Image courtesy Maria Lee

Weight training has been shown in myriad studies to shed fat, lift spirits, improve the immune system, alleviate chronic pain, and, best of all, cultivate a positive, can-do mindset.

Here are four misconceptions standing between women and their most #fitstrong selves.

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Hannah Balogh | Image courtesy Maria Lee

Myth #1 – Hitting the weights will make me bulky…

Some women think weight lifting automatically means steroid injections. Former steak-eater Arnold Schwarzenegger—now ironically an advocate for plant-based living —irrevocably changed public perception of fitness ever since he took the stage at Mr. Olympia by testosterone-fueled storm. He showed us how weights were our paintbrush and our body the canvas.

What is often ignored is how painstaking and HARD it is to bodybuild. Yes, it is possible for females to get big. However, it takes years of dedicated training, strict dieting, and supplementation, and a lifestyle many would deem sacrificial. Women like you and I cannot get boulder shoulders, and Godzilla traps from lifting dumbbells a few times a week.

Myth #2 – I workout so I’ll lose weight no matter what…

So the more we train, the more muscle we build and the more fat we lose… right? Consider this scenario. You start training four times a week. Every session expends roughly 300 to 500 calories. You are damn proud of yourself. At brunch, you opt for waffles instead of your usual oatmeal because dammit you deserve it. Later on, you indulge in a vegan Earl Grey donut from Cartems. Your biceps are feeling firm, and that is cause for celebration, aka. donuts.

Too many meals like this and no fat will be lost. Your workout calorie deficit cannot negate all those extra calories. Your weight will likely creep UP. You may later blame the gym for making you bulky. But the real culprit is undisciplined eating.

If you truly want to lose fat, health-ify your food QUALITY and QUANTITY. Eat just enough nutrient-dense whole foods like leafy greens, avocado, and black beans to get you to 80% full, then stop.

Myth #3 – I can get a six pack doing crunches!

I really dislike videos that promise “abs in 5 minutes”. Targeted isolation exercises like bicep curls and crunches are for the ALREADY lean. For women with 12-17% body fat, like Hannah (above). Their superficial fat layer is already so thin they do curls to refine the shape of their defined biceps. If you are doing side bends to attack love handles, you will only end up with thicker obliques.

Fat loss is the result of 1) health-conscious eating, and 2) doing full body exercises that recruit as many muscle fibres as possible.

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Kettlebells | Too fast for the camera! | Maria Lee

Let’s compare crunches with one of my favourite total body exercises: Kettlebell Swings!

Crunches recruit the abdominals, some neck muscles, not much else.

Kettlebell swings engage the core, shoulders, quads, butt, hamstrings, low back, calf muscles, and forearms. The high intensity also forces your lungs to work harder, improving your aerobic capacity. Way more worth doing.

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Plank Step-outs | Maria Lee

Myth #4 – I can lose fat doing cardio!

Possibly. But you can do it quicker with weights. Those hours on the treadmill could have been better spent. Not only does it cause premature joint wear and tear, steady-state cardio also creates a bodily imbalance. The lower body becomes strong and powerful, while the upper body remains weak and undeveloped. A client of mine lost 40 lbs on the treadmill within a year before plateauing. When she came to me her thighs and calf muscles were so hard they could have gone on stage! However, her upper body was still flabby, with dangly underarms and belly fat.

To prevent muscle imbalance, do these upper body exercises:

  • rows
  • pulldowns
  • pushups
  • jack knife crunches / plank step-outs
  • plank step-outs

You can make cardio more effective by adding in high-intensity intervals. Instead of staying at 5 mph, throw in a 45-60-sec sprint at 7 mph every two minutes four to five times. This spikes your heart rate and force your muscles to adapt to the furious pace. This hack allows you to burn the same amount of calories in just a fraction of the time.

Keep on swinging!

Maria Lee


This #FitStrong article originally published on April 7, 2017 at

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