Women, CrossFit and Myths

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I was searching my tried and true CrossFit blog?to get inspiration for my workout today, and ran across this article they had reposted from CrossFit Oakland. Genius. I couldn’t help but repost myself to help set the record straight on a few things, including women crossfitting, how to get the beach bod we’ve always dreamed of, and the effects of good old hard work!

Bladium Sports & Fitness Club - Denver - https://heidipowell.net/3639
Image credit: Bladium Sports & Fitness Club

Women, CrossFit, and Myths

As I was pondering what to write for today?s post I noticed an article posted to FaceBook by D-Pain (aka Dana). It is titled ?LIES IN THE GYM?. It shows us that one does not have to go far in the average gym (obviously not a CrossFit Gym) to find someone willing to hand out bad information. This article outlines many of the myths that women are hearing about fitness and strength training.

Let me summarize several of the myths this article touches on.

  1. Weight training will make you huge and masculine.
  2. Men train. Women tone.
  3. There is a difference between toning, sculpting and firming.
  4. Women should stick to machines and stay away from free weights.
  5. Women shouldn?t work on their leg and butt muscles, otherwise they?ll get to big.
  6. Weight training turns fat into muscle.
  7. Women should only lift light weights to not get ?bulky?.

To quote a famous fitness author, ?Women are not a special population. They are half the population. ?

In an article written by Mark Rippetoe he points out that women DO respond to heavy physical stress (i.e. lifting heavy shit) differently than men. However, women get the best results when they train for performance (the whole premise of CrossFit and what we do), because even though there are differences between men?s and women?s response to training, there is no difference in the quality of the exercise needed to produce the stress that causes our bodies to change. The different responses men and women see in training are not the ones that the industry, media and popular culture have presented as fact. This unfortunately has had a detrimental effect on women?s training.

The answer to our questions on how to get there are right in front of us. The results, in terms of both performance and aesthetics, admired by the vast majority of women, continue to be routinely produced by advanced athletic programs. Which then amazes me how ?body-sculpting sessions or low intensity machine based circuit programs were the approach sold to the public. But then again, ?easier? is easier to sell.?The fact is that aesthetics are best obtained from training for performance.

It becomes very simple, if you want to look like a lean athlete (the standard most active women strive to emulate) you have to train like an athlete, and the unfortunate part is that most people lack the ?sand? for that. Despite this unfortunate truth (most truths seem to fall into this category), the fitness industry continues to see appearances first, as though it is independent of performance. Appearance cannot be trained for. Think about it: I know how to make your squat stronger, but how do you program Bun Blaster sets and reps for a tight ass? I may be able to double your pull-ups in a month, but I don?t know how to give your back that V-Shape everyone craves without increasing your pull-ups. Every single aspect of programming for resistance training that works at all does so because it increases some aspect of performance, and appearance is a side effect of performance.

Bladium Sports & Fitness Club - https://heidipowell.net/3639
Image credit: Bladium Sports & Fitness Club

Appearance is a side effect of performance.

Appearance can?t change unless performance does, and the performance changes are what we quantify and what we program. Your appearance when fit is almost entirely a function of your genetics, which are expressed at their best only when your training is at it?s highest level, and this level is only obtainable from a program based on an improvement in your performance in the gym. To top it off the best improvements in the gym occur when participating in a program that looks more like performance athletics (i.e. CrossFit) that one that looks like waving your arms or legs around on a machine.

More Unfortunate Truths:

  • Your muscles cannot get longer without some rather radical orthopedic surgery.
  • Muscles don?t get leaner ?.. you do!
  • There is no such thing as ?firming & toning?. There is only stronger and weaker.
  • The vast majority of women cannot get large, masculine muscles from weight training. If it were that easy, I would have them!
  • Women who do look like men have taken some rather drastic steps in that direction that have little to do with their exercise program.
  • Women who claim to be afraid to train hard because they ?always bulk up too much? are often already pretty bulky, or ?skinny fat? (thin but weak and de-conditioned) and have found another excise to continue life sitting on their butts.
  • Only people willing to work to the point of discomfort on a regular basis using effective means to produce that discomfort will actually look like they have been other-than-comfortable most of the time.

You can thank the muscle magazines for these persistent misconceptions, along with the natural tendency of all normal humans to see reasons to avoid hard physical exertion.

Republished with permission of?BladiumDenver.com.

10 Responses

  1. Hi Heidi, I wanted to ask how often do you Crossfit to maintain your figure? And how often would you recommend for the average women that is looking for a lean, strong figure (but not bulky, as you mentioned in this article)? Thank you

    1. Chris and Heidi recommend up to 60 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, and you can do whichever activities you like in those minutes. If you’re new to CrossFit, as with any new exercise program, start slowly so your body has time to adapt to something new.

  2. Thank you so much Heidi!! The last line really spoke to me. I’m the queen of excuses… I’m tired of feeling this way and ready to put in some real effort. I’m going to find a crossfit in my area.

  3. I have a busted ACL which should be repaired in the next year. My main exercise is walking and I have adapted some of your family’s cardio as to not stress my knee. But I would like to hire a personal trainer who knows about injuries. When I go to my local gyms, what do I need to ask (credentials) to be sure they really know their stuff and can make me work as hard as possible?

  4. So true! I love this one

    “Women who claim to be afraid to train hard because they ?always bulk up too much? are often already pretty bulky, or ?skinny fat?

    If women knew how empowering lifting heavy feels and how it changes your body faster than any other activity, every lady would be at the weight room!

  5. I am one of those that always believed to heavy of weight will bulk me up especially what I’m doing now. I have completely changed my diet and have been going strong since March. I feel healthier and stronger than ever…but..I’m still significantly over weight. Not extreme weightloss overweight but I have a good 60 lbs I still want to loose. I know I have to push beyond my comfort level but I’m struggling right now and by continuing to educate myself with the right information, I know I can reach my goals. Thanks for clearing up a lot of misconceptions I had!

  6. I do take a bit of exception to some of this advice. I played soccer and gymnastics my entire childhood. This type of training gave me exceptionally large quads and calves. Now granted, I love my muscular legs and they are my source of price to this day. And some women like myself are not blessed with the tiny frame genes that you have been given. I have wide shoulders and a wide rib cage. If I put on too much muscle, my upper body does tend to look masculine. However, don’t dare call me “skinny fat” just because I am afraid of bulking up too much. I run 30 miles a week, work a full time job and take care of 3 kids 3yo and under. Let it be said there is some level truth to be found in these “unfortunate truth”.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this, Heidi!! I try to tell people this everyday – and as I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve only improved my appearance. You are a killer inspiration!

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