Ladies, don't let a little weight (lifting) scare you

Posted: July 17, 2014

FOR YEARS, I have encouraged ordinary women to embrace weight training and its many benefits. Yet, most women still tend to avoid weight-bearing exercises, fearing that their muscles will expand to Amazonian proportions.

Nothing could be further from the truth. But there are many misconceptions about women's bodybuilding, a subject recently explored on HBO's show "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."

This segment pulled back the curtain for a rare, in-depth glimpse into the shocking and secretive world of professional women's bodybuilding. Ironically, by revealing the extreme ends women go to to obtain a massive, cut physique, the show also proves that a simple weightlifting regimen won't have you looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger at his Mr. Universe prime.

While I'm pretty knowledgeable about the sport, I was shocked to discover that these female athletes who work so hard, sacrifice so much, receive so little in return.

Professional female bodybuilding is a full-time job. On average, a professional female bodybuilder works out four hours a day, six days a week. She has a severely restricted diet and must eat every two to three hours.

And, if she wants to compete in the big leagues, she must take tons of anabolic steroids.

These women also invest heavily in cosmetic procedures - Botox, electrolysis, breast implants, facial cosmetic surgery, tanning, makeup and more.

You would think that with all this investment and sacrifice, these women would be breaking the bank, right? Shockingly, the answer is no.

Prizewinnings for professional female bodybuilders are measly compared to their male counterparts. Ms. Olympia, the most coveted title in women's bodybuilding, comes with a $60,000 purse. Mr. Olympia earns a whopping $600,000.

That's where "Real Sports" got a little unreal. Even as promoters, advertisers and supplement companies rake in the big bucks, pro female bodybuilders are forced to make money from "muscle worshippers," men who fetishize overly muscular women. Men pay to touch these women, wrestle with them - and more.

None of this, though, should have ordinary women shying away from the iron. You want to firm up, not bulk up. To jump-start your efforts, here are seven inspirational reasons why you'll want to embrace the weights:

1. Strength training helps to reduce body fat and increase lean tissue (muscle).

2. It develops positive adaptations in bone, muscle, cartilage, ligaments and tendons.

3. You won't develop unnaturally large muscles.

4. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, so if you have more muscle tissue, you will burn more calories even while at rest.

5. Muscle adds beautiful shape and curves where you want them.

6. Strength training may help you retain or regain a more girlish figure.

7. It will renew your confidence, help control depression and improve your sleep.

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