The ‘Incredible Hulk’ Syndrome: Women And Weightlifting
Walking into most gyms of Guwahati, one will witness the sight of macho looking men on one side, screaming and lifting heavy weights and on the other side, a couple of ladies either spinning, running on a treadmill or working out on some other swanky looking cardio machine.
Most women are afraid of ‘bulking up’ like men by lifting weights but little do they know that their bodies do not produce as much testosterone (a male hormone) as men. Women can head to the weights section and start lifting lighter weights and gradually increase the weight as and when their body adjusts to it.
Now, most women wonder what would happen to them if they lift heavy weights. Will they get bulkier? No, you will not bulk up. Although lifting heavy weights does produce some amount of testosterone in females, female bodies have higher levels of estrogen and progesterone which make it impossible for women to grow new muscle tissue to the same degree as men.
Most women would also cite examples of how women body builders have a much muscular and masculine looking body. Here’s why they look like that- those professional female body builders prepare their bodies to look that way. They use various substances without which, it would be impossible for them to achieve that level of masculinity. Most female body builders take up anabolic androgenic steroids and testosterone to supplement their bodies in order to achieve increased muscle mass goals at a much faster pace. That degree of masculinity cannot be achieved simply by lifting weights at the gym.
It is not expected of women hitting the gym to have a detailed knowledge about all this when they first enter a gym. The sad reality that has lead to the continuation of this ‘incredible hulk’ misconception saga among women begins with trainers who have little to no knowledge or formal training when it comes to fitness.
Most gyms compromise on the quality of their trainers to save on money and instead, they hire people willing to work part time at the gym as a source of earning extra income. Both the trainer and the client are exploited in this case. Most trainers themselves believe that women are more likely to build muscle like men and end up with swollen biceps hence; the female clients are bound to think that way too.
Overweight women too, are misguided into believing that cardiovascular exercises are the word of the bible and the key to attaining that cover girl body. However, the truth is that the key to weight loss lies in maintaining a balance between both cardiovascular exercises and weight training which deliver best results when paired with the right calorie deficit diet.
Do not even get me started on the diet part! The diet misconception has lead to this trend of starvation and bulimia which most young girls suffer from today than ever before. Women fear calories like kids fear cooties!
Fats are not calories, carbohydrates are not calories, proteins are not calories- they have calories. These calories are a unit of measurement of energy. Counting calories helps one gain, lose and maintain their body weight. Different types of food provide different levels of energy. That is, the three macronutrients are not all equal in the number of calories they provide. Long story short, most trainers lack this knowledge as well and they end up providing their clients with wrong food charts, which makes dieters quit due to lack of visible results.
Coming back to weight lifting, it not only helps increase muscle strength in women but also increases bone density, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, in addition to keeping them fit and keeping chronic illnesses at bay. Women who lift weights can always be found beaming with self-confidence, which is just another one of its perks.
Mainstream media is another culprit propagating the incredible hulk syndrome. Films, television serials and advertisements often show men doing push-ups and lifting heavy weights at the gym, whereas women are shown walking, jogging, running, stretching, dancing or doing yoga, aerobics and zumba. Although these exercises are effective in weight loss and help one remain fit and healthy, where are the women that lift?
Thanks to Instagram and other social media, we now know how our favourite stars manage to stay in shape all the time. We can follow their accounts and watch what they eat and how they exercise to get fitter, or we can just take notes for another New Year’s resolution! But, one thing is clear: Lifting weights for women is a boon, and not a bane.