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reviewed 7/24/2018

Strength training: Myth or fact?

If you're not lifting weights—or working your muscles in other ways—you're missing out on crucial exercise. Strength training helps you stay fit, builds your bones and keeps you from losing muscle as you age. But there are many common myths about strength training. Can you tell fact from fiction?

Myth or fact: Strength training makes women bulk up.

Myth. Though women have the ability to lift a tremendous amount of weight, they don't gain muscle mass as easily as men. So regular strength training—or working up to heavier weights—won't turn women into bulked-up bodybuilders. But it will help them stay healthy and strong.

Myth or fact: Strength training won't help you lose weight.

Myth. Just the opposite—strength training is actually a plus if you're trying to slim down. That's because building muscle revs up your metabolism, which makes it easier to control your weight.

Myth or fact: It's essential to exercise each major muscle group, even if you're only interested in toning your legs or arms.

Fact. Muscle imbalances are a major cause of injury, so don't favor any group. Those muscle groups include your back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, legs and hips. Aim to exercise each group twice a week.

Myth or fact: If you're in good shape, you don't need to rest your muscles between workouts.

Myth. No matter how strong you are, each muscle group needs a full day of rest between workouts. If you prefer total-body strength training, either rest the day after your workout or do cardio that day. Alternatively, if you prefer back-to-back strength training workouts, exercise your upper body on one day and your lower body on the next.

Myth or fact: Once you start strength training, you'll gain strength quickly.

Fact. That's true, and it can be rewarding. But don't be discouraged if your progress slows after a few weeks. That's natural as you become more fit. Pairing up with an exercise buddy is a good way to stay motivated.

Keeping your body strong and fit is among the best ways to feel better and potentially live longer.

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Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Council on Exercise; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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