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strength training risk versus reward episode 351 fuel your strength podcast

Strength Training Risk vs Benefit

So often, women who want to get stronger or start lifting weights are told to ‘be careful’ and make sure they don’t hurt themselves. While there is always an inherent risk when engaging with any activity, the benefits far outweigh the risk when it comes to strength training.

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Key Takeaways

If you are ready to stop letting society tell you what activity is acceptable for women:

  1. Educate yourself and others on the amazing benefits of strength training
  2. Stop listening to the haters and stand confident in your bodies ability
  3. Use strength training as a way to get better at your chosen activity

Why Unsolicited Advice Isn’t Useful

Thinking that strength training is ‘scary’ or ‘dangerous’ is unfairly reinforced by society. The unsolicited opinions and advice that women receive are just one of the multiple barriers women face when starting a strength training practice. 

Strength training does not have to be the scary activity that we have been told it is. Instead, it can be a way to improve at your chosen activity, level up your overall health, and give you the confidence you have been searching for.

The Benefits of Strength Training

While the system is set up to perpetuate this idea of women getting hurt when they try and get stronger, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Strength training helps you avoid injury, prevent age-related muscle loss, improve bone density, and so much more. If you are an active person, strength training 2-3 times a week can help you excel in your chosen sport. Statistics show that weight training sports have relatively low injury compared to common team sports and can actually help prevent injury. 

If you are looking for validation that you don’t have to be afraid of strength training, this is the episode for you.

Are you ready to stop letting society tell you what sports are ‘safe’ or acceptable for women? Share what you love most about strength training with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • Addressing some of the warnings you may hear about lifting weights (4:15)
  • Why women are discouraged from picking up weights or doing muscle-strengthening activities (8:41)
  • Why you should work closely with someone to learn how to use equipment in the gym correctly (12:30)
  • How weight training sports compare to common team sports when it comes to the risk of injury (17:07)
  • How strength training helped me improve at my chosen activity (20:24)


“Every time I talk about this, women share their stories over and over and over again about people who chime in with their unsolicited advice and warnings.” (3:20)

“There will always be an inherent risk. However, the benefits far outweigh the risk of lifting weights.” (10:21)

“I think what’s particularly challenging for me in this scenario, and other women who have been warned off of lifting weights is that a lot of adults participate in team sports, whether it is intramural or interleague or whatever it is… where people get hurt all the time.” (15:38)

“The interesting thing here is when we are talking about strength training as a means to help prevent injury in other sports, rarely does it get the spotlight that it deserves.” (18:51)

“When we consider the benefits, the benefits are far, far outweighed by the potential costs.” (26:27)

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Related Episodes

LTYB 331: Strength Training & Your Relationship To Exercise

LTYB 340: Are You Lifting Heavy Enough (and Other Common Strength Training Questions)

Strength Training Risk vs Reward  FULL TRANSCRIPT

Steph Gaudreau

Be careful, don’t hurt yourself. This is the unsolicited advice echoed over and over again around the world to women who express even the slightest interest in getting stronger. In this episode, I’m digging into some statistics, and also some important points to consider in the cost-benefit analysis that you might want to run when thinking about lifting weights. Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here. This is Episode 351. And we are going to be digging into a topic that is a bit ranty. For me, and it is this notion that when women express an interest in getting stronger or lifting weights, one of the most common things that people say to shut us down is be careful, don’t get hurt. There is so much wrong with this statement. And I’m going to be digging through this today on this episode, so it could get a little fiery, we always have an explicit rating on this show. But if you have sensitive ears, listening, make sure you pop those earbuds in Now, before we dig into the show. Remember, if you are ready to get your nutrition sorted when it comes to getting stronger, you’re lifting weights, you’re putting in the effort in the gym, you’re challenging your body, but something about your nutrition is not on point, then I really want you to jump on the waitlist. For my group coaching program. Strength nutrition unlocked is going to be coming back again in the fall. And we’re going to open doors to the waitlist first. So you can go ahead and put your name on the waitlist To find out more about the program when it opens in the fall.

And you can do that at StephGaudreau.com/link. Whenever I bring this topic up, especially on my Instagram, and I’ve made many reels videos about the things that people say to women when we express that we’re lifting weights, or we want to get stronger, or we’re ready to start welcoming strength training into our lives. And every time I do that, I get two or three reactions. The first reaction is of women saying Fuck yes, can. This is so annoying. And it happens to me all the time. So for example, on my latest reel about this topic, the wild unschoolers said, Yep, I’ve heard this one many times. grit goes global said I was a nurse and women’s health care to these people even understand anything about women’s bodies. Clearly not hashtag osteoporosis prevention, hashtag osteoporosis treatment. And quantity said, I just had this yesterday from a guy I’m talking to, quote, stop the gym now, especially at 35. You should be doing gentle exercise like walking. That’s all you need. I mean, so every time I talk about this, women share their stories over and over and over again about people who chime in with their unsolicited advice and warnings. The other response that I get is from people who are taken aback a bit and say, gosh, I’ve never had anybody say that to me. And the third response is sometimes from men, frankly, who are brave enough to say,

Oh, well, that doesn’t really happen, does it? It always boggles my brain. And this topic really is central to a lot of the work that I do, because I know that the warnings that I heard by going out in the world and kind of reading things and in magazines and stuff like that. I mean, we’re talking about I’ve been strength training now for 11 years. But I had that notion as well that I couldn’t be strong, and that there was something inherently dangerous about lifting weights. Now, mind you at the time, I was doing a ton of endurance sports, endurance work, mountain biking, I was doing triathlons. I had been running half marathons and marathons. So it was no stranger to physical activity. But there was something about strength training that was super scary to me. And I know that that was reinforced by a lot of the things that I heard in the world. Here, okay, before I start picking bones because I have a lot of bones to pick on this topic. Here’s the thing. I have never in my life heard someone make the same warning to a man. Now. I’m sure it’s happened, but I have never experienced that. I’ve never had anyone share a story with me? Nothing of, Hey, you know what if we want to be fair and warn everybody, that’s one thing. But this is almost exclusively said to women. And the other piece about this that really irritates me is that women already have enough barriers to beginning a strength training practice, without everyone giving their unsolicited opinions, and there is so much here to potentially deconstruct so many layers about representation, who sees themselves in strength training environments, access, safety and feeling safe in a particular strength training environment. I mean, there are so many layers, so many barriers that women specifically experience when they think you know what, I’m curious about this. But there’s a lot that’s holding me back.

And I’m really clear here to not blame women in general. For this, we are the ones who are struggling with this idea. And there are a lot of ways that systems are set up to continue to perpetuate this stuff. And a lot of it is super sexist. So there’s that. But if we take zoom out for a second, let’s think about this. First and foremost, when you look at the statistics about the percentage of adults, aged 18 and over who are meeting the physical activity guidelines for movement, according to the CDC, and the w h o. Well, this data comes from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey. So this is based on the US. The number of adults who are meeting the aerobic Physical Activity Guidelines is a hair over 53%. Now, those physical activity guidelines are 150 minutes of low to moderate intensity, cardiovascular activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular activity. So a little over half of the adults are meeting that guideline. However, when we look at the statistics about the number of adults who are meeting, both the aerobic slash cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening activity guidelines, which is to strength training, or to muscle-strengthening activities a week, that number falls to 23.2%. So not even a quarter. According to this data from 2018. Adults are actually meeting both activity guidelines. And when you look at the data separated out by sex, and there are only two options here presented in this particular data set is male and female. But when you look at the data about women or females, it is showing that we are scoring lower here than males. So overall, the total is about 23%. However, men or males represent a higher percentage that is actually meeting the guidelines when you separate it out by sex. Under 20% of women are meeting this guideline for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.

So why in the flying fuck are we telling women to be careful that they should not train that they shouldn’t lift weights that they should only lift five pounds when clearly, this is a huge need in terms of meeting the guidelines, but also because of all the benefits that strength training brings to us in terms of health and well being. So why are we discouraging women from picking up weights or doing muscle-strengthening activities? In the freaking first place? That’s one of my beefs. When you look at Okay, so the question then becomes, well, isn’t all physical activity inherently risky? Yes, of course, there is a risk to any kind of physical activity, whether that’s a nonexercise physical activity that’s engaging in purposeful exercise, a training plan, whatever you happen to call it when we move there is an inherent risk that comes along with moving. And I think what we mess up is when we’re thinking about this is that first of all, considering risk mitigation, when we’re talking about lifting weights is just smart. And there are so many things that go into it, which I’ll talk about in a second. But I think that when we’re considering strength training, especially as women, we have to come to terms or to grow With that there is a risk. And that if we’re smart about it, and we’re doing our due diligence, and we’re not being an egomaniac, and in my opinion, ego is one of the most dangerous things in a gym, there will always be an inherent risk. However, the benefits far outweigh the risk of lifting weights. So no, we can’t stick our heads in the sand and pretend that there is no chance of getting hurt. I mean, I could climb on the stepladder in my kitchen and fall off and hurt myself as well. I could step off of a curb and pop my Achilles, there are so many different ways that we get hurt as human beings in day-to-day life, not to mention all sorts of other activities that we participate in that carry a risk.

And yet, women are dissuaded from lifting. Because we could get hurt. And people literally tell us, be careful, don’t get hurt, I think when it comes to thinking about how you can mitigate some of that risk, if you have the means to do this, lifting, learning lifting from someone who can assess your current movement patterns, your strengths, your areas of weakness, or of potential development, someone who knows your goals, someone who can provide a progressively overloaded strength program, with your unique situation in mind, at least at the beginning, for the first few months. If you can eke that out, and work one on one or in a small group, with a trainer or a coach, that’s going to give you a lot of education in terms of understanding how to do things like properly warming up, what is mobility? And how do we work that into our training? How to Yes, progressively overload our lifting. Recently, I heard from someone on social media, and they were saying that they were doing the same exact exercise five times a week, which is not generally going to be a smart thing long term. So when I asked you who’s doing your programming, the answer was I’m doing it for myself. So I would encourage you, at least at the beginning, if you can work closely with someone who can really help you understand, how do you use equipment in the gym correctly? For example, how do you lap the dumbbells that you’re going to use to do an incline bench press? How do you safely load and unload a bar? We take these things for granted. But when I was doing my Olympic lifting, coaching, training, as well as working with my mentor, coach, the biggest thing that we always talked about was safety.

Safety comes first. And that comes from, you know, being smart in your environment, not leaving your fucking weights around so people can trip over them, all sorts of things like that. But yes, do your due diligence. And if you can work with someone on it, please do. Because you’re going to learn a lot about your unique body. Of course, tons of people put out free information online, it doesn’t always apply to your unique situation. So now digging into some of the other statistics that I was able to find a 2019 National Safety Council report that looked at the number of injuries that were reported to emergency departments. And here are the top 10 categories, the top 10 categories. The first is exercise, with or without exercise equipment. I’m not 100% sure what that means. And I failed to be able to find more detail on that in my search. I’m sure it’s out there. I just wasn’t able to find it. Does that mean weights? Does it mean weight machines? Does it mean treadmills or stair steppers? I don’t really know. But what’s really telling is what falls next on the next two things on the list. So 468,000 were in that category. bicycles and related bicycling equipment was 417,000 and then basketball 403,000. So what we’re not what I’m not trying to say here is that again, lifting weights is not without risk or potential for injury, but that there are other sports that people participate in and play where we don’t have the same warning typically.

Now next on the list to round out the top 10 football playground equipment ATVs, mopeds, and minibikes swimming pools. soccer, baseball, softball, and skateboard So those were the top 10. I think what’s particularly challenging for me in this scenario, and other women who have been warned off of things like weight lifting or lifting weights is that a lot of adults participate in team sports, whether it’s intramural or intraleague or just for fun, or whatever it is, and there are tons of sports that people participate in, in pickup leagues and, and things of that nature, where people get hurt all the time. And we just do not hear. I just don’t ever hear, I don’t know, you can let me know it. Has anybody ever warned you about being careful? But if somebody says, Hey, I’m going to go to the park, and you know, play this sport with someone, so I can’t imagine that people are saying, Oh, you should be careful, you might get hurt. So maybe I’m wrong on that. But that’s just what I’ve seen in all of my years of strength training and as being a coach and being on the internet for the last 10 1112 years. And being in communities is that these are what these are the stories that people are telling me. I just don’t see the same outrage slash cautionary tales about other types of physical activity which carry a risk of their own.

So there’s that. If we go back a couple of years before that, we have a systematic review published in 2016, called the epidemiology of injuries across weight training sports. This is quite interesting because it digs into strength sports, and the risk for injury per lifter per year, and also the injuries per 1000 hours of training and competition. I’m not sure at what level they looked at here in terms of elite versus recreational for example. But here is what is said in strength sports, the overall risk for injury is one to two injuries per lifter per year. Injuries most often happen early during the training session, and later for the competition event. While the majority of the research we reviewed utilized retrospective designs, the weight training sports appear to have relatively low rates of injury compared with common team sports, future weight training, sports injury, epidemiology research needs to be improved. And so that’s kind of interesting in and of itself, again, that there is the risk of injury. However, compared with common team sports, it is relatively low, and then they broke it out based on the type of strength sport so bodybuilding was the lowest in terms of injuries per lifter per year. powerlifting was next strong man was after that, followed by Highland Games. Another interesting conclusion is that women had lower overall injury rates, lower acute and recurrent injury rates, and lower right lower rates of chest and thigh injuries, but higher rates of knee injuries than men. And when it came to weightlifting, that self-reported, injuries by athletes were tied to 60% said tiredness and fatigue. 31% said technical error. And 21% said excessive overload, I’m assuming that means of the weight itself. The interesting thing here is that when we’re talking about strength training, as a means to help prevent injury in other sports.

Rarely does it get the spotlight that it deserves! I think it’s more common in recent years for people participating in endurance type events, or more cardiovascular type sports to have the awareness and to receive the education that actually strength training makes you better at those sports, and helps prevent injuries in those other sports because you are strengthening your muscles in ways that you might not be doing it whilst training for your sport itself. And not to mention that in some very common sports, like cycling, or swimming, you’re not getting any impact. Of course, your mileage may vary there. But overall, we do need some kind of impact training so that our bones actually get stronger. So that’s kind of my little plug there to remember that if you’re participating in some kind of other sport, that strength training is a good idea for you. You really want to consider seriously strength training To help you improve at your sport and reduce your risk of either overuse, injury or otherwise, in the sport that you really love, do you have to turn into a weightlifter and only do weightlifting, of course not. But even again, two to three strength-training sessions a week are going to give you a huge benefit. I remember when I was training for a race called vision quest, here in Southern California. And the first time I did it, I did not do any strength training, I was very worried about my weight. And always trying to get smaller via diet, and of course, lots and lots and lots and lots of exercises. And I was concerned that if I lifted weights, I would just become much heavier, and that would make me slower on the bike.

Fast forward a few years later, I had been doing CrossFit for, I want to say about six months. At that point, when I started training for this race, and I was gonna do it again. And I changed up my training, I started doing more intervals and Tabata and things like that with my cardio training, of course, on the bike, but it also was lifting weights. And when I went in did the race again, three years later, the only significant difference in my training was probably less long, slow distance riding. So there was that. But I had started lifting weights and lifting weights a few times a week, I cut at least an hour off my time, right around there. Same exact course, that I had done three years prior. Because it wasn’t a controlled experiment. It’s hard to say exactly whether strength training was the definitive thing that helped me improve my time by over an hour over an eight or nine-hour race, just to give you some context. It’s a very long race. And at the end of the day, though, it was the biggest thing that I had changed in my training was getting stronger. So if you’re a runner, you do Brazilian jujitsu, so all my fellow Jitsu players out there, whatever you’re doing triathlons, if you are into team sports, you need to seriously consider lifting weights at least twice a week, if not three, you’ll be a better athlete at your sport because of it. And then, of course, when it comes to understanding the needs of our bodies as we get older, and particularly for women, when it comes to bone mineral density, it is extremely important that we are building stronger bodies as a smart investment against potential future issues, like the age-related muscle loss that we all experience, once we hit roughly age 30, we’re going to start losing muscle unless we do something to actively prevent that.

And that’s strengthening our muscles by resistance training, ie, lifting weights. We have also the tendency to lose bone mineral density unless we are doing the training that’s going to help to prevent that bone loss. And you heard the quote from earlier at the top of the show that I read off from Instagram from the nurse who talked about osteoporosis, about understanding that lifting weights helps to prevent bone loss. And there was a recent study that came out that showed not just to stall bone loss but to actually rebuild to remineralize bone.

So could we potentially reverse bone mineral density loss? According to this recent study? Yes. And of course, as we age as well, we tend to have issues with things like balance, coordination, stability, falling, and these are really the things that I find most people want to talk about or think about. But a loss of independence, injury related to things like slips and falls and loss of balance and coordination, bone breaks, muscle loss, so the sarcopenia, the muscle loss itself, and then dynapenia, which is the loss of strength that accompany aging. We can do a lot to mitigate that by being smart. And of course, it’s going to change as we get older and we need to make adaptations to our training. But lifting weights goes such a long way. It goes such a long way. I hope that this episode has shown you that warning women off of strength training is misguided. And I don’t think that anyone who listens to this show has that attitude. But if you are someone who has been on the receiving end of this, quote-unquote, advice, or you’ve been you yourself intimidated or scared or fearful of lifting weights, because someone or some people in your life have told you over and over again, to be careful to not get hurt, that it’s not a place for a woman, that we should only be lifting very lightweights when in reality, if your child caring, if you’re doing things around the house, etc, you’re probably lifting far more than five pounds as it is. I hope that it’s given you some validation.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this really crappy advice, that a, you have a lot of benefit waiting for you. That be of course, yes, there is a risk to it. And I’ve given you some ideas for hopefully mitigating some of that risk. And that three, when we consider the benefits, the benefits are far outweighed by the potential costs. Now, if you listen to this episode, and you’re ready to lift, you’re like, Yes, I want to do this, then I can help with that. Go to my website, StephGaudreau.com. And look at the strength training options that I have for you. That’s one number two kind of has the lifting part down, but you’re sensing that your nutrition needs some support, and you’re ready to work with someone who can help you make sense of things. So that you’re fueling yourself for getting stronger, you’re building muscle, you have more energy, and you’re performing better in and out of the gym. But you also don’t want to have to micromanage your food, then get on the waiting list for my group coaching program. It’s going to be opening again in the fall. You can do that at StephGaudreau.com/link. Of course, we have show notes for this episode. Also on my website, if you want a full transcript, go check it out there. And if you liked this podcast episode, please share it out on Instagram stories. tag me so I can see it. And push the subscribe button on your podcast app. It goes a long way to send a signal to your podcast app that says hey, this show is worth listening to. Maybe you want to make it visible or more seen by other people. And thanks so much for joining me on this episode today. Have an amazing week. Stay strong and we’ll talk soon.

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Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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