I sometimes hear people say the funniest things about weighttraining. Although these misunderstandings are usually said with the best ofintentions, often they simply worry fitness seekers. Let me share some of myfavorite misconceptions so I can set the record straight.
We have all heard the warnings since we were children: if you lift weightswhen you are young, it will stunt your growth. During childhood our bodiesare in a continual state of change and growth, and some concerns havebeen raised that the growth plates at the ends of bones will be affectedby weight training.
There has never been a formal report or study that proves weight trainingreduces bone growth. Progressive strength exercise can aid children, helpingto make bones, tendons, and ligaments stronger and more resistant to injury.Strength training will not stunt your child’s growth and can actuallyhelp young girls reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
The best way to introduce children into strength training is to help themto master their own body weight with body weight exercises. Once theyhave a good basis of strength, you can move into teaching them weighttraining exercises with resistance that reflects their strength level.
It’s All in the Genes
Hey, ladies, how many times have you heard (or said) this one: “Idon’t want to get too big and look like a man.” We each haveour own genetic make-up that dictates the amount of muscle we can naturallybuild on our body. The fact is, women produce less testosterone than men,limiting women’s ability to build muscle. But a better determinantof muscle growth in both sexes is muscle belly length and muscle bellydensity, both genetically passed attributes.
So, ladies, if you have the wonderful genetic gift of larger muscle bellies,chances are you will be able to notice more muscle growth with regularweight training. If you have average or lesser size muscle bellies, youmay have to work twice as hard to develop bigger muscles. Think of itthis way: building more muscle will help you to burn more calories. Workingand training those muscles will help improve your strength, regardlessof gender.
Targeting Problem Areas
There is no such thing as spot reduction when lifting weights. You cando hundreds of abdominal exercises until you are exhausted, but stillhave that layer of fat covering the newly developed six-pack underneath.In order to see that washboard, you must understand how the body losesexcess fat. The three things we can do to raise our metabolism are 1)eat more frequent nutritious meals, 2) build our muscles, and 3) moveour muscles. That means we all have some work to do before we can shedthose unwanted pounds.
Changing your lifestyle to a healthier, more fitness-oriented one thatincludes weight training is an efficient way to get rid of your love handles.Remember that your extremities will typically lose weight faster thanyour waist line. I use this analogy sometimes to help people understandthe misconception of spot reduction. Losing weight is like a bar of soap:the middle is the last thing to go.
Bigger, Stronger…and Slower?
Have you ever heard a coach say, “Don’t lift heavy weights;they’ll make you bulky and slow.” In truth, full range-of-motionweight-lifting exercises will actually improve both flexibility and strength,proving this statement incorrect.
Building more muscle through lifting heavy weights increases your abilityto generate force against the ground and gravity. More muscle fibers workingtogether will help you move your extremities and joints with greater efficiency.Performing explosive weight-lifting movement such as the Olympic lifts(Clean & Jerk, Snatch) will greatly improve your ability to produceforce and power by training your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which areresponsible for the ability to generate speed.
So take a deep breath now that you know you didn’t make yourselfany shorter by doing those bicep curls when you were young. Training withweights helps our bodies stay fit and strong at any age, leading to ahealthier lifestyle for everyone.
Russ Malloy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach with theNSCA and a USA Weightlifting Club Coach. He lives in Fairfield, Iowa.