Why Women Need to Lift Weights


Why Women Need to Lift Weights

Workout of the Day–March 31, 2016

16 Minute AMRAP
6 Pullups
9 Burpee Box Jumps


Veronica's focus is long distance running. Really long distance. And really fast. She lifts weights.

Veronica’s focus is long distance running. Really long distance. And really fast. She lifts weights.


Why Women Need to Lift Weights

Here is some reading to keep you going while we are on vacation this week. This one comes from BreakingMuscle.com. This article does a great job of dispelling the myths around women “getting big” from weight training. I’d like to point out that there are MANY other good reasons for women to lift weights besides supporting weight loss. It is one of the most effective ways to slow the loss of bone density as we age. It also makes us more resistant to injury, provides an outlet for stress relief and boosts self-confidence. Read on:

From BreakingMuscle.com:

Many women fear they will become too muscular as a result of strength training. While this fear is on the decline, you might be surprised how common it still is. Unfortunately, many high profile “celeb” trainers perpetuate the misinformation. 

Trainers such as Tracy Anderson warn that lifting anything heavier than 3lb dumbbells will cause the following problems (these are verbatim quotes):

“The stronger one muscle gets, the more it shuts up all the other things.”

“As you age, the stronger you make your bicep, the worse your skin (under your arm) is going to sag. You can’t ever get to it because the bicep is too overbearing.”

“It’s like your muscles get in an abusive relationship with themselves. The strong ones say ‘go to sleep’ to the smaller ones.”

I’m not sure if Anderson makes comments like this because she’s uneducated, because she’s a charlatan, or some combination of both. The end result is that the consumer becomes disempowered, and her followers are no closer to their goals by following her advice.

Anderson’s statements and methods aren’t just outdated; they’re absolute nonsense. 

Some celebrity "trainers"  would say this athlete will get too bulky from lifting weights. Doesn't seem to be the case.

Some celebrity “trainers”  would say this athlete will get too bulky from lifting weights. Doesn’t seem to be the case.

“What if I Get Too Big?”

What follows is a conversation between me and Lisa, a hypothetical, 39-year-old prospective client. If you’re a female who’s new to strength training, I think you’ll find clarity in this conversation. If you’re a trainer who works with beginner females, I think you’ll find this useful as well.

Me: “So Lisa, I want you to think back to when you were in the best shape of your life. How old were you then?”

Lisa: “Mmm, let’s see, probably when I was nineteen. I was doing track in college and was really happy with how I looked. I’d love to get back in that kind of shape.”

Me: “The reason I asked was to point out something that you might not have considered. The reason you were in your best shape ever at nineteen is because that’s when you had the most muscle. As we age, for a whole lot of reasons, we tend to lose muscle. Muscle is a big driver of metabolism, so losing it sets up a negative cycle. You lose muscle, which causes a drop in metabolism, which causes you to gain body fat, which further lowers your activity levels, which causes more muscle loss, and so on and so forth.”

Lisa: “Interesting. You’re right, that would have never occurred to me.”

Me: “What I do with clients is to help them interrupt this vicious cycle, and I happen to be partial to strength training.”

Lisa: “You mean like lifting weights?  I never wanted to lift weights because I don’t want to be all bulky. I actually want to be smaller, not bigger. I’d really like to sculpt…”

Me: “Here’s the deal: there really is no such thing as toning, or sculpting, or contouring. Muscles can get bigger through training, or smaller through disuse. That’s it. A lot of trainers won’t tell you that because they think their female clients will become disinterested and leave. That’s why I started off by asking you when you were in your best shape ever. I wanted to provide you with a different context with which to view muscle. We’re not trying to “gain muscle,” per se. We’re just trying to re-establish the level of muscle you had when you were nineteen. When we’ve achieved that, you’ll have a faster metabolism, which means you’ll be leaner, which is your ultimate goal.”

Brooke Ence developed her physique with a very specific diet, and training at a volume and intensity most people can't contemplate

Brooke Ence developed her physique with a very specific diet, and training at a volume and intensity most people can’t contemplate

Lisa: “Okay, but what if I do get too big? Maybe I’m an outlier or something.”

Me: “Well I’ll tell you something: there are no women who feel they have too much muscle. None.”

Lisa: “Come on… What do you mean?”

Me: “Any muscle you do gain happens very slowly, and if at any point you feel you’re getting too muscular, all you have to do is reduce your training, or maybe even discontinue it temporarily until you lose it. Muscle isn’t permanent, believe me, It’s much easier to lose than it is to gain.”

Lisa: “Okay, that makes sense. I guess I was concerned because I always see these super-bulky chicks on magazine covers, and there no way I want to look like that.”

Me: “Yup, I totally get it. The thing to keep in mind is that the media promotes the most extreme examples, not the typical. And most of the super muscular women were kinda that way to start with, so when they started bodybuilding or powerlifting or whatever, they happened into an activity that they were good at and where they didn’t feel like a freak for being bigger than typical women. 

Think of it this way. When you watch NBA basketball players, those guys aren’t tall because they play basketball. They’re good at basketball because they’re so tall. Make sense?”

Lisa: “Yup totally. But is lifting totally necessary?”

Me: “Nope, not at all. It just happens to be something I’m very passionate about. By the way, lots of women whose aesthetics you admire are big-time lifters. Figure skaters, volleyball players, dancers; many or all of them do weight training as part of their sport. But if you end up not liking weight training, there are many roads to Rome, and the main thing is to find safe, effective activities that resonate with you. Tell you what, though. How about you give me a month, and I’m betting I can win you over. Deal?”