“I don’t want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.” I’ve heard this statement come out of the mouths of many women. Also, “I gain muscle too quickly.” or “I don’t want to get big.”. What am I talking about? I’m talking about women and weightlifting. There are still lots of women out there that are afraid to lift weights. There are many reasons why. I will get to the psychology a little later. Right now, I want talk a little bit about Arnold Schwarzenegger. The reason being the way he became that guy we all know because of his physique. He’s the perfect example of why these ideas are myths that we women think are true. Ladies, I want you to pay close attention to how he became big and buff and compare that to the excuses you may be making not to weightlift.
Unless you have been living under a rock, most of you know all about Arnold. Just in case you don’t: he won five Mr. Universe and seven Mr. Olympia contests (those are bodybuilding competitions). He is an actor and former politician. If you want to see it all, his bio is here: http://www.schwarzenegger.com/bio. How did he get to be the buff dude we all know and ladies are afraid of looking like? Here are the ways and also the reasons, ladies, why you won’t look like him.
- He is a man. Being a man means you have testosterone and lots of it. Testosterone makes it easier for a man to gain massive muscle mass. Ladies, we are estrogen-based creatures. This means we don’t have enough testosterone in our bodies to look like Arnold.
- Arnold could lift huge amounts of weight. Arnold could bench press at his peak 440lbs. He could squat 545lbs. Last time I checked I don’t know of a single woman who could pump this much iron (I’m sure there are a couple, but they would be anomalies.). At my peak I could bench press 150lbs and squat 225lbs. That’s at 5’4” and 162lbs. Far less than Arnold.
- He spent a lot of time at the gym. A guy doesn’t become Mr. Olympia by doing a short workout at home. He spent a lot of time at the gym. It was his full time job. Most of us don’t have that kind of time.
- He used steroids. It is well known he used steroids to help his muscle development. For the women who look like mini versions of him, they need to also use steroids. That’s pretty extreme and I’m pretty positive you won’t do that.
Go pick up some weights and start. Still not convinced, I did a literature review (meaning I looked at lots of scientific studies) to find out why women feel this way. Turns out, here are the main reasons why women feel like they can’t lift weights:
- They feel lifting weights is only for men. While I believe women have come a long way in terms of showing their strength, there is still a belief that we are the weaker sex. Being physically strong is only for men. According to Ebben & Jensen (1998), women who did the same bodybuilding routines as the guys, they had equal cross-sectional muscle strength. Those women who did lift weights felt better about their bodies too.
- The fear of getting too big or masculine. A lot of women are scared to death of this. Brace-Govan (2004) said, “Weightlifting can create formidible physical strength but without the visible, physical displays of body building.” You can lift weights without bodybuilding. Bodybuilding to get big requires way more effort.
- No female role models (Brace-Goven, 2004). There are not a lot of role models for muscled athletic women. The ones we do have get publicly shamed. Serena Williams and the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team are two recent examples of athletic women being shamed for their strength. Makes most women want to turn around and run instead of being insulted. The positive thing is every athletic woman who has been shamed, stood up and said, “Who the heck are you to judge?”. I suggest you do the same. No one gets to tell you whether you should be strong or not.
- The fear that men won’t like them. This is one of my observations. There are guys that are intimidated by strong women. Don’t worry about a guy that doesn’t like who you are! Tony loves the strong woman I am. Many guys love strong women. Don’t let jerks determine how strong you should be. Early in my dating life I got called fat a lot due to my heavy weight for my size, without even seeing what I looked like! I looked at that as making the decision easier on me. They showed they were a jerk right off the bat! Next!
If you are still scared to lift, here are two things that you should consider: lifting weights keeps the junk in your trunk and it will also keep you independant in your old age. First, the butt. A lot of women want a J.Lo. butt. If you want a round sexy butt, you need to lift weights! If you keep it up, you won’t get the deflated butt look when you get older. Speaking of getting older, keeping good muscle mass will allow your body to keep moving and stay strong. We lose more and more as we get older. The only way to prevent that is to lift weights.
So ladies, get these myths out of your head and get to lifting! Strong women are sexy! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Stay tuned for workouts coming in future posts! Now go lift!!!
Brace-Govan, J. (2004). Weighty matters: control of women’s access to physical strength. The Sociological Review, 52(4), 503–531. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2004.00493.x
Ebben, W. P., & Jensen, R. L. (1998). Strength training for women: Debunking myths that block opportunity. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 26(5), 86–97. https://doi.org/10.3810/psm.1998.05.1020