By: Hana Burkly
Photos by: Jessica Li
The female form has always held a certain mystique. From corsets to padded bras and the like, the true form of the female body is often exaggerated or understated, depending on the trends of the times.
But what exactly is female beauty?
With the increasing popularity of girl-power movements and female athletes as role models, today’s society puts major emphasis on woman being self-sufficient, and this is reflected in the latest image of the powerful woman: muscular, toned, able-bodied. The idea of different body types each having their own unique beauty is also becoming more widely accepted, with various companies such as Dove and Aerie opting to promote “real” beauty as opposed to an unachievable ideal.
Regardless of the progress being made, however, some expectations still exist. Plastic surgery and Photoshop have done their part to add a level of unattainability to the attempt to achieve idealized female beauty. A heavy stigma still remains around the idea of women looking “manly” and losing all of their curves – as a result, you might notice fewer women than men lifting weights, with your colleagues in Yates as a perfect Exhibit A.
But here’s the reality: lifting does not automatically make a woman bulk up. We as females don’t have the same natural levels of testosterone that the average male does, and thus our muscles do not respond to weight training in the same way.
There are three things that play into the shape of your body, and I’m listing them here in order of importance: Genetics. Diet. Exercise habits.
With this perspective, keep in mind that lifting does not change the basic shape of your body; it simply enhances what you’ve already got. If you’ve got broad shoulders, doing a bunch of shoulder presses and shrugs will likely make your shoulders more prominent. If you’ve got large thighs, the shape of the muscle under your skin will become more pronounced with continuous squats and lunges.
As mentioned, diet also plays an important role. Eating a diet that is right for your body type and activity level is important for good health. I use the term “diet” here loosely, to simply mean the types of food that a person typically consumes. Remember – no two bodies function the same way, so no one diet will work for everyone.
The bottom line when it comes to your body is this: you may be able to trim down overall body fat by eating healthier and doing cardio or strength training, but you cannot change the genetics with which you were born.
So embrace your body!
See what it can do for you. How powerful can you become?
Are you ready to try weight training to see what it can do for your body?
Before you jump in, here are a few common misconceptions to clear up:
“Lifting is okay, but if I add heavier weights then I’ll get big.”
Lifting heavy does not make you bigger than lifting light. Actually, the reverse can even be true. High reps with low weight is shown to increase muscle size more than low reps with high weight. This is because with high reps, more tears accumulate in the muscle tissue, and each tear, when it heals, makes the muscle a little larger. When lifting heavy, only a few large tears occur in strategic locations on your muscle, and when those heal up, there isn’t much difference in size but your strength is increased because those specific muscles have become reinforced.
“Lifting results in injuries.”
Again, if done properly, the reverse is true. Lifting can prevent injuries by increasing the strength of the body overall. Recent studies have shown that simple exercises that strengthen the muscles used to sit and stand (i.e., squats) are the key determinant in how self-sufficient a person will be functionally when he or she is old.
“Lifting doesn’t burn that many calories.”
Try sprinting up a flight of stairs. Now, try walking up with a backpack on. Which will tire you out more? It’s the same principle with lifting. You’re adding weight so that when you go about your everyday tasks, all of a sudden everything becomes easier. You find that you don’t become out of breath performing tasks that would before seem impossible, like carrying a heavy box full of Amazon.com goodies up six flights of stairs to your dorm. According to Miriam Nelson, author of “Strong Women Stay Slim” and director of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Tufts University, the ideal exercise routine relies on “a combination of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise and moderate-intensity strength training”. In the long run, more muscle means a higher metabolic rate. Thus, by lifting, you are increasing the calories burned when you are not at the gym.
Keep an eye out for an article coming out soon that will demonstrate proper weightlifting technique using the equipment at Yates!