I see the same situation in the gym over and over. A woman tries to build a “lean, tone look” by grabbing the lightest weight possible and pushing out 12 reps without ever breaking a sweat. Most women fear that if they lift too much or too heavy, they will get big muscles and gain bulk and mass. That really isn’t the case. So this post I am hoping to put some science behind the question:

How Should Women Lift Weights?

body building womanBasically, what the question comes down to is how should women approach weight training. Weight training can be resistances, free weights, or even body weight training. It is using weight to leverage strength building.

Now – I have known a lot of women who are scared of a weight room. They grab a 8 lb dumbell and they lightly go through a workout, or place a resistance machine on the lightest rep possible and barely break a sweat. They do this because they don’t want to me a female bodybuilder. I don’t blame them. No one wants to see that.

Most women think doing 2 sets of 10 reps on a really light weight will get them the tone, sleek look that every girl is after. And this is true – if you want to do 2×10 on light weights for 7 years before you see some results. It just won’t work as well as some people think.

If you want a tone look, you need to lose the fat around the area you want to look tone. If you want to lose fat around an area, gain muscle. Muscle mass helps burn fat. So in reality (and this is where people start dropping off) if women want to get toned, they need to “bulk up”.

jamie-eason-bench-press“I don’t want to bulk up”. “Bulking up means gaining weight”. “I don’t want to look like a female freakshow.”.

All these statements are right. Most women don’t want to bulk up. Bulking up does mean gaining weight and who wants to be seen with veins popping out of every limb of your body? I understand those concerns. Those points are very valid. But that simply won’t happen. Here is why:

1) Estrogen. Women produce it. It doesn’t allow for your body to build heavy muscle mass. It just won’t happen, unless you have a hormone imbalance where you are producing more testosterone than estrogen (yes, women have a little testosterone just as men have a bit of estrogen). Female body builders take testosterone, build big muscles, and somewhere in the process get really ugly (IMO). Men who want to get great results take steps to remove the little bit of estrogen they have in their system out to ensure maximum gains. Estrogen won’t allow you to build bulk. You (being the female readers) have plenty of it so you don’t have to worry about gaining “MASS”.

2) Benefits. There is a plethora of reasons why women should get involved in weight training. Weight training helps improve blood circulation, coordination, balance, combats cellulite and improves the muscles capacity to do work. But the biggest benefit women can get out of weight training is improved bone and ligament strength. Weight training is weight bearing exercise. No matter what you are doing, you are putting a force on your skeletal system that forces it to adapt. This adaption process increase bone strength. This is critical down the line for many women as osteoporosis is very common in post menopausal women. Weight training can have a profound effect on the strength of bones in the later years of life.

female strength training3) Body Structure. I see women in the gym who hit cardio cardio cardio in the gym. Most think if they do cardio all the time, they will get a body like an actress. I could almost guarantee that those bodies you see in the magazines and on TV don’t do strictly cardio. They have some high paid trainer taking them through a series of strength training exercises and they are probably hitting it pretty damn hard. I am not a fan of reading beauty magazines because they will only make you notice your imperfections. However, the women on the cover of those things probably spend an ample amount of time doing strength training.

4) Strength. You need strength in your life. Especially during your child bearing years. The holding of a baby for 9 months in your body, then holding a regular baby on your hips, in and out of the car, up and down the stairs. Strengths come in handy. Not just for babies. Think of all the things you could do if you were stronger. Think how great it would be to always be able to open that jelly jar when your husband can’t.

Now, with all this said, I am in no way telling all you women out there to step into a weight room and drop 225 on the press and go at it. If you aren’t use to hitting the weights, you need to start slow. You still need to ask yourself what your goal is. What is the desired outcome? What are you training toward? The point of this article is to tell you that hitting the weights is very beneficial and should be integrated into your training. Whether it is resistance training, free weight training or using your own body weight, I highly recommend integrating some type of strength/weight training into your workout routine. Your body will be glad you did.


To Your Health,


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