Sunday, January 8, 2012

Power lifting for women? You must be crazy... right?

Today I'd like to talk about something that might make you uncomfortable, especially if you are a woman.  Today I want to talk about something the mainstream fitness world is completely wrong about, women lifting weights.  I want to show you how you can get the toned and sexy body you have always wanted, (and men, this is the secret to getting your girl to look like a fitness model), become stronger and more confident, and feel good about yourself everyday.  To your surprise it doesn't involve endless cardio on a treadmill, or sets of 50 repetitions with a 2lb dumbbell, it involves one main thing... HEAVY WEIGHT TRAINING.  Read on and I will prove to you that most of the things you know about weight lifting for women are a lie.  I believe in heavy lifting enough to recommend it for my own wife, and she has seen some seriously positive results since switching up from high rep, low weight workouts.

I would like to start off by telling you ten reasons why lifting heavy weights will NOT make you bulky (like most trainers would tell you it will), but instead tone, and give you your dream body.
1) Women do NOT have the levels of testosterone that men do.  Unless women have an abnormally high level of testosterone (naturally or from steroid use), they will NOT gain muscle mass like a man will.  It just isn't in a women's genetic code to be 180lbs of solid muscle.
2) The women body builders you see on magazine use testosterone, this is the only reason they are as big as they are.  You can tell that their levels of testosterone have been modified just by looking at them, evidence of this can be found in: increased muscle mass, deepened voice, increased hair growth, and acne.
3) Toning is developed through strength training.  Toning essentially means that as a muscle becomes trained to handle higher loads it becomes denser and more easily excitable at rest, this causes muscles to look more defined and causes your body to have a more desirable shape.
4) High volume exercise causes muscle gain, not heavy weights.  Reps in the range of 8-20 (what most trainers would recommend for a female looking to "tone up"), are actually what cause muscle growth (hypertrophy), for instance a body builder will typically use 3 sets of 8-12, with about four exercises per body part, this type of training causes significant micro trauma and as a result, bigger muscles.
5) Heavy weights promote strength not bulk.  Lifting heavy weights within 20% of your one rep max primarily works thorough training the Central Nervous System, this leads your muscles to be able to perform more weight and stay more "tense" during rest leading to increased strength and muscle tone, without significant muscle gain.
6) Your personal trainer probably is not your friend!  Most personal trainers are frauds, yes complete frauds! Trainers have been taught to make you sweat, make you sore, and most of all make you come back for more!  There whole program revolves around pushing you, but not too hard so that you stay happy and keep coming back.  Let's face it, heavy weights are tough, especially when you aren't used to them, most people won't actually do what will help if it's "too hard", but a true friend will tell you truth whether it pisses you off or not, that's why I am telling you not to always trust what your trainer says, ultimately they want your money not your satisfaction.
7) Getting huge muscles takes time.  Getting "huge" isn't an overnight process, it takes many men months just to add 5-10lbs of lean muscle to their frame, even if you somehow start getting bulky it won't be irreversible and it takes time for it to happen.
8) Bulking up is dependent upon calorie intake.  If you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight, if you lift heavy weights and eat more than you burn you will gain weight, if you do high reps and eat more than you burn you will gain weight.  If you are lifting heavy weights and "bulking up" it is because you are eating too much (unless you are looking to get bigger).  Eat less, eat a better diet, or add some cardio to your training and you'll stop gaining weight.  If you want a great looking body you are going to have to work for it, a small and lucky group of people look great without exercise or diet, but for the rest of us the path is hard but the reward is great!

Heavy lifting will help tone your muscles, make you stronger, and make you feel better, but it won't magically melt fat away.  Unfortunately for women, one of the side effects of having high estrogen levels is fat storage.  If you have extra body fat, you will need to take in less calories than you burn.  The most effective way of doing this (in my opinion) is not calorie restriction but through the metabolic diet, and restricting carbohydrates.  You can read more about the diet and carbohydrate intake here>

If you have extra body fat you want to lose, I recommend doing heavy weight training for 6-12 weeks with a mild calorie restriction and some light cardio a few days per week.  Gaining strength and subsequent muscle tone will be easier to achieve without a strict diet change.  After you have begun to see the results of your hard work (more toned muscle, more shapely curves, and some fat loss), you will be more motivated than ever to stick to a diet and really dig deep and work hard in the gym.  Depending upon how much extra fat you have to lose, you can begin to see significant changes in your body in 3-6 months by following the strong lifts lifting program, changing up your diet, modifying your carbohydrate intake, and adding some cardiovascular training, you will be well on your way to getting the body of you (and every guys) dreams.  Make sure and check the link below to another post in my blog to help you plan out your lifting schedule.

Lastly I'd like to add a few pictures of women who used power lifting to get their bodies into a shape that any girl would be jealous of.  Just some inspiration if you are still on the fence.

Jean Fry 415lb Squat, 375lb Deadlift, 250lb bench press at 123lbs bodyweight.

Simitah Sing, mother and powerlifter

If you still don't believe me then check out the links below on three different (very attractive) females (pictured above) who use heavy weight training/power lifting in their fitness routines both to look good, and in two of their cases to actually compete in power lifting.


Thank you for this great article! I am a woman and I start strength training for a couple of months now and I definitely enjoy it. But like you say, so many sources state that women should do 3 sets of 12 reps or more. When I do that, I can't really lift as heavy as I would if I would do, say 6 reps. And it's getting confusing....But thank you for your article. It gave me confirmation on using heavier weight!

Yes, there is a lot of misconception and misinformation out there about lifting for women. High rep low weight exercises do have there place, but it shouldn't be the foundation you build your fitness regiment on. Heavy weights are good, FYI if you are looking to slim down make sure that your diet is clean and you are on a slight caloric deficit or roughly equal intake to expenditure, to ensure that you are replacing fat with muscle and not just bulking up!

awesome article

..once upon a time i use to do the bicep/tricep presses with pink (or the odd green ) dumbell. I have always loved strength training, but just couldnt get myself to lift heavy. One day, i decided enough was enough .... i just changed gyms (from a all women's gym to a mixed one was a massive move) and then i came across barbell training... all was history. Its been over a year since ive ever touched dumbell (no offence) and even those weight circuit machines - all my strength training is done through with a bar and kettlebells. Moves such as deadlifts, squats, clean and press,chin ups (assisted) etc - all these moves (and lifing heavy with pb along the way) has transformed my body completely. But its not the physical benefits, its the mental and emotional benefits - that feeling i get when ive pushed myself to that point where i never thought i go and surprise myself how much i can really push myself. I too owe alot to my personal traininer who pushed me in this direction as i too girls, was too scared to go heavy because of looking like "hulk" but he put me at ease, and though i must admit its hardwork, i can truly say hardwork does pay off. So to all my ladies out there ..... find a inspiring partner, a PT and go where you want to go ... i too train where the "big boys"train and believe me, getting over that initial fear of training with the big guys will just fade away and they will give you big ups that your even making DIFFERENCE in your health

I am a female, 5'2 and weigh 145-150 pounds. But I do NOT look it - most people easily drop my weight by 20 pounds. The reason? I lift heavy weights. And when I talk heavy I'm not talking Ms. Olympia. I deadlift about 110lb+ / squat 100+ / and I do rows with 35-45 lb dumbbells.

Most of my exercises consist of compound movements (i.e. deadlifts / bench press / etc.)

The key is doing this regularly and varying the workout: start with compound muscle movements and finish with isolation exercises to "chisel" . If time, do LIMITED cardio (like 20 minutes on most days with maybe 1 day a week at 45 minute - on a non-strength training day).

The article above is RIGHT ON THE MONEY!! I have been weight training for 1.5 years. I'm in my mid 40's. Yet ... I've exercised for 17 years and it was ALL cardio. ALL of it. I would estimate maybe 5% was weight training with a 5lb dumbbell (db). That did NOTHING for me. In fact, I didn't know what to do with a weight above 8 lbs and the words "compound movement" and "isolation exercise" were Yiddish vocabulary - not to mention the sports nutrition terms that go along with SERIOUS exercisers (BCAA's anyone?)

And the trainers at the club, the author is right. The trainers are NOT on your side so much as they are into sales. And most of the training I observe trainers teaching their "clients" are isolation movements assisted by cable machines (which will do little to NOTHING for you without serious lifting and compound work). I see other "clients" swinging the bar bell so much I want to tell them to slow down and lighten the weight - yet the trainers say nothing and let the client keep on swinging.

Every woman needs to read this article and realize it takes a whole lot of grit and grime to gain muscle for women - steroid free!! And when you do gain it you will LOVE the way you look. And it isn't about being perfect (my abs are not flat) but it's about looking better today than you did yesterday and understanding why you are returning to your workout tomorrow.

GREAT article!!!!!!

Great post! I just find women who lift weight a lot more sexier that those women who goes on starvation mode. You can actually see the difference between the two! I also noticed that women who exercise and eat properly tends to have a happier disposition than those who don't exercise or eat properly.

I like your post. I just started power lifting about a month ago. I have a long ways to go, but I am motivated to hit some hefty goals. My trainer is my friend. He yells, pushes, and does not believe in quitters. If you are not in it for the right reasons he is not the trainer for you. Last Sunday I was so sore I struggled to walk up stairs for 2 days (let me emphasize I was sore, but not hurt), and I loved every min of it. His pushing drives me to complete my goals.

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