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Should women lift weights? (guest post)

Fri, Jul 22, 2011

Guest Posts, Weight training

(Why no. I didn’t train with the Angry Trainer, but I would have if he’d lived nearby!)


For the last twenty years I have listened to women complain that lifting weights will give them big muscles, that it will make them look like a man, and have sat by and watched as they have neglected a very important aspect of any fitness program - strength.

I’ve seen numerous fitness “gurus” promote the use of very light weights or body weight training as the only form of exercise women should be doing to get a sexy, feminine body. Guess what? The Angry Trainer couldn’t disagree more!


The fact is that most women just don’t have enough of the hormone testosterone to support “manly muscles”, and in my opinion staying away from weight training is a grave mistake. Scientific evidence demonstrates that to fight off bone density loss (osteoporosis), and to keep the body strong, it must be externally loaded with resistance, which means using weights.

This is a perfect example of initiating the “use it or lose it” principle. In order to preserve muscle mass and maintain strength, some challenging strength training should be used. It has also been shown that body weight exercises like Yoga, and Pilates, do not have the same bone strengthening advantages that weight training does, as your body is already designed to carry itself.

Think about it, do you think that an exercise program that doesn’t include lifting weights can have the same positive effect on your muscle and skeletal strength? Logic would dictate that answer is of course not.

In my career I have trained all of my clients, both men and women, with weights in some shape or fashion, both in functional training and some traditional forms, and not one woman has ever looked manly, or complained of being too muscular. Instead, they voiced their feelings of being strong, having better stamina, and for those that played a recreational sport, a marked improvement in their game.

Interestingly I’m always asked if I have “men or women exercises” to which I say, “No, I have people exercises”.

The more common scenario is this; when women start to weight train they can gain a small amount of muscle that helps to  rev up their metabolism, which can then help them to lose some body fat. With less body fat covering the muscle, it is now more visible, thus creating the appearance of the muscles being bigger.

In the bodybuilding world this was referred to as the perception; the image you created on stage. As an example when I won the heavyweight class I weighed in a 203lbs, a full 15lbs lighter than I am right now. But do to my very low body fat, I look much more muscular than right now- it’s all an optical illusion.

Everybody has abs, shoulders, legs, pecs, etc - it is the amount of body fat covering them that can make the difference between looking toned and muscular, or soft and flabby. Of course I said most women, there are some women who build muscle more easily than others, but that is the exception not the rule.

I’m not suggesting that women, or men for that matter should completely stay away from body weight exercises, or classes such as Yoga. All exercise forms have specialized benefits, and a place within your fitness program. The key is to know what each one is good for so you can plug it into your routine in an appropriate manner.

However, while I think some exercises can be a “take it or leave it” choice, I am suggesting that everyone needs to include strength training in their regime to realize their full fitness potential. It helps to maintain muscle mass, boost hormone  levels, and keep your skeleton strong, which is of utmost importance as you get older and hormone levels decline.

To be clear - I said “strength training”, I’m not asking anyone to become a power lifter or bodybuilder, or for women to run out and chest press 315lbs or max squat 405lbs.

I am asking you to include some form of intelligent resistance training in your workout. Interestingly, including weight training in your workout has tremendous “crossover” meaning it will make your other exercise classes even more productive! Of all the exercise “fads” that have come and gone, one thing remains constant - strength training and dumbbells are here to stay.

Pick one up today!


About the Author:

Alfonso Moretti aka The Angry Trainer is a 20 year Personal Trainer and operates Angry Trainer Fitness - a website dedicated to the “truth in fitness” which was created to expose myths within the fitness industry and help people get healthy and fit the right way. He sits on the Sears Fitness Advisory Board, creates exercise programs and monthly content for FitStudio LINK (www.fitstudio.com), and is a contributing Editor to Men’s Fitness And Discovery Health & Fit.


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33 Responses to “Should women lift weights? (guest post)”

  1. Faith says:

    That’s you??

  2. Linda says:

    It is not a workout plan for me unless I am doing weight training, too.

    I can’t believe that’s you Mizzy!!!

  3. I wish I had known, oh, 30 years or so earlier what a huge difference strength training made in weight loss and maintenance. Not to mention that it makes me feel all bad-ass at the gym. :)

  4. Runner Girl says:

    I know.
    I know.

    Soon I promise :)

  5. Wifey says:

    SO WELL SAID. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing!

    Winks & Smiles,

  6. Crabby McSlacker says:

    As a woman who actually LIKES a muscular look (but is too lazy to do enough work to obtain one) I’m always surprised at how much reassurance women need that they won’t accidentally become massively ripped meat-heads by lifting a few weights. I WISH muscle building was that easy!

    But even if you fear bulk (which you won’t end up with accidentally) you can’t deny the health benefits of strength training.

    Thanks Angry Trainer!

  7. RoggieP says:

    I bacame a fan of Alfonso “The Angry Trainer” Moretti a couple of months ago. Thanks for sharing this article. I am also going to share your site with all my girl-friends. All the best to you!! Roger

  8. Kris @krazy_kris says:

    **blink blink - sip of coffee**
    OK - I’ve recovered.
    Great post! I really do love lifting weights, but I don’t “lift” as much as I’d like (alas - I’ve been really enjoying a MIX of fitness with swimming, biking, jumping, and pullups) - it just feels right to me.
    And yes - my favorite line is, “I have abs, you just can’t see them” ha!

  9. Mich says:

    Well said, but are there really any MizFit readers who don’t already know this? This has never seemed to me to be a site that caters to the weakling-by-choice female demographic.

  10. Miz says:

    Very valid comment Mich and thank you for saying that. I almost declined this post for that reason and then stepped back and reminded myself what’s second nature to me isnt always to others.
    Id be curious to hear other people’s thoughts on this too!

  11. FitPanda says:

    Everyone should lift weights! Duh! haha.

  12. Jeannie says:

    Oh yes! Something I agree with wholeheartedly and promote all the time even though I love my running, biking, and other forms of cardio. Strength training plays a big part in my exercise routine and I believe in going hard or not at all!

  13. Stacie says:

    LOL it is sort of a no brainer, Miz, but I think mainly for your audience of enlightened ladies?

    I know I have many friends IRL who would never lift weights as they still fear getting too big.

  14. Stacie says:

    (Sorry I meant that as a reply to your comment MizFit.)

  15. debby says:

    I loved this post, especially the discussion of using weights vs. just body weight exercises. Being a fan of weight training, of course I liked the conclusion.

  16. Jody - Fit at 53 says:

    LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been weight training for 25 years plus & got super serious in my 30′s when I actually did some bodybuilding in my late 30′s. I am one that can or should I say when I was younger, build muscle very easily but a lot of women just aren’t like that. The thing about it is even if you can build fast, you can put together a program that builds how much muscle you want.. weight training has been great to me & all I can say is for those that don’t, when you age, you are going to wish you had! ;-)

  17. charlotte says:

    As a “typical” girl when I first started trying to get fit I stuck to aerobics and running and did cusory weights, if any. But I’ve come to learn the truth of Angry Trainer’s words. Nothing has helped me slim down faster and look better in my clothes than heavy weight lifting. And I still heart yoga:)

  18. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    Lifting just rocks. Period.

  19. julia says:

    i read several blogs that write on this topic and their audience is, of course, other women who love to lift weights!! heck, i’m one of them!! been lifting for 15 years, competitive powerlifter with national records and never once looked like a man!

    the hard part is getting this message out to other women who DON’T know this already. most women say “yeah, i lift weights, light weights, lots of reps” and no matter how many times you tell them that lifting heavier weights or doing squats and deadlifts will help them MORE, they don’t get it… until they try it. i had a client that lost 70 pounds and when the weight loss stopped her body kept changing b/c of the heavy weights. she had to take a hiatus due to family stuff, and her body start changing back… now she realizes that it was the WEIGHTS!!

    keep spreading the word ladies… keep spreading the word.

    • Nikki says:

      I think word is out…its just not as simple…seems daunting. The internet is brimming with info but it can make your head spin:O

  20. Nikki says:

    Good advice…now where does one start? A beginner…with back issues(born with 1 missing vertebrae…and no gym. The internet is, well, overwelming to say the least.

    I have 5lb weights, now what? How many? How much? protein powder? Start light than heavy? or heavy with less reps? sitting or standing? ball or not? Warm up first?

    any advice?

    • Lazy Personal Trainer says:

      Nikki, here are some suggestions I have. Just start with what you’ve got. Use those 5 lbs for now for basic exercises but plan on upgrading to 8… 10… 12 soon. Dumbbells are relatively inexpensive workout equipment and - I feel - essential for home workouts. Do combo moves like DB squat & curls, lateral raise lunges, etc. You can even double up your DBs for single arm exercises like rows. Pick about 5 exercises and do at least 2 sets of up to 20 reps. It’s good to start off lighter anyway for your back. Warm up about 2 minutes before by doing some marching, steps ups and/or jumping jacks. Make sure you get your arms involved.

      Pick a time 3 days this next week to to something for just 10-20 minutes and you’ll find it gets easier and more satisfying each time. Go for it! Good luck!

    • Miz says:

      yes. what LPT said. and add in a disclaimer :) I’m also a bug fan of resistance bands

      • Miz says:

        uh that’s big fan not bug fan ;)

        • Lazy Personal Trainer says:

          I’m not much of a bug fan, either, but also a BIG fan of resistance bands! And, as I was just browsing your website (I’ve been out of touch lately)it hit me that, duh, your fitness training cards are a great resource for exercise ideas!

        • Nikki says:

          I’m NOT a bug fan either:) Thanks for the tips. I don’t know what the heck half of those excercises you mentioned are…I’m a n-e-w-b-i-e!

  21. Lazy Personal Trainer says:

    Yes, us smart ones (haha) do already know the benefits of really pushing the strength training envelope. But I feel we always need the constant reminders to refresh us and keep us focused. That’s why I go to church every Sunday too. I hear the same stuff practically every time, but it’s what keeps me on track in that aspect too!

  22. Kimberley says:

    Excellent guest post…and one of these days I will venture back into the wonderful world of weights.

  23. http://burn the fat build the muscle says:

    Hurray for women, women looks lovely even though they build up muscle

  24. Darvis Simms says:

    I could not agree with you more. Great article, thanks for sharing.

  25. Deanna @ The Unnatural Mother says:

    Love this post! I believe it! I believe it! How many times a week do you suggest weight training? Is 2x sufficient?


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