Have you ever just felt strong? Powerful? In control? It's an amazing feeling. And lately, it's been on the rise for women. The concept of being a strong woman — physically and mentally — has become increasingly popular, and for good reason.
Women's fitness has historically been centered around being thin. In the '90s, women did step aerobics with Jane Fonda. In the early 2000s, you could find women running endlessly or on any cardio machine in the gym. So many women were just trying to burn a massive number of calories to be thin. But lately, the number of women confined to cardio has decreased drastically. Instead, women are taking over the weight room.
It's no secret that weight training has incredible health benefits. From promoting weight loss to improving mental health, weightlifting can drastically improve your quality of life. So why has it taken so long for women to start lifting weights? According to the United Kingdom's Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, in 2011 only 0.9 percent of women lifted weights. This same research showed that most women don't lift weights because they are intimidated. They don't know where to start, and they're worried about being judged.
According to U.S. News, there are roughly 2 million more men than women who participate in strength training, but things are beginning to change. Although the gender gap in weightlifting is still vast, the percentage of women who participate in strength training has drastically increased.
As science has proven the benefits of weightlifting, women all over the world have been taking note. In fact, the hashtag #liftlikeagirl is trending.
Women are debunking myths about strength training and proving to society that strong is beautiful. The woman above is Morghan King. She went to the 2016 Olympics on the U.S. weightlifting team and is proof that lifting weights doesn't necessarily make a woman "bulk up."
But "bulking up" doesn't make women any less feminine. Take Cass Martin for example. She's an incredible athlete and, quite frankly, she's jacked. But she doesn't "look like a man," to borrow an often-used phrase. In fact, she's feminine and gorgeous. Yet Cass isn't gorgeous in spite of her muscles; she's gorgeous because of them.
Crossfit champion Sara Sigmundsdóttir? She can back squat 298 pounds, and she's beautiful too.
Strong and beautiful women are not only making appearances on social media, but also on television. U.S. Marine Riki Tyminski is a member of the cadre on Fox's "American Grit," a competition reality show that challenges competitors in tests of endurance. She's inspiring her team and viewers across the globe. To be blunt, she is a 4-foot, 11-inch beast!
Even mainstream reality TV has seen an increase in strong women competitors. In the past, typical female competitors on the reality show "Big Brother" have been former cheerleaders and VIP concierges. But this season, Christmas Abbott is changing that. She's a CrossFit athlete bringing her competitive spirit and muscular shoulders to the "Big Brother" house.
Even the Kardashians are taking note. Khloe Kardashian has been known all her life as the overweight sister. Typical weight loss methods didn't work for her, but she found weightlifting and fell in love with the process. Soon after, Khloe began to see the results she wanted, and now she has one of the most envied bodies in Hollywood.
The movie industry is certainly noticing strong women, and their productions are reflecting it. "Wonder Woman" is the movie of the summer, and it's inspiring girls everywhere. Although most of of the recent superhero movies have been about male superheroes, this movie is changing that trend. "Wonder Woman" provides a strong, independent woman for young girls to look up to. She's a strong role model who pushes girls to aspire to be something more than a sidekick.
And what about Charlize Theron in "Atomic Blonde"? Not only does she do her own stunts in this spy movie, but she looks feminine while doing them. (Is it time to say goodbye to Bond Girls and hello to Atomic Blondes?)
How to train with weights
Perhaps the most incredible part about strength training? There's no one right way to do it. Yoga classes are strength training. CrossFit is strength training. Many gym programs are incorporating strength training into their programs. Take Barry's Boot Camp for example. This program combines cardio and weights to provide the ultimate strength training. Or Core Power Yoga, which incorporates weights into yoga classes. Every woman is different, so it's all about finding what you enjoy and what works for you.
So the science has shown that strength is good for you. The fitness industry is promoting strength. And finally, society has developed an appreciation of strength as physical beauty. Strong is beautiful.
Want to start weightlifting but not sure how to start? Check out this four-week weightlifting plan for beginners.