Why Don't Women Want to be Strong?

feminism strength women

Women and Strength Training

Women need to redefine their own standard of beauty. I won't pretend that men aren't victims of the same media that says only one body type is ideal, but standards of male beauty at least allow for high levels of physical performance. For a woman, the ideal body type is definitely weak and this is a shame.

Plenty of women are exceptional endurance athletes, and a lot have gained impressive levels of flexibility and mobility. A tiny fraction of women are strong in any real sense of the word; very few place as much emphasis on strength as they do on endurance or flexibility. Perhaps they think it isn't as significant for their health. In reality, strength is probably more important than either cardiovascular health or flexibility. An aversion to resistance training and functional muscle mass means that women are increasing their risks for osteoporosis, postural problems, and injury in general. It also means they are purposefully making it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight, and cementing their physical vulnerability.

When I train woman interested in getting in shape, I always try to emphasize that they should get strong, and I'm always met with resistance. The idea of being strong is absolutely repulsive to some women, even though being stronger would help them achieve every single fitness goal they might have short of skeletal thinness.

Many women are so terrified of ending up like the models on muscle magazines that they are afraid to even touch a barbell. For many, this is the only female body type they associate with lifting heavy weights. However, gaining size like that is impossible without testosterone supplements and steroids. Even the less extreme examples of figure competitors perform with very low body-fat in order to make their muscles stand out more, and do not maintain that in their daily lives (because it is unhealthy and unsustainable). Most women simply don’t have enough testosterone to gain much size. If it were that easy to bulk up, every college athlete would have massive, rippling, vein-popping muscles.

The 'toned' look so many women covet is actually created by dense muscle, which is strong and is developed using high resistance training. Fat loss is easiest to achieve with additional muscle; since muscle is very metabolically active, more of it means more calories burned every minute of the day.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the impression that some women are not only against looking strong, they are against actually being strong, visibly or not. I can only attribute this to a misogynist notion that physically weak women are more desirable, more feminine.

Women who lift heavier weights and get strong will look strong. Not mannish, bulky, unwomanly, butch, burly, or hulking. Strong. It is a shame that this is considered a bad thing.

We need to come upon a new standard of feminine beauty that allows a woman to be strong and attractive.

Since the biggest aversion is to visible arm muscles, the simplest solution is to focus on exercise that relies on the hips, legs, and back, rather than the upper body. Luckily, these are also the largest muscle groups and the ones that contribute the most to functional health. Deciding to sacrifice strength instead is not a solution, because failure to develop muscle will only lead to health problems down the road.

The better solution would be to work on accepting your own, unique standard of beauty. Vitality and health should be a part of what it means to be beautiful, and a body that is strong and fit in all aspects will express vitality unique to itself. That is true beauty, though perhaps not by the standards of Cosmo or Vogue.

I’ve written a handbook to explain my take on exercise and the role I think it should play in our lives. I have seen too many people who find themselves at war with themselves over their own health. I have also become really fed up with the fitness industry misleading people to make a profit. I’d like to clear away some of the myths and the lies, and present a vision of health that does not involve self-destructive exercise or starvation. My goal is to explain the movement and diet aspects of health in a way that lets you make your own decisions. If anything in this article resonated with you, check out the book (it's free).

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