Should Women Lift Weights?

Ok, so this post might be a long one…

I was reading this article today by JC Deen of regarding many women’s fear of “I don’t want to lift heavy weights because I will get bulky.”

I definitely agree with a lot of what we has to say. (Quotes in bold are taken from his article)
“Maybe I’m making a bold statement here, but one of the biggest misconceptions, to this day, are how women shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights.  It’s not uncommon to see females in the gym lifting tiny dumbbells and doing lots of cardio.”

I work as a personal trainer within a small training studio, but I also am a member of a public gym, and I also frequent my university facility. What he describes seems to be prevalent within the university gyms. This may be for more reasons than one, but I would guess that it has to do with women not wanting to get “bulky” and women not feeling confident lifting in front of the guys. Obviously, I have also seen plenty of women lifting.

I’m not bashing anyone…because a lot of people simply don’t know the benefits of strength training. I have had a lot of clients who have not known a thing about lifting, whether it’s how or why or how often, etc. This is why I love my job…I love helping people and seeing their excitement once they get the hang of things.

So why is there this notion that lifting will make you look like a man? I suppose it’s because we see men benching a million pounds…squatting…doing crazy things, so if we do that then we’ll end up looking like them, right? Wrong!
“While heavy weights, combined with a hearty diet is often the recipe for males to pack on size and  muscle mass, it’s not a similar situation for females.  And the reason is because of our hormonal profiles.  I’ve written on this before, but it bears to be repeated.

A female produces a tiny fraction of the testosterone that a male does.  Since testosterone is the main determinant of the ability to grow in size and strength, it only makes sense that someone with much lower levels (women) will never achieve the same size as someone with much more of it (men).”

JC goes on to write about how marketing plays a role in these beliefs as well…and I definitely agree with this!
“Problem is, it’s this type of misinformation that forever keeps ladies from their physique goals. It’s this exact thinking that will keep women on the treadmills and lifting the silly, pink dumbbells forever with no results to show for it.
So who’s to blame?  I blame trainers and fitness folk who don’t stay up to date with current information, but I mostly blame the world of fitness marketing.”

Browse through any magazine such as Shape or Fitness and many of the exercises they give you are done with light dumbbells and high reps. Same with a lot of exercise DVDs catered towards women. Though I think this has gotten a bit better with home workout videos like P90x, Insanity, or Jillian Michael’s new video set. These incorporate explosive, intense resistance moves…whereas many of the magazine routines I see are things like doing tricep kickbacks with 5 lb weights 15 times.

Again, I’m not here to knock anyone, because if you are at the gym working out with 5 lb dumbbells, that is still more than someone who is sitting on the couch, and it is still something to be proud of. Heck, I started with 5 lb dumbbells when I started lifting…and that was hard! But don’t be afraid to pick up heavier weights…I promise you, you will not get bulky!

I started with 5 lb dumbbell chest presses and can now bench press 60 lbs (ok this may not be impressive for some, but this is a lot for me!). I started squatting a 15 lb bar and that was HARD…and now I can squat 75 lbs. I am not bulky in the least…in fact I have a long way to go.

I encourage you to lift heavier weights if you want to see results. It will help you get lean, get strong, and gain a bit more muscle to burn extra calories. Instead of doing 12 reps of a certain weight, I challenge you to pick up a heavier weight and squeeze out 8 reps.

Do it. and let me know how it goes.

If you have any questions at all about designing a routine or how to set up sets and reps, do not hesitate to ask! :)

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  1. Very nicely put. I have this conversation with my female clients constantly when I explain to them that we will be doing resistance training. They pose many of the same concerns that you put forth such as not wanting to look bulky or “but I just want to lose my tummy.” I think slowly people are understanding that lean muscle mass increases metabolism and leads to fat burning but it will take many more educated trainers like yourself to get the message out. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for your feedback! Sometimes explaining the myth of “spot reducing” is the hardest. They sometimes look at my skeptically when I explain that strength training will help reduce all around…but once they see the results and feel their clothes fitting more loosely they finally believe me! But you’re right, I think people are starting to understand the benefits of strength training which is great :)


  1. […] beneficial, and that you won’t get bulky or manly. I wrote a whole post about that as one of my first blog posts […]

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