There’s a certain fear associated with the weight room. With a large group of Hulk-sized men congregating for the common goal of bulking up, women feel intimidated. When all you want are toned, lean muscles, the yoga studio or treadmills down the hall may seem like the better option. On the contrary, any good trainer will tell you that women do belong in the weight room. For a toned physique like Cameron Diaz’s, weight training must be a integral part of your fitness routine. We caught up with Cameron’s trainer, Teddy Bass (he also works with Jennifer Lopez, so he knows what he’s doing), on how to face your weight training fears once and for all.
While a man may steal an occasional glance (men love a woman in spandex shorts), don’t get too full of yourself. The frat boy congregation of men are only concerned with whether they should bench 100 pounds or bring it up to 105. There’s no judgement. “A woman’s workout is completely different from a man’s,” says Bass. “You can only be intimidated when you are comparing yourself to someone else, which is why I always recommend having a plan prior to getting to the gym, otherwise everything you see will be a distraction. Stay focused on your own goal. Generally a male and a female’s workout can have similar techniques, however, overall are completely different and approach the body differently.”
Weight machines are confusing and so are their illustrated instructions. Instead of faking knowledge, which can and will result in an injury, or avoiding them altogether, ask for help. “My recommendation is to locate the personal training manager. Most gyms offer personal training sessions with membership. If not, it’s in your best interest to consider a session or two to better educate and familiarize yourself with the gym and equipment.”
Fear of Bulking Up
“In most cases it is not physically possible to bulk up ‘Hulk style’ unless you are supplementing,” says Bass. “Women’s estrogen levels do not allow for such bulking of the body.” Don’t be afraid to go heavier, too. Many women believe that lifting lighter weights with more reps will tone instead of bulk. In fact, neither light nor heavy weights will bulk you up, but you will get a lean and toned physique faster by lifting heavier.
To women who’d rather spend the little time they have doing strictly cardio, Bass replies with, “Proven studies have shown that weight-bearing exercises burn as much calories as cardiovascular exercise.” Studies have also shown that weight training boosts the metabolism even hours after working out. The key, he says, is to focus on intensity and commitment.
In terms of keeping a smart balance between cardio and weight training, Bass offers simple guidelines. He suggests doing 30 minutes of cardio (whether it’s running or the elliptical machine) at one time or doing five-minute spouts during your workout. And as for weight lifting workouts, you should be doing them between three to five times a week. Bass adds, “You can add five to 10 pound weights into every exercise.”
Read more: Myth vs. Reality: Your Fitness Routine