Weight Training Myths and Realities

Strength training brings wide-ranging benefits without bulking you up.

You lift, you get swoll?

Not necessarily.

Building muscle strength is good for you in lots of different ways. It protects your bones, increases energy, and helps you lose weight. It even has been shown to sharpen thinking skills. (How’s that for brains and brawn?)

But lifting weights doesn’t mean you have to end up as big as The Rock. Unless you’re putting in massive gym time with lots of weight and lots of exercises, strength training helps burn fat and fights flab and sag, without bulking up.

Especially for women, says Brock Christopher, a performance manager with the UHealth Human Performance powered by EXOS program at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center.

That’s one of the myths and misconceptions about weight training “I hear time and time again,” he says.

Guys get bulky and big because we have 20 times more testosterone than women, on average,” he says. “Unless you’re very specifically targeting strength and you’re really hitting it hard and overloading, or unless maybe you’re taking some kind of supplement or stuff, females are going to get a toning effect. They’re not going to get that big, bulky thing that they’re afraid that they’re going to get.”

What they will get is a bone-building boost that helps fight osteoporosis and a metabolism boost that helps burn fat without losing that good – and good-looking – lean muscle.

Some other false notions:


Cardio should be part of your workout. But weights keep the fat burn going long after you leave the gym, in ways lengthy sessions on the treadmill or stationary bike won’t.

“It takes your body more energy to upkeep lean muscle mass,” says Christopher. “So, when you have more muscle mass your body has to work harder on a daily basis, and it expends more energy.”


Sorry. No. The body works as a whole. Doing sit-ups and crunches all day long won’t target belly fat. You’ll get that six-pack faster with a full-body weight program, some cardio, and – this is the part where most fail – by seriously watching what you eat.

“How you eat is going to have a huge effect on how you look,” says Christopher. “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”


Weight training takes less gym time than you think.

“In order to maintain strength, you only need to train about twice a week for about 60 minutes,” says Christopher.

(There goes that excuse.)


Actually, just the opposite. Your body needs a break between workouts.

“Any good weight lifting program must include proper rest and recovery,” says Dr. Clifton Page, a sports medicine specialist at the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute. “Muscles need time to recover from increased workloads and volume to have increases in strength and power. To avoid injury, one must have adequate sleep, hydration, and proper nutrition. These things will help prevent injury and improve sports performance.”


Even the Centers for Disease Control says that’s not so. It recommends strength conditioning for seniors as “one of the best ways to fight the weakness and frailty that can come with age … and helps to preserve strength, independence, and energy.”

It even helps with arthritis by lubricating joints and controlling swelling and pain.

So, if you want some good all-around benefits from your gym time, make weights part of your workout.