Charlene Wittstock Won’t Lift Weights For Royal Wedding; Here’s Why Every Bride Needs Dumbbells

Charlene Wittstock, the South African Olympic swimmer who’s set to marry Prince Albert of Monaco next week, is prepping for her wedding by not lifting weights. The already-slim former Olympic swimmer told Vogue that she’s laying off her regular exercise routine in anticipation of her inaugural debut as Princess:

In preparation for the perpetual camera-readiness expected of her as first lady of Monaco, she has cut out weight training and increased her stretching time to give her body a leaner line.

And thus more women were scared off of weight training.

In their article “Fit For a Princess,” Vogue is a lot more interested in Wittstock’s journey to find her “fashion feet” than how she maintains her figure, but in one fell sentence, they’ve managed to perpetuate bad stereotypes about weight training and physical fitness. In fact, the average woman needs more weight training to get a “leaner line,” and lots stretching is probably a good thing for competitive (or formerly competitive) athletes like Wittstock, but most brides aren’t professional athletes and don’t need to worry about looking bulky if they prep for their weddings in the weight room.

The sentence from Vogue is already getting interpreted and promulgated as news that cutting back on weights = staying slim. Just check out the paraphrasing in New York Magazine:

Her to-do list, once she becomes princess, Vogue tells us, includes averting too much weight training to keep her figure slim and camera-ready, and promoting Monaco as one of the world’s fashion capitals.

If Wittstock, who retired from professional swimming three years ago after an ankle fracture, wants to change up her workout routine to better suit her lifestyle, it’s really none of my concern. But so many women are chasing after the best workout routine to look like their favorite stars, that it’s sad when a big publication like Vogue makes remarks like this that scare women away from some of the most healthy and effective ways to work out.

So to set the record straight:

  • Weight training is the most effective way to cut fat. Building and maintaining muscle mass is key for a healthy metabolism. Plus, a study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who did an hour-long strength-training workout burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours afterward than they did when they hadn’t lifted weights. Done on a regular basis, that adds up to a lot of extra calories burned.
  • You won’t bulk up from lifting weights. Many women stay away from weights for fear that they’ll bulk up; the vast majority of women simply can’t get muscles like the hulk without putting in the effort of a professional body builder. We’d have to eat more than 2,000 calories a day, many of us would have to take hormones, and we’d have to be on a much more intense training regimen than you’d ever see recommended in a magazine, diet book, or by a trainer at your gym. Remember: Even long, lithe Heidi Klum lifts weights with trainer David Kirsch, and we doubt she’s worried about looking like an Amazon.
  • Strength training strengthens bones. If you hope to live past your Princess years and become a good-looking, strong Queen, you need to lift weights. Multiple studies have shown that weight training helps post-menopausal women maintain bone mass, which helps protect against osteoporosis and maintains overall physical condition. (Plus, according to the Los Angeles Times, “studies are finding that more lean muscle mass may allow kidney dialysis patients to live longer, give older people better cognitive function, reduce depression, boost good cholesterol, lessen the swelling and discomfort of lymphedema after breast cancer and help lower the risk of diabetes.” Do we have you sold yet?)

Besides, wouldn’t you rather have awesome swimmer’s shoulders than look like you never work out?

Photo: Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue

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    • Darvis Simms

      I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 17 years and I’ve worked with hundreds of women. I can tell you from experience that weight lifting is the most efficient way for women to tone-up and get lean.

    • Briana Rognlin

      Thanks for backing me up, Darvis! Personally, weight lifting is on my list of “least favorite” ways to exercise – I’m more of a space-out-and-cardio kind of girl – but it does make me feel really good and I’m pushing myself to do it more. Just too many benefits not to…

    • Annie

      “Remember: Even long, lithe Heidi Klum lifts weights with trainer David Kirsch” – True, but doesn’t he promote the 2lb max weights as advised by Tracy Anderson??

      • Briana Rognlin

        Hi Annie,

        I think you’re right that David Kirsch tends to recommend lower weights, but I think he usually recommends somewhere from 2- to 5-pounds for his DVDs. Research shows that you get more results from higher weights/fewer reps as opposed to lower weights/more reps, but I still think that using low weights is better than none at all (even if it is based on the myth that heavy weights will cause bulking).

        If you find a workout you’re comfortable with that gets you the results you want, then in my opinion, you win – no matter what the research says. But for most people, that workout is going to include lifting weights. (And believe me, I’m not saying this as someone who loves to lift weights!)

        Hope that helps,

    • Bo

      Looks like the swimmer’s sholders have got more to do with bone structure than exercise, my shoulders are the same shape and I don’t lift weights, I always thought my shoulders were too broad to be feminine. My son has inherited the same shape and it looks great on him.

    • Mindy

      Thanks so much for helping to set the record straight for the importance of strength training. I didn’t really start to lose weight and slim down until I started a pretty regimented strength training routine – 4 days a week, 30 minutes a day. I love what it has done for my body.

      I hate it when women use not wanting to bulk up as an excuse. Those “amazon” women you may see in the gym are lifting hours upon hours a week, and probably taking loads of supplements to boot. Someone lifting 3-4 times a week will never look like that.

    • WildGorillaMan

      Generally speaking, women who refuse to lift weights because “they don’t want to get bulky” are already bulky, but not in a good way.

      Watch videos on YouTube of women Olympic weightlifters in the 48 and 53kg weightclasses and you’ll see normal sized women with athletic physiques who also happen to be incredibly strong. Bulky? Hardly.

    • Joyce

      I have to say that, depending on how is done, weight training can: make you look leaner or make you really bulky. I started lifting weights when I was 17. Since then, I gained tons of weight almost instantly due to weight training. Why? Instead of doing lots of repetitions with little weight, I’d be doing few repetitions with lots of weight which made me gain a lot of muscular mass. Most of my shirts broke because of my new larger physique. My lower body lost most of the fat, but gained plenty of muscle as well; which means, I still wear the same jeans I wore at 17 (I’m 24 now). In other words: my body at the age of 17 looked like the body of most runway models, while my 24 year old body looks more like the body of an LFL player. To the naked eye, I look almost the same as then (the almost being my now larger upper body), I still wear the same clothes (I still have most of my high school jeans), but the scale shows a number thirty pounds heavier, my bra size has gone way up and my boobs look perkier, but I have to buy larger tops due to my bigger shoulders, but it also has boosted my confidence.

      The bottom line is this: weight training, when done with specific goals in mind, is amazing. Do not feel afraid of using it, but do so the right way. If you want to trim the fat, MANY REPETITIONS AND LITTLE WEIGHT (that is how at first I trimmed the baby fat my body still had at 17).

    • katiem

      I lift pretty heavy weights…I definitely weigh more, but look super lean. I did have to lay off of so many pull-ups because that was making me slightly bulkier. Otherwise, my jeans say I’m leaner.

    • ButWhoAM_I_anyway

      It’s because of her skeletal structure; that’s why she seems overly buff to the casual observer. She has naturally broad shoulders and narrow hips (ie the classic swimmer’s physique) — NOT because of any muscle or fat but because that’s how her skeleton is put together. All it takes is one look at her collarbones and her relatively scrawny thighs to realize that she does *not* need to lay of the weights.