Toss the teeny weights, please

Okay, it’s time to rant.  I just got back from the gym. I almost told a complete stranger she was wasting her time, but I bit my tongue and moved to a different area of the weight room so I wouldn’t have to watch her work out.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there is more than one approach to strength training.  But what I saw wasn’t an approach I’d advocate unless you’re in rehab after surgery or an injury.  What I saw was a woman, probably in her early 50’s, doing several different exercises for her upper body with little pink 3 pound weights.  EVERY exercise……….the same little 3 pound weights.  She did her program fluidly, and might I say, effortlessly. Kinda like the weight wasn’t really hard to lift at all.  Hmmmmmmmmm.
First let me state I’m not worried about the color of her weights.  Hey, I like pink. I’m worried about the miniscule resistance she was using, not to mention that she used the same weights for a chest exercise and a triceps exercise.  I’m also bothered that the routine looked effortless for her (which is why I doubt she was rehabbing a joint or muscle group). 
One major tenet in strength training is that we must overload the muscle in order for it to adapt and become stronger.  Simply put:  If your muscle isn’t getting pooped out towards the end of your last set, you need to increase the weight you’re using.   Larger muscle groups (like the chest) will usually require more weight to become fatigued than a smaller muscle group (like the triceps).
This isn’t to say that every workout has to be a “beat me, whip me” workout.  But, if you  don’t progressively overload the muscle, it will cease to adapt.  Although a very light weight might be appropriate for a person working on joint stability or injury rehab, it’s not appropriate for muscle development if it doesn’t fatigue the muscle.  Unless we give a muscle a little more than it can currently  handle, it has no reason to adapt and become stronger.
I have a sneaking suspicion that if I had struck up a conversation with this woman at the gym and asked her why she was using the little pink weights, she might have said something about not wanting to become “too muscular”, or that women in her age bracket shouldn’t lift weights that are heavy.  I say hogwash to both of those reasons.  Women in general don’t have enough testosterone in their body to become muscle bound, and I believe women over 50 should absolutely lift weights to ward off osteoporosis and a slowing metabolism.  I truly believe that strength training for women over 50 is the hidden secret to a more youthful appearance and more graceful aging.
Gosh, I’m so riled up, I almost feel like I should go back to the gym to see if that lady is still there!
In any case, the lesson for today is for all my female readers:
Use your time in the gym well:  Lift weights that fatigue your muscles.  Use heavier weights for larger muscle groups.  Wear pink, but don’t lift it if it’s tiny!
Yours in health,