Throughout history, women have shied away from strength training and weightlifting for fear of looking masculine, becoming injured, and a desire to fit in with societal norms of femininity. Luckily, more and more women have seen the benefits of strength training on their mental and physical health.
Let’s dive into the past that suppressed women from taking charge of their health, and why it’s so important for women to strength train as part of their wellness routine.
WOMEN’S HISTORY WITH STRENGTH TRAINING
Men have been strength training since ancient Greece, but women only adopted strength training competitions in 1978. Let’s take a look at the trends in exercise that led women to strength training.
1900’S – 1920’S WOMEN’S FITNESS TRENDS
The 1900’s through the 1920’s, was the rise in popularity of the infamous “no effort machines”. These were vibrational plates that were said to “tone” womens bodies, vibrating belts, and simply stretching.
Even more low effort was the wellness trend designed to “strengthen the lungs and respiratory muscles”. It was suggested that women yawn 6-8 times and swallow after each yawn.
Luckily, our activewear has come a long way as well. In the 1900s-1920s women wore their pearls, dresses, and heels to their low effort ‘workouts”.
1930’S – 1940’S WOMEN’S FITNESS TRENDS
At this time, women were moving into bodyweight exercises. A step in the right direction, but the motive was still off. During this time it was believed that you could spot reduce fat by exercising certain parts of the body, which we now know is not the case.
Sadly, men were usually the curators of these exercises, telling women how they could shape their bodies to be more desirable through exercise.
Cigarettes were also part of a healthy fitness plan at this time. Packs of cigarettes even came with workout cards so you could smoke and workout simultaneously, yikes their poor lungs.
1950’S – 1960’S WOMEN’S FITNESS TRENDS
The 1950’s began the rise of the ‘cardio bunny’. Working out for women was all about calisthenics. Hula hooping, stationary bikes, and rowers were all popular cardio machines at the time. This was the first time women were encouraged to sweat while exercising- yay progress!
Unfortunately we haven’t quite gotten away from the useless gadgets. Wooden rods, similar to a foam roller you would use today were advertised as being able to tone your muscles and help you lose weight.
Lucky for us, Spandex was invented in 1959 so gym attire was much more comfortable and sporty than the dresses and heels worn in the 1900’s.
1970’S – 1980’S WOMEN’S FITNESS TRENDS
Hello Jane Fonda. I think we all can picture the exercise crazes of the 70’s and 80’s, but did you know that jogging for exercise only became popular in the 70’s? It was extremely rare to see someone running in a park or on the sidewalks before then.
The popularity of aerobics classes, step classes, and jazzercise took off. Unfortunately so did the rise in unhealthy diets such as the grapefruit diet, where women would eat a grapefruit for every meal.
1990’S – 2000’S WOMEN’S FITNESS TRENDS
The women of the 1990s and 2000s were all about toned thighs and glutes. The ThighMaster was all the rage, but again promised fat loss from one spot of the body which is just impossible to target. Besides the rise of this gadget, fitness was beginning to diversify for women. All sorts of classes became available to women including yoga, spinning, aerobics, Zumba, Barre, Kickboxing, and even inline skating.
Dieting had not slowed down either– women were introduced to the liquid diet, and frozen delivery meals like Lean Cuisine and Atkins.
TODAY’S WOMEN’S FITNESS TRENDS
Fast forward to today, there has been a massive shift from skinny to strong. There are plenty of women, especially the generations that remember the “heroin chic” standards from the 80s and 90s, that still fear weight lifting, but overall there has been massive progress.
If you look around any large health club you will see a more balanced ratio of men to women.
SO WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT THAT WOMEN LIFT WEIGHTS?
The benefits of strength training for women go far beyond physical appearance and aesthetics. However, the look of “toned” and “lean” muscle that many women desire is actually a result of building muscle. Many women think the more they diet, or the more cardio they do, the more toned they will look.
However, adding muscle adds firm shape to the body, and boosts your metabolism, allowing you to consume more calories while maintaining or even losing weight.
Additionally, as women age they lose bone density which can lead to the condition of osteoporosis. By lifting weights women not only strengthen their muscles, but also their bones over time. This means when you’re older, you’ll be more physically fit to continue activities you love, live without assistance and play with your grandkids without pain.
Not to mention the sheer confidence and power that comes from strength training for women. According to The American Psychological Association, weightlifting reduces stress and improves your mental wellness.
BEFORE YOU GO…