If you type women and weights into Google Images, you do now get a few pictures of women doing squats or deadlifts, but there still those pictures of the pink, 2kg dumbbells. The "women’s weights".
I mean, just look at those green ones. I’m pretty sure I’ve lifted glasses of wine that weight more than that! What is she even doing with them? Many women say that they want to be “toned” and many others exercise just to lose weight. I’ve already ranted enough about that last week so I won’t do it to you again. The best way to get the awesome, strong, toned, sexy body that you’re looking for, is to lift the big weights.
The Reasons Women Don’t Lift
The main reasons that women don’t venture into the free weights areas at the gym pretty much come down to three:
- They don’t want to get bulky
- The free weights area is scary
- They don’t really know what to do once they get brave enough to go there
Let’s take a look at these and see if I can help at least some of you get over them.
I Don’t Want To Get Bulky
This will not happen. It’s just that simple. We don’t have the hormone composition to bulk up in muscle the way the guys do. I actually knew a Miss Scotland bodybuilder. She was lovely and a nurse and I know how much turkey she had to eat to get enough protein to build muscle. Women bodybuilders also require more supplements to build that kind of bulk. They need to be taking several types of hormones and steroids and once they stop, it all goes away.
Again, I’ve seen this personally from a professional weightlifter. There is nothing that you or I can do in the gym to cause us to bulge out in lumps and bumps like Arnold Swarzenegger. And if you do end up putting on a little more muscle than you wanted, just lift lighter weights for more reps instead of the heavier ones and add a little cardio into your routine. You’ll soon slim down again. Even lifting the big weights though, you won’t bulk up. I deadlift 140% of my bodyweight, but you’d never know it just to look at me.
The Weights Room Is Scary
The weights room is scary, especially if you’re new. For me, I’m only 5 foot tall and 52kg. I look young and small. I walk through the free weights area dodging guys who have just squated double my bodyweight. Some of them doing deadlifts are lifting more than 3 Amys at a time! They’re all at around a foot taller than me. It’s intimidating and I know this, so I understand your fear completely. Even now, I still hesitate sometimes asking for the big weights. I still get rather condescending looks from some of the men, like when your kid tries to do what you’re doing and you humour them. It's the "aw that's cute" look and I still get it, but not so often.
One thing I’ve learned, though, is that none of them are there to judge me. They’re there to do their own workout. Every so often, they’ll happen to glance over and be impressed at how much this tiny person is lifting and if I’m slacking that day, I’m small enough that it still looks like I’m working out! Every person that I’ve gymed with and spoken to is not interested in what anyone else is doing. They’re supportive of anyone who’s willing to go and try. Once upon a time, they also started at the beginning. Once you know this, it’s easier to forget that other people are there and just get on with your own thing. It just takes some practice and the confidence to start.
As you become more confident in your workouts and abilities, the weights area also gets less scary. This confidence comes with practice and experience, so be brave. Get through those first few tries and you’ll see that, like everything else we fear, it’s not that bad.
What On Earth Do I Do With These Weights?
Ok, so now that you’ve worked up to getting into the weights area, you have to start lifting the weights. Here’s where you do need some knowledge. There’s more to it than just picking up heavy things and the heavier those things are, the more likely you are to get hurt. Luckily for us, we now have the internet! We have a world of knowledge within our reach and we can learn anything we put our minds to now.
There are many articles out there now that provide you with full workout plans. Have a look on YouTube to see how the exercises are done if you’re not sure. Make sure to pick someone with some authority and not some random dude who’s about to seriously injure himself in his garage. I personally like Athlean-X though his videos are more geared towards men, and Kelly Starrett for good advice.
Some Workout Suggestions
The main thing you need to start off knowing with weight training is that you pick a muscle group and work on that for the day. My categories are chest, back and legs or upper body, lower body and core, depending on my client. Then you cycle through them, one group at a time.
The big exercises are the bench press, squats and deadlifts. Squats (and lunges) are gonna give you a round, firm bum and bench press most definitely improves your cleavage (believe this from someone who previously never had any!) so don't think of them as "men's exercises". I do everything the guys do when we workout together. Weightlifting is not gender specific.
With regards to your weights, that’s relative to your strength and size. Find a weight you can do with good form, but that still tires you out. If you can do 3 sets of 12-15 reps of that weight, it’s probably too light. However, don’t be a Rambo and hurt yourself going too heavy too fast!
My best advice to you for starting out is to go with someone rather than do it alone. You’ll be able to test heavier weights knowing that someone else is there to help if you don’t quite make the lift. Even better is if you can go with someone who can check your form. Are there any guys at work who lift weights at the gym? Trust me, you’ll know if they do. They’ll have mentioned it once or twice… That’s how I started with weights. I’ve also been told that guys love showing off to the girls how much they can bench press, even before we know or care what that is, so they’ll be more than happy to help you out. As basic and sexist as that information is, it can be used to your advantage.
Why You Should Weight Lift
Strength training with heavy weights is what’s going to give you the best results. This is just science. Building muscle will give your body shape. Forget the “fat burning zone” on the treadmill. If you want to look good, load up the bar and do some squats. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t want you suddenly converting to thinking that cardio is evil. It has all kinds of health benefits, but it’s most effective as part of a training programme that includes weight lifting. Building muscle means that your body burns more calories at rest, so if you’re looking to lose weight, increasing your calorie consumption while you sit still is the obvious and easy way to do this.
Weightlifting also increases bone density. You bones become stronger in order to support the extra weight and this helps protect against osteoporosis later in life. If you think you’re too old to get in on this, think again. There are loads of weight lifting for women over 50 workout programmes out there. Though, in my opinion, I’m not sure how or why they would be different from any other beginner weightlifting programme…
Weight lifting for women is awesome.
Still Need Some Help?
If you want to try weight lifting, but you have no-one to ask or you need a bit more support, I can do this with you. I’m already training people who have started from scratch. I have years of experience with this and I can design you a workout that will get you strong and lean. I’ll go through all the moves with you, show you the correct form and check in with you regularly as well as whenever you need me. Just get in touch and we can work on this together. You got this!
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