Most women underestimate their own strength by about 25%
I’m not sure where this ‘factoid’ originated, but in my experience as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I believe it to be true.
[Men, interestingly enough, tend to overestimate their strength by about the same amount. I say 'interestingly enough' because I believe there are sound evolutionary reasons for the different ways the sexes view strength. But that is a post (and a more controversial post at that!) for another day.]
When I ask a new client how much weight she thinks she can shoulder press, for example, the typical answer will range from 3 to 5 pounds. In most cases, a quick test will prove her wrong and we’ll immediately move up to a 5 or 8 pound weight. In some cases, even this increase will not be heavy enough to tire her shoulders by the end of a 10 to 12 rep set and we’ll increase the weight even more.
I love to watch the face of a woman as she experiences lifting heavy (at least heavy for her) for the first time.
First, there is the look of shock or horror as I approach with a weight much heavier than they would choose on their own; “There’s no way I can lift that”
Then, disbelief when I place the weight in their hand and they feel its heft; “I’ll try, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do very many reps”
As they start to perform the exercise, disbelief changes to surprise; “Hey, this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be”
then to determination, as they dig in, trying to complete the set in good form; “Nope, don’t help me, I’m gonna do it on my own”
After the last rep, I take the weight from them and am rewarded with a look of elation. Pride in accomplishing a task they truly believed they wouldn’t be able to; “Wow! I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was”
(I, on the other hand, knew they could do it all along, but offer appropriate praise and encouragement to reinforce the lesson.)
Next time, I tell them don’t be afraid to grunt, just a little.
It’ll actually help you get through the last few reps (grunting elicits a release of testosterone, the muscle-building hormone) and let everyone around you know how hard you’re working and how strong you are!
Do you challenge yourself with heavy enough weights?
Are you a ‘grunter’ in the weight room (I am, and proud of it!)?