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Do you find yourself sticking to only cardio thinking it's the best way to burn fat? Are you staying away from the weights at the gym for fear that you might get bulky from lifting? To clear up the misconceptions around women and weightlifting, we talked to Hong Kong's female fitness experts to give us the lowdown on the benefits of weight training and how to get started:

Santina Philips, better known as ‘Bam’, is the co-owner of URSUS Fitness. The gym’s clientele is predominantly female and Bam herself is a competitive Strongwoman with several titles under her belt including Asia’s Strongest Woman.

Myth: Lifting weights will make you bulky

Truth: When women want to lose fat and shape their bodies, I cannot recommend strongly enough the importance of weight training. By using strength training as a tool to build muscle, you in turn also increase your basic metabolic rate (BMR), meaning you burn more calories during rest. In reality, ladies have a completely different hormone profile to men, so the male propensity to bulk and pack on muscle is near to impossible for most females. 

Quick fact: a pound of muscle burns three times the amount of calories as a pound of fat. After a weights session, your metabolism stays elevated for longer post exercise than a long cardiovascular workout which further increases fat loss. In short, by building muscle you are turning your newly sculpted body into an energy burning machine!

Advice for beginners: If you are new to the gym or lifting, I would recommend trying a group class geared towards strength or some personal training to build your confidence and knowledge. Start off with two to three sessions a week so that you are able to train most muscle groups. I teach our popular URSUS Fit classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday covering lower body, upper body and a split routine respectively for anyone who wants to give it a try!

See also: Swap Lunch For Sweat: 10 Best Fitness Classes Under One Hour

Mayara is a health and performance specialist/ strength and conditioning coach at CrossFit Cavaliers. She specialises in movement and mobility, and is passionate about teaching people how to optimise their movement patterns to make their workouts more effective and prevent injury.

Myth: The heavier you lift, the better the results

Truth: Definitely not! Results come from the amount of work you put in, and particularly in weight training. The priority should always be technique, rather than just the amount of weight being lifted. From my personal experience, I started lifting to lose some weight and look good in the beginning, but once I found the CrossFit methodology, I developed a passion for it. It can really help one understand the connection between the mind and the body.

As a woman, I never expected to be able to do what I can do now, and I have never felt more confident or as capable as I do today thanks to lifting. I can honestly say this has been a change from the inside out.

Advice for beginners: Spend a big portion of your training time learning the movements, and also learning about yourself—how your body functions, and how your mind works. The more time and effort you spend learning and perfecting your weightlifting technique, the stronger you will become. Don’t get caught up in the numbers—they’re just numbers, but what matters is your health. Eat well, live well, train well, and the numbers will follow!

Tricia Yap is the founder of Warrior Academy and a former MMA fighter. She is recognised as one of the most accomplished health and fitness experts in Hong Kong and is known as an advocate for both women’s empowerment and wellbeing for the busy professional.

Myth: Women should stop lifting weights during pregnancy

Truth: If you are already lifting weights prior to becoming pregnant, there is absolutely no reason for you to stop lifting weights during pregnancy. The only exception would be special circumstances such as short cervix or a low lying placenta or any other condition which would endanger the safety of your baby. However, if you are new to the gym, I would still encourage remedial and strengthening exercises that are low impact and designed specifically for your pregnancy, which can help to prevent or alleviate lower back or shoulder pain that typically occurs in later stages of pregnancy.

A properly designed training program will not harm you or your baby, and research has shown that women who exercise during their pregnancy experience less complications, find it easier to “snap back”, and have easier deliveries. My own personal experience: I recently delivered naturally after 12 hours of labour to a 4kg baby girl, and I swear that it was all the training helped me through the labour and delivery!

Advice for beginners: Work with a personal trainer who is qualified to coach pre and post natal, that encourages a collaborative and open coaching process and is very focused on mechanics and form. I know that some of my clients feel that it is easier to trust a coach that has also gone through pregnancy herself. Personally, there were plenty of lessons that I learnt whilst training throughout my own pregnancy which I felt gave me a “level up” in knowledge and confidence coaching pre and post natal clients. 

See also: 5 Hong Kong Mums Share Their Best Parenting Tips

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