Susan Azam exercises six to seven times a week and works in the finance industry. But she hesitates to enter gym weightlifting areas where she typically sees a bunch of guys lifting.
“I still don’t feel comfortable saying, ‘Pardon me, are you done with these weights? Can you spot me?’ ” she says.
She was taking boot-camp and interval-training classes at a New York studio called Trooper Fitness last spring when she spied a weight-training class in the next room that included a mix of men and women. She tried the class and loved the encouraging, detailed instruction.
Now the 125-pound Ms. Azam can squat-lift 135 pounds.
“I would have never thought I could do that,” says Ms. Azam, who is 25 and does weightlifting workouts a few times a week.
More traditional gyms and boutiques are expanding weight areas to meet rising demand from women. They are also introducing heavier weights to the historically female realm of exercise classes. Gyms aim to accommodate women who want to lift but feel elbowed aside or self-conscious in weight areas.
Many women have used five- or 10-pound weights as part of workouts. But in recent years more women are lifting heavier weights, spurred in part by intensive regimens like CrossFit that use Olympic-style barbell lifts.
Equinox Fitness Clubs recently launched their first class to emphasize heavier weights and fewer repetitions. The class, called Pure Strength, uses hand-held weights of 15 to 40 pounds each and a maximum of 8 reps per set. The idea was to demystify the weight room, a spokeswoman says. Since the class’s October launch, 64% of registrants have been women.
The class is offered at 35 clubs and enrollment is near capacity, the spokeswoman says.
Ashleigh Bartolik, a 28-year-old employee at the Justice Department, had been alternating treadmill and yoga workouts when she heard about a strength-training class called Girlstrong at D.C.-area studio 202Strong.
“I felt more comfortable trying it because I knew it was all women,” she says. She learned how to do standing deadlifts, and squats with the barbell in front of and behind her, among other lifts. She now visits the studio once a week for Girlstrong classes and twice for more intense, weightlifting-centered workouts.
Ms. Bartolik finds her yoga and weight workouts complementary. “I can do arm balances and inversions that I couldn’t get into before,” she says. “And the yoga helps me with flexibility, like I can get deeper into my squats.”
Federal guidelines recommend at least two sessions a week of muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate- or high-intensity and involve all major muscle groups. Weightlifting can help prevent osteoporosisand stem the muscle loss that occurs as people age, research shows.
As free weights gain popularity, many gyms’ weight areas have become overcrowded, saysRory McGown, founder and chief executive of fitness-analytics firm GYMetrix. At about two dozen gyms in the U.S., GYMetrix asked members to list their favorite pieces of equipment and how accessible they are.
Among women who named racks for squatting with heavy weights as a favorite, the most common response was that the racks were “usually busy and it bothers me,” Mr. McGown says.
At Blink Fitness, more women are using free weights and racks used for heavier lifting, saysDavid Collignon, vice president of operations for the lower-cost chain in New York and New Jersey owned by Equinox Holdings Inc. Blink is changing its mix of strength to cardio equipment based on member feedback and GYMetrix data, he says.
The University of Vermont’s fitness program has expanded its Women on Weights class in recent years to two sessions each semester. Class participants are about 60% staff and faculty, and this year include a woman in her 60s, says Eli Barrett, fitness coordinator for UVM Campus Recreation.
“A lot of women here didn’t want to bulk up,” Mr. Barrett says. “But if you lift the correct ways, then you’re creating lean muscle.”
Article Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/women-want-real-weights-at-the-gym-1481129261