Women and Weights

Women need weight training

Women and Weights

After my last post, I was asked the question: “If women want to be slim and toned, why should I be lifting heavy? Wouldn’t I want to keep the weights light to be long and lean?”


That’s a great question and one of the many misconceptions of strength training in general.


I often get the “I want to be toned but not bulky” mentality in here and it can be hard to truly explain it in a few seconds in between sets. Well, skinny is for suckers. Lean and strong are the new goals, skinny is just so 80s…


I consider myself more of an educator than coach so here is my chance to do just that.


It starts with the underlying principle of everything we do here, the SAID principle: Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. Your body reacts and adapts to the stress it is routinely exposed to.


Think of it like this: If I asked you to push a big rock up a hill everyday, you would probably suck at it day one. Day two would be better, a month from now even better and at the end of a year, you would be pretty efficient at it. You improve at tasks you challenge yourself with regularly.


Your body would build the strength and coordination (specific adaptations) to accomplish the task (imposed demands). Strength training works the same way, but instead of rocks, we have barbells, dumbells, and kettlebells.


Earth-shattering, I know, but let us continue.


If you only lift 55 lbs for a year, you will plateau pretty quickly. Your body adapts to that level of stress and quits responding to it. Increase the weight, manipulate the reps, TUT (time under tension aka how long we go down with the weight), and sets, however, and our body is exposed to new and different stresses and keeps forcing adaptation.


The easiest variable for you to change, really the only one you have control over is weight. I dictate the reps, sets, and TUT for you leaving the weight as the variable you must control.


How does lifting more help me slim down rather than bulk up?


Two main effects of lifting weights are: hypertrophy (building more, larger muscles) and strength (building tissue density). Either way we are building muscle.


Enter the visual aid:


5 lbs of muscle and fat



Imagine the volume of 5 lbs of muscle spread out over your body vs 5 lbs of fat; Which one will make you leaner?


As I mentioned in my previous post, women have roughly 5% of the Testosterone that men have. This hormone is the primary hormone for muscle building. Without it, getting big is a challenge. Everyone that says they look at weights and get big is either full of it, chemically enhanced, or they get fat not jacked because they eat like crap.


In truth, as a healthy male, I can attest, getting big, is no easy task. It takes a lot of time and proper nutrition to get big (muscle big, you can get fat pretty quick with beer and fast food?) So to be afraid that it will happen to you is just a lack of knowledge that I have hopefully remedied here.


Does building muscle have any other effects with particular concern to women?


Hell yes! Please, read on.


  1. Reduced risk of Osteoporosis later in life. The stress (imposed demands) force adaptions in more that muscle. The mechanical stress placed on the body structure during strength training (especially ground-based movements i.e. Squats, Deadlifts, etc.) will help increase bone density and prevent calcium loss and bone frailty later in your life. Remember hip and knee replacements suck and the only people who look cool with canes are pimps in movies.
  2. More strength to use in daily chores or sport activities: If women gain strength in the muscles involved in their daily tasks, they’ll have to use a lesser proportion of their available strength, and thus they’ll perform their tasks more efficiently, with less fatigue, and at a quicker pace (let’s be honest, who couldn’t use a little more time on their hands?.)
  3. Better self-esteem. When is the last time you accomplished a difficult task and didn’t feel an incredible sense of pride in what you had done? That’s what I thought. It feels great to have set your mind to something, to have conquered the weight on the bar (basically, make the weights your bitch). To feel the resistance in your hands and on your back, trying to crush you, trying to hold you down, and overcoming it. There are very few feelings as awesome as overcoming tangible adversity like that.


In conclusion, in addition to physique goals, strength and hypertrophy have profound impacts on your mind and body, but the moral of the story is this: it is highly unlikely women will get bulky lifting heavy weights. It’s just not in the cards for the overwhelming majority of you, but it will make you sexy as hell with the confidence to go with it.



About the Author: Marshall Ray

Marshall Ray is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Level 2 Poliquin International Certified Strength Coach (PICP), Biosignature Practitioner and a certified Precision Nutrition Coach (Pn1). He is the founder of Faster Fitness and co-founder of Femme Fit. He's passionate about building a community of people who love fitness and taking control of their health.