Women and fitness: 4 myths
We at Body&Fit are forever inspired by the powerful women who are on a constant journey to find their ‘fit’. From strength training to CrossFit, skating, running, swimming, cycling and more, women have proven time and time again that they too belong in the world of sports. That’s why we’re here to bust some of the most common myths about women and training.
We’ve enlisted powerlifter and coach, Michelle de Jong, to help us out. You might know Michelle from her popular Instagram account (@coco_michellex), where she shares an insight into the successes and challenges of a female powerlifter. You may also recall her inspiring story featured in our very first edition of People of Body&Fit (stay tuned for the next instalment coming soon…). Either way, let’s debunk the following myths once and for all.
#1. Training your upper body makes you look masculine
There are lots of discussions in the fitness world about whether or not women should train their upper body. We often hear that training back, arms and shoulders makes you look masculine, and working on pecs can make your breasts look smaller. Nonsense, says Michelle. According to her, working out your whole body can actually help you achieve those feminine shapes women so often strive for.
“Many women want bigger legs, big buttocks and a slimmer waist. You create the illusion of a slim waist by training your upper body as well. This gives you an hourglass figure that most people look for and see as feminine.”
Michelle also reveals that training the upper body plays a big role in building strength in your legs and booty.
“I sometimes get cramps in my biceps while squatting because I’m using my arms. Deadlifts, too. You’ll struggle to increase strength there if you don’t train your back. For lower body exercises, you need strength in your upper body to stabilise.”
There you have it. Performing complex exercises like the squat and deadlift without training your upper body is harder on progression. It can also increase the risk of long-term injuries.
#2. Powerlifting isn’t good for women
“I was once told by a man that I shouldn’t deadlift too heavy because I wouldn’t be able to have children later on in life. I laughed, but really, it frustrated me. First of all, who is he to decide whether I want children or not? And apart from that, strength training has no negative effects on having children, pregnancy, or any other aspect of the female body.”
At the same time, Michelle understands where this fable comes from.
“If women have a very low fat percentage (like female bodybuilders), hormone levels can be affected, and missing periods is possible. This can potentially pose risks, but only if you have a really low fat percentage.”
A normal fat percentage for women is between 21% and 36%, so in most cases it’s just as good for women to lift heavy as it is for men.
Michelle sees more and more women becoming interested in strength training and powerlifting. Most clients she coaches are women and they’re not afraid of grabbing heavier weights. For Michelle, it’s a relief to see women lifting weights to get stronger rather than just look good.
#3. Women build muscle quickly
When Michelle hears this one, she bursts into laughter.
“If only it was so easy! No, I have to work hard for the body I have now. If people think that it just happens after picking up a dumbbell a couple of times — no. This is absolutely not true.”
So, where does this idea come from? Michelle thinks it has something to do with how strong women have been presented on social media in the past.
“Most female powerlifters or strength trainers often competed back then. You need a certain physique for that. If people only come across that while scrolling, they quickly form the idea that women become muscular fast without seeing how many hours of training it takes for such a body.”
#4. Protein makes women fat
Many women avoid protein shakes or supplements because they think it will make them fat. Again, Michelle is clear on this one:
“Protein does not make you fat. Eating in a calorie surplus for a long time makes you fat, no matter what you eat.”
We all need protein, especially if you’re training hard. It not only helps to build muscle but allows the muscles to recover and come back stronger than ever. A high-quality whey or vegan protein shake is a good way to support muscle growth.
“If you don’t get enough protein, the damaged caused by training the muscles won’t be repaired properly. That’s why it’s important for every athlete, especially women, to consume enough, whether it’s through food or supplements.”
No matter what ’fit’ means to you, we’re here to help you find that self-confidence, smash every personal best, and get after those gains. If you still have questions about strength training, building muscle or nutrition for women in general, feel free to get in touch with our Nutrition Experts via our customer service channel or Instagram. Here, you’ll find even more inspiring content, recipe inspiration and fitness tips, like how to Romanian deadlift.