Weightlifting programs available only to women-identifying students are becoming more prevalent in campus recreation departments around the U.S. Two schools who are embracing this trend are West Virginia University and Elon University, both of which are offering Ladies Lift classes.
According to the National Academy of Sports of Medicine, the importance of weightlifting pertaining to women can’t be understated as it assists:
- Development of good movement patterns.
- Improvement of self-confidence.
- Increasing resting metabolic rate.
- Decreased risk of Metabolic Syndrome.
- Improvement of bone mineral density.
WVU Program Details
WVU Campus Recreation recently began its five-week Ladies Lift spring program. The class is open for those interested in weightlifting at any level, and participants meet every week to learn how to navigate the weight room at the Student Rec Center.
Brittany Brandt, the Fitness and Wellbeing coordinator at WVU, said the idea for the offering originally came from one of her graduate assistants. “She had done a similar program before and wanted to host it here,” said Brandt. “That’s because our fitness floors are predominantly used by men and sometimes women feel intimidated to workout there as well.”
Brandt said providing this free educational opportunity for women to learn weightlifting basics would then give them the confidence to use the free weights alongside men.
“Since its inception, we have garnered quite a bit of interest,” said Brandt. “At one point we had 75 women on our signup sheet/waitlist. Not all 75 attended, but we’ve had a solid group of 30 come as the semester progresses and numbers ebb and flow. From the number of ladies who sign up, there is definitely a need on our campus for this program.”
Certified personal trainers take the participants through the bigger exercises like the squat, bench press, deadlift, etc. and provide feedback on form. They also demonstrate how to use selectorized equipment and go over other smaller pieces like dumbbells and bands.
Ladies Lift Benefits
In addition, Brandt said the personal trainers discuss how to create workouts on a basic level so students can continue on without an instructor after the program is over. “Not every student can afford personal training (PT),” she said. “While we do not provide the exact same opportunities as PT, we do give enough for someone to perform basic movements safely and start to explore weightlifting on their own.”
With a recent increase in coverage of female weightlifting, Brandt said it was important for women to build strength to perform activities of daily living. “For so long weightlifting has been seen as a male activity and women are supposed to go on the cardio machines,” she said. “Strength-bearing exercises help us to build and maintain bone density as we age. Osteoporosis is detrimental to many women in the U.S. and worldwide.”
In addition, Brandt said Campus Recreation has seen an increase in participation on the fitness floors and in group fitness classes.
“We strive to be the place every student feels welcome and can build a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “If any other department wants to start this program, they should speak with their fitness leadership team. See if they have the capacity to have their certified personal trainers or professional staff lead these classes, and just run with it. Host the class on the weight room floor during the busiest times, make yourselves seen and, most importantly, have fun.”
Elon’s Ladies Lifting Details
Beginning in 2016, Elon Campus Recreation has hosted the annual Ladies Lifting event as part of the school’s Love Your Body week initiative.
Jenny Larson, the director of Campus Recreation & Wellness, said the program provides an educational and inclusive opportunity for female-identifying students. Love Your Body week first started a body-positive approach to observing national Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
Throughout Ladies Lifting, participants can go to four of six different stations led by group exercise instructors and personal trainers who attend Elon.
“The event is extremely popular and well received by students each year,” said Larson. “We run two sessions during the evening to introduce students to the fitness center. It’s a response to feedback that our weights area is a space female-identifying students didn’t feel comfortable in. We are working on a plan to offer this program many times throughout the academic year.”
Larson said events like a Ladies Lift program are important in fostering community, increasing access and creating a sense of belonging in their building. “This event is just one example of many ways we do this across our department,” she said. “Campus rec departments should always engage campus partners and students to co-create an experience that is valuable for them.”
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