20 Oct


It’s interesting how some myths/misconceptions/misbeliefs never go away.

Take the other day – I don’t know how many times I was encouraging women of all ages to lift heavier weights, that regular strength training sessions in the gym would improve their physique/posture and give them so many more health benefits.

I felt like a broken record!

The misconceptions women held more than 100 years ago are still strongly followed by women today.  An excerpt from William Blaikie’s book “How To Get Strong and How To Stay So” clearly illustrates that women haven’t really changed their attitude to physical fitness since the 1800’s.(1)

“Observe the girls in and of our cities or towns, as they pass to and from school, and see how few of them are at once blooming, shapely, and strong….Instead of high chests, plump arms, comely figures, and a graceful and handsome mien, you constantly see flat chests, angular shoulders, often round and warped forward, with scrawny necks, pipe-stem arms, narrow backs, and a weak walk.”(2)

Women today generally have poor posture, not unlike that of their peers of the 1800s.  Why? Why is it that women still object strongly, emotionally to lifting heavy weights. The answer can easily be found in any fitness website/article/blog. The answers abound everywhere in cyber space and on book shelves in shops and libraries everywhere.

And yet despite the plethora of information on this subject women still refuse to budge from their heavily cardio-based routines and long-held misconceptions.


The answer lies in the female psyche – a woman’s genetic makeup.

Look at the pictures of these champion women below. They are slim,healthy, and exude energy and vitality and look way younger than their age.  I think you will agree that their musculature is far from being huge, bulky or un-feminine.

These females are champions in power lifting/aerobic exercise and are awesome examples of fitness in middle age and years beyond.

Now if the perceptions were true – that weight lifting produces a bulky physique- then why not these women?


Ali Gascoine- NZ Masters Power Lifting Champion



83 yr old aerobics instructor Bette Calman

Encouraging women to lift heavy weights can become frustrating for many personal trainers but  the bottom line is that women will always prefer cardio over weights. It’s in their genetic makeup.

But that doesn’t excuse women from keeping a wide berth from the dumbbells.

Fitness programs that incorporate dance moves, martial arts and cross training exercises have proven popular because they have encouraged people to get moving off the couch and into gyms.

These programs are fun and challenging and are a great way to get fit. But they are predominantly working the aerobic system, and we all know that too much cardio burns muscle not body fat.

Women need regular weight training sessions to develop lean muscle mass that will produce effective longer lasting fat reduction.

But women ought to be given this message in such a way that it is fun and appeals to their emotional triggers (sexier physique, look younger, partner loves the new ‘you’, more self-confidence etc).

I also believe inexperienced trainers should be required to take a course/workshop in women’s fitness (for want of a better description) to understand the female mind and how it reacts to messages concerning weight loss, fitness and appearance.

Women are a complex being emotionally and physically, more so than men. We are not ‘straight shooters’, we skirt around an issue sometimes for months or years before we decide to act upon it. We generally lack enough self-confidence to lift weights along side the boys on the gym floor. We feel safer just quietly walking on the treadmill or dancing our way at the back of the room in a Zumba class.

For too long the fitness industry and medical/health professionals have sent a dry, unattractive message to women about the benefits of weight lifting.

 Until now that is!

Websites like this one (, Girls Gone Strong in the USA, and gyms like The Jym in Waiuku New Zealand are trying hard to encourage women of all ages and all abilities to lift weights for better health. The message we need to send to women is one of encouragement, support and fun, and a message that appeals to female emotions.

Personal trainers are at the forefront of this new campaign. They are the ones who can make a difference by encouraging women of all ages to lift heavy. They are the only people to provide real tangible support backed up with credible facts and research.

So if you are new to fitness, or new to weight lifting and would like to try lifting something heavy for a change, then I advise that you seek out a qualified personal trainer to help you get acquainted with the amazing and wonderful benefits strength training can give you.

Listen to your trainer about why myths surrounding weight lifting are just pure nonsense.

Listen to your trainer about how to lift safely and correctly.

And above all……this Christmas, give yourself a gift and buy a few PT sessions and GET STRONG!


  1. How To Get Strong And How To Stay So” William Blakie 1879 Harper & Brothers N.Y.
  2. Quote taken from an article by Chad Landers. Read full article  at






  1. Lisa November 14, 2012 at 1: 02 pm #

    Great article! We women need to encourage each other to get and stay strong and not be intimidated by the “heavy” weights in the Gym! Thanks for the article.

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