hormones, lifting weights and training for strength will not build an overly muscular and masculine body.

In fact, most women struggle to gain muscle compared to men, but if you want to lose fat and transform your bodies, you need to get into the weights room and build more muscle.

READ MORE | #StrongWomen: Lil Bianchi Kimble On Strength Training And Being Strong

Myth #2: Kids should strength train

Another myth I would love to abolish is that strength training is dangerous for children. Apparently, strength training is damaging to a young child’s bone health and may stunt their growth. Yet parents don’t hesitate to allow their growing children to participate in gymnastics, rugby, cricket and swimming, to name just a few sports.

The truth is, children who run, climb, jump and tackle their friends in the playground actually impose a load on their bodies that is ten times greater than most strength exercises. That’s because mass = force x velocity.

Those demands on the playground or sports field are harder on the body than resistance exercises. And by not allowing your child to engage in strength training from a young age, you actually increase your child’s risk of injury.

Strength training builds a stronger core and strengthens bones, which creates a solid foundation for better movement and enhanced development.

A properly designed and supervised resistance training programme that is put together by specialised and qualified coach is highly recommended. In this regard, children shouldn’t lift maximal weights, but should lift with a load that they can perform at least 6 reps with proper form. The benefits far outweigh the risks.

READ MORE | The Secret To Getting Lean – Get Strong First

Myth #3: Toning is a thing

This myth is one of my pet peeves. Ladies, lifting light weights at high reps won’t ‘tone’ your muscles.

Firstly, a muscle can either be made smaller or bigger. Moving little weights around for reps on end won’t make your muscles magically take on a beautiful shape without the “bulk”.

The truth is that the difference between a toned physique and one that’s bulky comes down to the fat that covers your muscles. What women want is more of the lean muscle that usually stays hidden underneath layers of fat to show more prominently, and the best way to do that is through strength training.

Remember, it is muscle that gives you shape. More muscle also increases your metabolism, which helps your body burn more calories.

Minimal muscle means higher body fat levels and the dreaded “skinny fat” look, which is just as unhealthy as being overweight.

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Overcome the myths

You can put all of these myths to rest by following the guiding rule I apply to everything I do: big compound exercises deliver big results.

I hate gimmicks and gadgets and new takes on traditional ideas. Stop balancing on balls, hanging from ceilings and wasting time on the small things, because it’s doing the big things that deliver big results.

Ladies, don’t subject yourself to the ‘yes-no’ machines, ab classes, crunches and butt blasters. Stick to the fundamentals that have always worked.

If you want to lose fat and build lean muscle, don’t believe the myths. Perform the big exercises – the deadlifts, overhead presses, heavy squats, rows, pull-ups, dips, push-ups and the accessory exercises that accompany them. I do them, because I know they work.

READ MORE | 10 Training Myths – BUSTED!

By Lil Bianchi Kimble, strength and conditioning coach and founder of OTG Athletic

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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