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Thursday, May 22, 2014

4 Reasons Women Should Lift Weights

Earlier this week I mentioned on Facebook that I was discussing weight training with a woman and she explained that she, "didn't want to look like a linebacker.".  If you're a lifter I know you're probably rolling your eyes right now but to this woman, getting big and bulky from resistance training was a genuine concern.

Despite an abundance of articles like this, this and this on the Internet listing reason after reason why women should not just lift weights but HEAVY weights, it just doesn't seem to be sticking with some.

As a personal trainer, I've heard it all when it comes to why women don't want to lift heavy…. I don't want to look like a dude.  I don't sweat when I lift weights so it's not working.  Muscle weighs more than fat, and I don't want to gain weight.  I just want to tone up.

I threw up a little when I typed that last line.

If you're reading this then I'm guessing you're at the very least a little bit curious about lifting weights and I could easily overwhelm you with studies, facts, reasonings about why none of those excuses I mentioned earlier are valid.  If you'd like to read for yourself click any of those links above.  The last one is my favorite, just FYI.

I'd say 99% of the women that approach me for fitness advice are all after essentially the same thing.  They want to lose fat, not just weight, fat. They want to change their body composition. They want to keep their muscle they have (if not build more), get stronger, become leaner, lose belly fat, lose underarm jiggles, lift their butt… you get the point.  Lifting weights can help accomplish all of those (a nice, clean diet doesn't hurt either though).

While I do truly believe that everyone, especially women would benefit from resistance training, I get that it's not everyone's cup of tea.  I'm sure some of you feel about lifting like I feel about running in which case your stomach is probably turning just at the thought of it.

I also believe that if you're happy and content without lifting weights in your life then rock on (although please re-read the paragraph directly above this one).  I'm not suggesting you quit activities you enjoy and I'm not here to force women into lifting, maybe just a provide a healthy nudge.  And the only reason I want to nudge women towards lifting heavy weights is because I know just how powerful of a tool it can be for us physically, mentally and emotionally.

If you're still not convinced lifting heavy weights is for you then let me give you four more reasons you should: Abbie, Laurel, Caroline and Kayse.  These four ladies just happen to be a few of my female powerlifting friends I've meet training at 22nd Street Barbell in Des Moines.  They're beautiful not manly.  They're lean not linebacker-ish. They're strong, not bulky and the four of them are some of the most confident women I've met.  They can be the only woman in a room full of tattooed, bearded men and think nothing of it. Coincidence?  I think not.  So instead of posting picture after picture of models that have graced the cover of Oxygen Magazine I'm choosing to give you real life examples of women who lift heavy weights.

Reason #1: Abbie

Abbie began powerlifting just over a year ago and in that time has dropped over 15 pounds and five percent body fat. The picture of her deadlifting was from her last competition where she set a personal record of 235 pounds. And see those men she's standing next to in the bottom right picture? Those two men are her training partners. Abbie uses the exact same training program they do. She performs the same number of sets and repetitions that they do and still managed to lose body fat and keep her feminine figure. (And as a side note, although Abbie lives an extremely active lifestyle she achieved these results without doing any stead state cardio activities) .

Reason #2: Laurel

Through heavy lifting, just one 30 minute HIIT session a week and a diet that was on point this hot mom lost 40 pounds.  Laurel struggled for years trying to lose weight.  When I asked Laurel how she got into weights she told me, "Two years ago, I was actually watching a documentary on female body builders and was intrigued. They looked so fit and they focused on weight training rather than cardio. So I thought why not, let's try this weight lifting thing. I picked a couple workouts, tried a few things and really really liked it. Suddenly I was losing 1-2 lbs a week. I also continued to keep my diet in check as I quickly figured out I lift better and have better energy when I eat better. A few months into it, I had lost 25lbs." Since then, Laurel has gone onto compete in several powerlifting competitions and only through lifting has she learned that, "The only thing stopping me is me. There will always be men and women who balk at what I do, but I'm not here to make them happy, I'm here to prove to myself what I'm capable of."

Reason #3: Caroline 

Don't let the cute leggings fool you.  Caroline can move some heavy weight.  Her personal records include a 315lb deadlift, 140lb bench and a 305lb squat.  While lifting does keep this dietetics student fit and trim she'd be the first to share with you the impact it's had on her mentally and emotionally, "Lifting has really given me a new life, it's not just about a changed body.  It's given me a newfound confidence and interest that's put me more in touch with my body."  While Caroline might look intimidating lifting hundreds of pounds she's one of the friendliest and helpful ladies I've met.

Reason #4: Kayse

I'll never forget the first time I met Kayse.  She was one of two girls at 22nd Street when I went in to talk about joining the team.  I was shocked to see this petite woman squatting 135lbs for multiple reps with such speed and power.  Kayse may be little but she is fierce.  After reaching her first goal of competing in a figure competition, Kayse went in search of another goal to work towards.  Her figure coach suggested she would be good at powerlifter.  Let me just say, that coach was right!  She competed in her first powerlifting meet in 2012 and fell in love. At just five feet tall she has put up an impressive 225lb. squat, 145lb. bench and a 320lb deadlift.  Kayse's drive and determination is second to none.  

If these four ladies have you feeling inspired to give weights a try but you're clueless where to start check in at your gym for personal trainers who specialize in weight training to help you learn proper technique.  (Believe it or not there are trainers who don't lift weights.). Of course if you're in the DSM area 22nd Street Barbell would be a great place to check out.

 If you're on your own I'd encourage you to check out Jamie Eason's LiveFit Trainer or The New Rules of Lifting for Women.  I have personal experience with both of these programs and can't say enough about them.  They are both complete with a great program layout, detailed instructions of each exercise, and even address the when and how much part of cardio exercise.

So go on…..what are you weighting for? (<---see what I did there?  A little lifting pun for ya!)
Seriously though, give lifting a chance I promise you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.


  1. I love how you profiled real women lifters! Say I was interested in getting into heavy lifting, what steps would I need to take to get started? What equipment, etc? Something I can do in my garage, I don't have a gym membership and will never be a part of a gym.

    1. Great questions Lindsay! I'd say if you had a well rounded set of dumbbells (maybe you acquire them over time) ranging from 10lbs to 50lbs, ideally in five lb increments and a bench that would be a good start! Although when lifting heavy it's always a good idea to have spotter. I'd love to hear more about why you're not interested in a gym membership sometime! Let me know what other questions you have!

  2. I love, love, love this post! Sharing on my Facebook page now...thanks Annie! You always inspire me!


  3. Wow this is so inspiring thank you for sharing! I love lifting heavy but for some reason I just can't lower my bodyfat. Well, I know the reason - my diet isn't on point. Sigh. I tried just lifting with no cardio but no change, so I think I need to do HIIT or something 2x a week. Currently I'm doing more running and trying to lift as well. We'll see how it goes! I hope I can be as strong as these ladies one day!

  4. This list is pretty awesome. It's definitely way easier to convince someone that lifting won't make them turn into hulk if you have these ladies as visial proof!
    Thanks for sharing :)

  5. I adore lifting weights. It is my time, when I let it all out. I can't describe it.
    It is great to see other women lifting as well. Keep on rocking the iron girl!!!!

  6. I really like lifting weights. It's really the only time I see a difference in my body. With that said, I have a hard time going into the gym on my own and figuring out what to do. I wish I could have a trainer helping me out, but alas, I can't afford one. I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate it into my marathon training plan. I really want to be strong this cycle!

  7. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this and these women are all so gorgeous and fit. I love to lift but was having a hard time getting into a routine outside of the Group Power class I teach 1x a week so I have been doing the 5x5 stronglifts program but once my T25 program is over, I am going to do the Jaime Easton program, I already signed up and have been getting the weekly emails! I really wish I had a few more hours in my day to workout so I could do all the things I want to fitness wise!!

  8. This is AMAZING! You train with some awesome lifters, all these women are SO strong and badass and fabulous!! Thanks for sharing.