Fitness Articles

Why Women Don't Lift Weights--But Should

Strength Training is a Must for Both Sexes

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My friend Christine had been trying to lose those last 10 pounds for months, but to no avail. Despite my regular invitations for her to come to the gym with me, she always declined. One Saturday afternoon, she finally agreed to try it out, but on one condition: no weights.
''Why not?'' I asked, a bit confused. ''I love the way my arms look. Lifting weights is the best thing I’ve ever done for my body.'' 

It had initially taken me a while to get into lifting weights, but within a few weeks of regular strength training, I had watched my arms become more firm and toned than they had ever been. Thanks to strength training, I was so proud of my body, and I couldn't understand why someone wouldn't want to give it a shot.
Christine shook her head. ''I don’t want to use weights. My arms are big enough already, and I don’t want to look like a man.''
I was quick to tell Christine that her fear was unfounded. Weight training, even just twice a week for 20 minutes at a time, is an important part of a well-rounded fitness regime for both men and women. While some of the benefits of strength training are obvious (improved muscle tone and strength), working out with weights also helps in more subtle ways, such as fighting the aging process by maintaining lean muscle tissue. And women who regularly exercise with free weights and machines have higher self-esteem and an improved immune system, meaning they get sick less often. Weight training also reduces blood pressure, fights arthritis, strengthens bones, and helps the body process sugar more efficiently, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes.
Yet, despite all of these benefits, many women share Christine's misconception about lifting weights—and it's keeping them from getting the best results possible, both for their looks and overall health. Here are some of the common reasons women give for shying away from the weight room—along with some reasons why they should drop their excuses and pick up the dumbbells.
Excuse #1: ''I'll get bulky like a man. Lifting weights will make me gain weight."
In reality, it's nearly impossible for women to build the same kind of muscle mass as men because of hormonal differences. Men have much higher testosterone levels than women do, which is one major reason why men have so much more muscle mass. In fact, instead of adding bulk to your look, combining resistance training and cardio workouts will help women look longer and leaner as they get stronger.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • I am also tired of those who say they would look like a man by lifting weights. Unless you are working with a trainer about 8 hours a day, working individual muscles, not going to happen. Why to people even think that???? I have been lifting weights 3 times a week, an hour at a time for about 6 years now, and there is no way I have anywhere near the muscles of a muscle builder. Now I am stronger, feel better and don't have the "flab" look like I did 6 years ago. - 3/2/2015 3:02:45 PM
  • I have to agree with ZIGWEEGWEE, my legs and arms get bigger and my clothes get tighter after doing strength workouts for several weeks. My daughter has my husband's stocky build and is big boned and has huge muscles. She outmuscles most of the guys her age.
    So I think these articles should be more sensitive to natural muscular bodies and suggest how we should best workout too. - 1/31/2014 2:32:36 PM
  • Thank you - I do struggle with strength training and the more I read and learn the better I can apply the knowledge, not to mention the motivation. Give me aerobic exercise any day, but not the DVD kind! I love a great workout on my treadmil - that's my favourite! - 11/17/2013 4:13:47 PM
  • I would much rather do strength training than cardio any day.I can easily spend 45min-1 hour and be perfectly happy but 20-30 minutes of cardio will drive me crazy.

    Plus I figure I walked around with big fat body parts for years, might as well walk around with big muscley ones instead ;-) - 11/17/2013 8:39:45 AM
  • I hate to debunk your debunkage, but my muscles bulk up when I exercise. I like to walk and it noticeably bulks up my calves. If the weather's bad for an extended period and I stop walking, I get frequent comments on how much thinner my legs look. It's depressing. I also never show my somewhat toned upper arms because they embarrass me. They're not huge and lumpy like a man's. They're just big and I hate them. Just posting this to let other women who have this problem know that this article isn't entirely correct and they're not alone. - 7/15/2013 1:14:57 PM
  • Good information. Thanks for sharing. - 7/8/2013 7:34:22 AM
    Great I love working out using weights good article Coral - 7/7/2013 4:42:57 PM
  • I love working with weights and the resulting toning but to say one does not bulk up is simply not true. in spite of weight loss I have had to increase my shirt size to allow movement of my arms as everything is now tight in th armhole. That is not the result I was aiming for..... - 7/7/2013 9:26:40 AM
  • I personally really don't like weight/strength training- my exercise preferences definitely go toward agility and cardio, but it's a necessary evil I've known and incorporated all my life and especially now in rehab (which makes workouts twice as challenging- not much to look forward to PLUS definite result of necessary (and good!) pain).

    However, my main reason for why I initially absolutely hated (as opposed to disliked) weight training hasn't been mentioned: The "do you even lift?"-dudebros and their ogling eye. I know everyone has different experiences, but these people and their behavior scared little teenage me out of the gym faster than anything, and are the reason I still don't like gyms today. I'm into weight training at home (bought myself a nice free weights set) with my personal trainer as much as I can be into it, but I'm still not going to a gym.

    I think a lot of women are also scared away by "lifter culture" and its sometimes neanderthal followers.
    - 7/7/2013 5:11:36 AM
  • Yes! Thank you so much for these recent articles about the benefits of strength training. It's so important to help us keep up our muscle mass and help ease the slowing of our metabolisms that comes along with aging, yet I still see so many people here who shy away from it. As someone who's lost and regained literally hundreds of pounds over the course of my life, it's definitely taken its toll on my body. I credit weight training with getting rid of my rather sizeable bat wings, a lot of my excess skin and most of the sagging that came along with rapid weight loss and regain. Not only that, but I also get to eat so much more and am a smaller size now at almost 150 pounds than I was at 135 pounds 20 years ago. Weight tranining really is a miracle cure! - 7/7/2013 2:18:46 AM
  • One more thing: Many people don't have the money to hire a trainer. In that case, ask for help with a particular move from a person who looks like they know what they are doing. As long as you don't interrupt them in the middle of a set, they will probably be thrilled to help you. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone do something wrong and thought "I WISH they would ask me for help!".

    I've tried offering before, but people get insulted. Most weight lifters have had similar experiences. So we just cringe and try to close our eyes, and wish they'd ask for instruction. - 11/17/2012 4:13:08 PM
  • Preach it! I'd like to add that women should also try to increase their weights as they gain strength. What you curl now should be more than what you curled a year ago. - 11/17/2012 4:09:49 PM
  • This article is dead-on! The best thing I ever did for myself is start lifting weights, and I was pleasantly surprised that for some reason I almost immediately dropped a few pounds of extra weight.

    I think it is important to emphasize that you can lift weights without bulking up if you find the right routine. If I do traditional weight training, as in, three sets of 10-15 reps focusing on different muscle groups, I will bulk up a bit, especially in my legs. Now I'm working with a trainer where I do circuits of bodyweight and kettlebell exercises. I am both leaner and fitter and have been really pleased with my results. If traditional-style strength training doesn't get the results you want, I would recommend looking into something different instead of foregoing weight training all together. - 11/17/2012 9:19:43 AM
  • I love my strength training. I work out with a trainer just to be sure I push myself while maintaining good form - it's my greatest indulgence. I love how I look now, I love the challenge to push myself harder, but more than anything else I love how it has translated into the rest of my life.

    things like balance - so I can hop up on a step stool and change a light without wobbling
    Things like endurance - so I can wash all the windows in this house without being wiped out for the rest of the weekend
    things like strength - so I can heft the bag of dog food into the trunk of the car without hurting something

    I realized the other day that my strength training is going to let me live independently in my own home years longer than otherwise! Wow! - 11/17/2012 6:34:32 AM
  • This article hits all the right spots!

    As a self-confessed cardio junkie of many years, just in recent months I've incorporated regular weight training into my routine and am feeling the benefits of it.

    I have always thought (along with many other people) that keeping slim was all about cardio, cardio, cardio.... but when I saw the weight dropping off but not liking what was left behind, I thought "This can't be right". After extensive research and some very good advice from SP, I realised that I'd seriously neglected my strength in order to just focus on the cardio.

    So now I'm happy to say that my workout routine is a good mix of both, and it's great - I actually look forward very much to my strength workouts now, whereas before I made half-hearted attempts at it and felt I was wasting my time. Not any more! - 11/17/2012 3:38:56 AM

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