Five Common Lifting Problems for Women
More and more women are ditching the comfort of their yoga and aerobics classes to lift and this is a wonderful thing. Being strong helps you retain your independence for life.
It is especially useful later on, when menopause strikes and bone density begins to decline. Muscles are empowering, sexy, and imperative to staying vital as we age.
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But, as with everything that is rewarding, there are often obstacles. Women, in particular, are still often unsure about the weight room, and too much resistance can cause some to run back to the safety of their aerobics machines.
Here are five common problems women face that might deter them. The good news is, all of these things can be fixed.
5 Common Lifting Problems That Women Face
#1 - Undereating
Undereating is probably the most prevalent problem within the female fitness community, where the emphasis is always on getting smaller and leaner. Women are always trying to lose weight and take up less space, so they often set their diet app at a very low-calorie daily intake.
Not only that, but they often eschew meat and dairy and other forms of complete protein because of baseless health concerns. They may cut too much necessary fat from their diet as well, because they are afraid of calorie density and the ford “fat,” in general.
The problem with this is women are undernourished. Their energy reserves are lower. The ability to build muscle is stunted, their hormones may be imbalanced, and their bone density can suffer long before menopause.
Worst of all, once their bodies adjust to low-calorie diets, their weight will plateau and there will be nowhere to cut from, without putting their body in imminent danger. This is the dreaded “skinny-fat” cycle that many women find themselves stuck in.
If you have been undereating for a long time, a reverse-diet is in order, along with weight training. This may take a few months, or even a year, depending on how long you have been undereating. The key is to slowly add one hundred or so calories a day every week until you hit a solid baseline.
The calories should be from whole foods, especially protein if you are lacking, and vegetables, so your body recoups the nutrition it lost during the diet. You will gain weight back, but you will also become healthier and stronger.
If tracking your diet is confusing to you, employing a licensed dietician with reverse-diet experience is a good investment.
#2 - Knee Valgus
Knee valgus is a physical issue many women have because of our wider hip alignment. It can also be caused by stiff ankles, weak adductors (the outside muscles on your hip), tight adductors (your inner thigh muscles) or an underactive posterior chain.
Record your next squat session head-on. Do you notice either – or both – of your knees caving inward towards each other at all? That is knee valgus. Repeating this movement pattern over time can cause imbalances and arthritic knees and hips. It will also prevent you from being able to squat heavier weights and lifting to your fullest potential.
Instead of thinking squats may not be for you, the best thing to do is troubleshoot the problem and fix it. Check the flexion in your ankles, you may need lifting shoes. Check the strength in your abductors with banded side steps and one-legged box squats. Foam roll and stretch out your adductors. Add some Romanian deadlifts and hip thrusts or glute ham raises to shore up your posterior chain.
If those things do not work, it might be best to book a session with a physical therapist or a personal trainer to be properly assessed and given a protocol to remedy the situation.
#3 - Weak Push/Pull
Having a weaker upper body is something most of us are born with. Even many strong female powerlifters have a weak bench compared to their other lifts. Our power tends to come from our legs. There is only so much we can do with what we’ve got upstairs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t build a strong upper body.
Another issue is that women are not only afraid to do the lifts that intimidate them, but they are worried those lifts will make them big and bulky. This is not true. If anything, working your upper body will lean you out and fill in any areas where you might have sagging skin (think the back of your arms.)
I implore all women to do some push and pull days in between all the squats and lunges and booty blasts everyone is so much more comfortable with. In fact, I created a two-day program for just this purpose.
Soon enough you will be as comfortable at the bench as all the rest of the bros on International Chest Day.
#4 - Diastasis Recti
Many women who have been pregnant experience a weakening or a tear in their abdominal wall. This can range from mild to severe and cause problems anywhere from discomfort, all the way to a serious hernia.
The first step is to get a full exam from your doctor. If you have the condition, basic crunches and ab work might make it worse. You need to know what level the weakness or tear is at and whether traditional core exercises can to be employed or if you must do specialty physical therapy exercises first.
Once that is squared away and you are at a point where you are ready to strengthen your core, having a belt is a lifesaver. Don’t worry about the purists who get upset by wearing belts – you have an injury! You wouldn’t disregard a knee brace if you recently had knee surgery, would you?
Do your bodyweight exercises at an easy pace, and when you are ready to squat or deadlift, go ahead and belt up when you feel any abdominal fatigue or discomfort. Eventually, you will get stronger and need the beltless. Never feel silly for using it, no matter how light the weight.
#5 - Gym Intimidation
Feeling like you don’t “belong” in the weight room with all the guys swinging heavy dumbbells and barbells around is very common. Many times, when I’ve made conversation with other women in the free weight room, they have confessed they were glad I was there, too. Just seeing another woman gave them more confidence to take up space in a predominantly male environment.
Ladies, I want to remind you that you have every right to be in there lifting. It doesn’t matter that the men have more plates on the barbell – you have an equal claim to that bench and that squat rack. Everyone pays the same gym membership fee. Everyone is entitled to the same equipment.
So, get in there and do your thing. You are probably inspiring the other women at the gym to be strong, too. This is your health for life – don’t let any of these little roadblocks or insecurities keep you from becoming fit.