As is the case with other experienced trainers, Stamford-based Kelvin Smith often hears female clients worry about “bulking up” if they lift weights. “If that were true, the tiniest kid on the high school football team could transform himself,” he says. Truth is weight training can obliterate fat, build lean muscle and anti-age bodies by making them taut. Still, female clients recoil at the sight of heavy metal. So we asked local experts to weigh in on the myths they would like to dispel—once and for all—about pumping iron.
Trainer at Oxygen Fitness
THE MYTH: Lifting Packs Extra Pounds
You may see the scale inch up when weight training becomes routine, but it’s
for a lean reason, Hoffman says. “You’re replacing fat with muscle, which weighs more than fat,” she says.
THE TRUTH: Lifting Is Slimming
“You may be much smaller, inch-wise, but weigh a little more.”
Ignore those numbers on the scale and use the comfortable fit of your
“most intimidating, scary pair of jeans” to assess the true benefits of lifting.
Trainer at Equinox
THE MYTH: It’s Dangerous
Just like crossing the street, there are risks involved in attempting any fitness modality, says Tillotson.
THE TRUTH: It’s Good for You
The bone-protective strength built as a result of weight-lifting helps to defend against injury in daily life. It can also improve performance in flexibility practices such as yoga and Pilates. “You might be surprised that strength training can help you hold your Yoga poses longer,” she notes.
If you’re inexperienced with weights, work with a trainer to get started and rely on a workout buddy for spotting, motivation and accountability as skills improve.
Trainer at The Gym
THE MYTH: Cardio Is Queen
Too many women rely on intense cardio sessions as their only workout, says O’Hara, adding that if weight loss is the goal, it’s a mistake. “A five mile run is great, but you shouldn’t be doing that cardio to the exclusion of everything else,” she says.
THE TRUTH: Variety Is Preferable
Adding weights to your routine builds muscle that makes for a more efficient metabolism. O’Hara likens it to running a car with a bigger engine. “And that muscle burns more calories even while you’re lying on the couch watching TV,” she says.
Alternate intense cardio bursts with strength-training moves to maximize results and cut down on gym time.
THE MYTH: Little Weights, Lots of Reps Is the Way to Go
Smith says the benefit of lifting lighter weights in multiple sequences is in building muscle endurance.
THE TRUTH: Heavier Weights, Fewer Reps Is Better
To really build muscle mass that will obliterate fat and tone the body, lift weights that are so heavy you fatigue the muscles quickly.
Hoist weights so heavy you are exhausted somewhere between the tenth and twelfth rep.