Gender double standards

Gender double standards

I have now finished all of my studying for my personal trainer certification, and I have my assessments booked for mid-March. So by the end of next month I should – finally – be a fully qualified PT!

One part of my studies I did not enjoy was the different approaches you supposedly must take when training women as opposed to men. The course stated that, assuming a woman is even willing to touch a weight, she will want to stick to high repetitions, bodyweight exercises and plyometrics. Even though they acknowledge that it is not the most beneficial way to train, the course recommends you just accept it and train women in that way.

No thanks. I don’t want to conform – I want to make others conform to my standards. Whoever you are, man or woman: I want you to find the heaviest object you can, lift it up, put it down again, and repeat as many times as possible.

I am sick of hearing that men should train one way, and women another. Women are expected to do yoga, zumba and use the elliptical (Note: I regularly do yoga myself, but it is a complement to my program, rather than the sole component).

While women are turning to the weights room more than ever before, their workouts are usually not of the highest quality. How often do you see a woman squatting, deadlifting or benching a max, completing unassisted pull-ups or dips, or training until she pukes? Apparently that’s not very ladylike.

Although I think high repetition work occasionally has its place in an endurance-based program, I would recommend eight or less repetitions nine times out of 10. If you want to be strong and appear defined, you have to push your body to its limits – and supersetting cutesy bicep curls with bodyweight lunges isn’t going to cut it.

Mainstream media often promotes the idea of ‘toning’ and lengthening your muscles through high-repetition activity. I could write a whole post on the incorrect use of the word ‘tone’, and it is physically impossible to ‘lengthen’ your muscles without breaking your bones apart!

It is very difficult to reach muscle failure with 20 repetitions. I can almost guarantee that you could use the weight you’re lifting 20 times for 30, 40 or even 50 repetitions. Clearly that is not enough resistance to cause the muscle to change.

One figure competitor I have previously mentioned recently made a comment that made me die a little inside. I won’t reveal who it was as I’m hoping she will one day redeem herself, but she said that women should only train their legs by doing sprints mixed with occasional workouts, keeping the repetition range above 20.

Ugh. Not only will 20 squats not give you as beneficial results as doing six to eight heavier reps, it’s boring as anything! She was implying that slapping some decent plates on a bar will make you bulky. Do I really need to say it? Ladies will not get bulky without the help of some ‘special’ supplements.

This morning I was doing chest presses with 18 kilogram dumbbells (woohoo!) and a girl working out next to me commented that I was really strong. I gently suggested that she should try picking up a heavier weight for some of her exercises, seeing as she was doing a circuit of lunges, shoulder raises and single arm rows with the same set of two kilo dumbbells. She screwed her face up and said she didn’t want to get bulky. Hello?!

I’m hardly bulky!

90 per cent of the time I train as heavy as I can. The only time I ever go beyond 12 reps is during a warm-up set, or doing a deload week. I rarely do plyometrics, and the only bodyweight exercises I do are push-ups.

Assuming that you will get bulky from lifting a decent amount of weight is a slap in the face to those of us who are purposely trying to gain muscle. Do you know how many years of hard training and eating like a horse it takes to get a body that looks like thIs?

I understand that not everyone will idealise the same body type as I do. For example, when my friend Steff was here on holiday I happened to watch the video below. Steff exclaimed with a crinkled face, “Oh my god, she’s so muscular”.


I know I’ve been watching too many videos of Ronnie Coleman when I responded, “really?” Ha! It’s funny how two people can have vastly different perceptions. Erin Stern has my ideal body but, I definitely did not always think that way.

When I first started weight training, I spent the first 18 months doing bodyweight circuits and using light weights. All my sets were 15-20 reps, and I only owned two sets of dumbbells: 2 kgs and 5 kgs. Do you know how much change I saw in my body? Zero. I was following workout routines from female fitness magazines five days a week, and running every single day, and my body did not change one bit. In fact, I actually gained more body fat!

When I stopped doing cardio and focused on lifting as heavy as I possibly could during each workout is when I saw the greatest changes in my body. Even now, my body changes with each month that goes by. I like knowing that I’m inching closer and closer to my husband on certain leg exercises and I like knowing that I have always tried my hardest, even if sometimes I can’t physically get the weight up. I would never go back to being that girl who wastes time lifting the baby weights.

PS. This is my 100th blog post – I can’t believe it! Thank you all for reading and following, and I hope I can come up with another 100 decent posts.

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