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Busting the myths on resistance training for women

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

There are Chinese whispers which have led many women to believe that doing weights will make them bulky, or won’t help them lose weight as effectively as cardio training would. However this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body work to overcome a resistance force when required e.g. lifting weights. Resistance training is a vital component of any well rounded health or fitness program. Not only is it good for weight loss and muscle tone; it also improves bone and joint function, bone density, tendon and ligament strength. Let science determine fact from fiction as we bust two of the biggest myths relating to weight training and women.

Myth 1: Women should avoid weights because it will make them gain bulky muscle mass like competition body builders.

These images are nothing what you will end up looking like if you include weights into your program a few times a week. These ladies lift often up to 5-6 times per week under specific programming, with a lot of eating to start to gain that much muscle mass.

A poor diet and lack of exercise will generally create the appearance of bulk. Strength is not the cause in general populations.

Myth 2: Aerobic (cardio) exercise is the best to burn fat

Aerobic training can be an efficient way to burn calories, but it often doesn’t provide enough stimulus to increase levels of lean muscle, which are metabolically more efficient because they burn calories even when the body is at rest. Essentially – while cardio, in isolation, often burns more calories than resistance training during your workout, resistance training improves fat loss overall.

Resistance training increases something called the “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)”. This means your metabolism stays elevated for a period of time after exercise and you continue to burn calories hours after the end of your workout.

Does this mean that if resistance training is overall a better method for weight loss, that you should only do resistance training?

No. So what training method is best?

Traditional methods of cardio like running, gym machines or cycling predominantly use lower leg muscles; however generally the more muscle groups engaged the more calories you can burn. And when this rule is incorporating strength training, a greater amount of calories are metabolized from fat when compared to only exercising in a traditional cardio sense.

Evidence based research is now all generally pointing to the conclusion that a combination between aerobic and resistance training is best for fat and weight loss.

Remember, there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss. Whilst most people are looking for weight loss and weight loss is important, muscle is denser than fat. Example:

“Subject A” – uses a combination of resistance and aerobic activity. They lose fat and gain muscle mass. They will have a slightly higher number on the scales compared to;

“Subject B” – uses just aerobic activity. They predominantly just lose weight whilst gaining less muscle mass.

Subject A has a better ability to burn fat and lose weight more effectively.

It is in the prescription and execution of your program that will allow you to have the best outcome. Our Exercise Physiologists are able to ensure safe effective resistance and combination exercise programs to help you achieve your goals.

To book an appointment with one of our Exercise Physiologists click to book online now or call 6162 2616 for Canning Vale, or 6161 4091 for Hilton.


Leslie H. Willis, Cris A. Slentz, Lori A. Bateman, A. Tamlyn Shields, Lucy W. Piner, Connie W. Bales, Joseph A. Houmard, William E. Kraus, 2012. “Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults.” Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 113 no. 12, 1831-1837.

Shaw, Brandon S.; Shaw, Ina; Brown, Gregory A., 2015. “Resistance exercise is medicine: Strength training in health promotion and rehabilitation.” International Journal of Therapy & Rehabilitation Aug; 22 (8): 385-9.

Beltz, Nick; Kravitz, Len, 2014. “Resistance Training Periodization in Women: New Insight for Training Design.” IDEA Fitness Journal (Mar; 11 (3): 18-21.

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