8 Reasons Women Should Lift Heavier Weights

lift heavy

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Important Note: Always ask your doctor before beginning a workout routine. Always seek out a personal trainer to help with proper form so you don’t injure yourself. 🙂 

I LOVE lifting weights. It’s probably my favorite form of exercise, I’m so not a “I love running and all things cardio!” type of girl. But whenever I try to talk to a girl friend of mine into lifting weights with me, the response is always the same, “eh… I don’t know… lifting weights isn’t really my thing, I want to look like a girl not like a man.” haha! Okay, let me set one thing straight (and if you look on any other weight lifting page it will tell you the same thing), lifting heavy weights will not make you bulky! The women you see who look like men, with the grossly large muscles, in general are taking testosterone supplements and possibly steroids in order to look that way. Don’t take those things and you wont look that way!

In fact you will look slim, sleek and toned. Instead of being skinny fat – you know where you look ok in clothes because you’re thin, but naked you have no tone – you will be toned and look amazing in the nude.

Okay so you want reasons to lift heavy weights instead of tiny dinky ones?

1. It builds muscle faster.

I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking “Well duh, weight lifting = building muscles, who knew?!” But I just wanted to reiterate that while lifting light weights can increase your endurance, it’s nothing more than weighted cardio. To build real muscle you need to lift heavy weights. You want to lift the heaviest weight you can lift for 8-12 reps, if you can’t lift 8 reps it’s too heavy if you lift more than 12 reps it’s too light.

2. According to The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, when you build muscle you burn fat continuously! 2 sessions of heavy lifting a week will burn 3% body fat in 10 weeks without cutting calories. You’ll also burn 100 more calories than if you did only cardio, even though your heart rate monitor and calorie counter may tell you that the cardio you just did for an hour burned more than weight lifting, throughout at 24 hour period weight lifting will continue to burn calories and end up burning 100 more than the “cardio only” counterparts. (Put cardio and weight lifting together for a fantastic continuous burn!)

3. In a study from the University of Alabama in Birmingham they showed that dieters who lifted heavy weights lost the same amount of weight as dieters who did just cardio, but all the weight lost by the weight lifters was primarily fat while the cardio ladies lost muscle along with some fat. That equaled smaller clothing sizes for the weight lifters compared to the cardio goers.

4. Lifting weights prevents osteoperosis and can even help build stronger bones. Check out this article which talks about weight training for osteoperosis

5. According to Harvard University Women who lift heavy weights lose more belly fat than those who don’t lift weights. Weight lifting targets intra-abdominal fat and helps you loose the visceral fat, something that crunches alone cannot do.

6. Lifting heavy weights makes you feel amazing. Whenever I’m in the gym lifting heavy weights, I feel like a beast, like I can take on the world! A feeling of empowerment, knowing that you aren’t some weakling walking alongside the road and that people may misjudge you and you could prove them wrong. I’m particularly fond of the leg press, women tend to have stronger leg muscles than men do and it was always fun to be able to do more than a guy can.

7. Strengthening your muscles can help with your cardio. If you are still a cardio lover, adding some weight lifting can improve your knees and joints so that your runs are faster and less painful.

8. You’ll reduce your risk of heart diseases and diabetes, “Muscle helps remove glucose and triglycerides from the bloodstream, which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as hardening of the arteries,” says Timothy Church, MD, PhD, a preventive medicine expert at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Want some weights to start out with? Check out this 105lb adjustable barbell set or these adjustable free weights (they go up to 105lbs as well!)  Please note; these are adjustable and range from lighter weights to heavier weights. I in no way recommend using 105lb weights when you are just starting out, but you can work your way up to it.

Cardio is still a great workout, I myself am not able to do any high impact workouts, so I stick with weights as it doesn’t jar my knees or joints (provided I’m doing techniques correctly!) anyone who does both cardio and weight lifting will gain the most benefits. But it IS possible to have benefits with only one or the other 🙂

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article!

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**Article edited on 1/20/14 to include references and important notes.

***ALWAYS check with a doctor before beginning a workout routine! ALWAYS make sure you know how to do proper form. If you are unsure of proper form please seek out a personal trainer to show you how to do the moves so that you do not injure yourself. ***

47 thoughts on “8 Reasons Women Should Lift Heavier Weights

  1. I’m not a cardio girl either. Totally agree with #6. I’ve gained so much confidence through lifting weights…more so then any weight loss, new clothes, or compliment could do for me! Great article!

  2. As a trainer and cycling coach, I see the benefits of a good resistance training plan. The only problem I see with this is that the heart and lungs are also muscles. Although they be involuntary and act naturally on their own, they still need to be worked out. I find so many people, men and women, that may be able to lift all kinds of weight, but can not run 5 miles. 5 miles is nothing! or can’t cycle 20 miles which is both a involuntary action in lungs/heart, but also natural strength. People that have a varied exercise routine, both cardiovascular and muscularly are generally in better shape than someone who just lifts or just runs. Also I see the myth that when calories are being burnt when cardio exercise stops. The human body is always burning calories. It never stops! People that do a good level of cardio, have higher metabolisms and burn more fat/calories, even while not exercising. But if they don’t exercise in the proper Heart Rate zones, they burn off too much muscle and loose strength. So I hate seeing a 1 sided article. Exercise isn’t cardio verses resistance, It is resistance and cardio.

    • Kevin, I understand your point fully! I know for myself when I was writing the article, it was more in defense for myself because people kept telling me I couldn’t lose weight without cardio. The only kind of cardio that I’m able to do is walking. I’m doctor ordered not to run, jump, bike, elliptical etc. because I have minimal padding in my knees and if I do those things I was told by my dr. that I would be unable to walk in 5 years. So many people were telling me that I would not be successful in my weight loss journey without running or cycling or whatever, so I was bringing up points that what I was doing was healthy, beneficial etc. Weight lifting also gets your heart rate up into those zones and can get it there faster than cardio can in some instances.

      People who are capable of doing both cardio and weights will definitely benefit from it and I should probably edit my article to reflect that. This was written almost half a year ago and is just now starting to get attention. I appreciate your input!

      • Jonathan says:

        Rowing and swimming are other options, that should be easier on the joints. I much prefer lifting, but think interval type training is probably the best out there for time vs. reward. Can do similar stuff lifting as well, intense periods of lifting / activity spread out with short rest periods.

  3. Ally says:

    Thanks for the info, Cherise. Can we use weight machines that include exercises like hip adductions/abductions or do we we have to use free weights?

      • But if you use free weights instead of machines you are both using normal ranges of motion and utilising more muscles. Machines are mostly good for isolation exercises and should only be used as such. If you’re not sure about how to do an exercise using free weights, always ask for help to avoid injury.

  4. This is awesome. I too enjoy lifting weights. It not only makes me feel strong and empowered, but it shows the guys that girls can do it too. Especially when you’re the only girl in a gym full of guys. Would love to know some specific exercises you do. I’m just starting my fitness blog and am always open to new exercises (I apologize if you’ve posted exercises, this just came up on my Facebook newsfeed)
    Thanks!

  5. I would love to lose weight faster, but I’ve known many people who’s bodies are ruined due to years of body building – joint aches, severe random pains, etc. I prefer swimming as it works out all your muscles with minimal strain. It might not be as fast but, it’s gentler…lol.

    • Swimming is definitely a great workout! Body building is highly different from weight training. Body building can put a lot of strain on your joints and severe pain from doing more than you’re actually capable of handling.

  6. Melena says:

    What about when you have a significant amount of weight to lose? I’ve lost about 40 lbs doing insanity and t25 I still need at least 30 more to lose, does the heavy lifting come after I’ve lost the next 30 or will it help me get the fat off that I’m still wanting to lose? Thanks!

    • Melena,
      It definitely helps now! I am not anywhere near my goal size right now. I have gone from a size 26 down to a size 16 and I still have 3-4 dress sizes I would like to lose. I’m still considered plus sized. Weight lifting helps to build muscle, building muscle burns fat (make sure you’re eating plenty of protein too!) It’s pretty awesome. Plus when you get stronger, you feel better, your endurance is longer so you can last longer in other activities that you are doing. 🙂

      • Melena says:

        That’s exactly what I want! Thank you so much for the reply and for posting the article! It’s so motivating hearing other people’s stories, makes you feel like you can do it too!! Now I just need to figure out a routine! Thanks again!

  7. Thank you for writing this post! I lift weights and love it! I have had so many friends tell me that they don’t want to lift because they don’t want to bulk up and I’ve told them over and over that they will not look like the hulk by simply attending the body pump class. I write BlogWithMom and also write about fitness on my site. I shared this post on my FB page. Good job!

  8. Lynne Boshoven says:

    I have over 30 years of competitive body building and powerlifting under my belt. If you want to look MUCH younger than your peers and feel GREAT you will put the time in the gym instead of the shopping mall. Guaranteed it is worth the time spent.

  9. Robbie says:

    Agree with all points and using resistance training is a sure way of changing your body for the better. There are many different applications of weight training and each one that is applied has a different effect on the body like reps, sets, rest, load. Doing a workout that consists of lets say 6 minutes of 3 Deadlift 6 Burpees and 9 Pull Ups has a profound effect on the heart and lungs and with proper form followed will build muscle which means more calories used at rest. I have trained with people who used high intensity training who have then ran 10k with no problems at all. I’m not denying running, cycling has benefits as I have my clients do it as part of programming but most of the time as an active rest day with a few low intensity miles. It is a constant battle with new female clients to hit home how important resistance training really is.

    Ps. Great article 🙂

  10. Sam says:

    Awesome article.I’m a trainer that always made my female clients train like the guys. Dead lifts,squats, pull-ups, etc. before they were x- fit popular. Always worked! Empowers them when they can pick up half a couch easier than their husband.
    Don’t think girls are stronger than guys on legs…but they definitely like doing them more. Guys are upper body specialists, the exercises are comfortable, not hard like deads and squats, girls love their butts and legs looking good. I tell the guys if they want a good leg workout to follow the female lifters around the gym and do what they do.
    Leg presses are for people that can’t do squats! Stay on your own 2 legs as much as possible. Makes you use the ‘core’ muscles to control your body balance.
    And if you want to lose weight eat healthy food. Diet is the only thing that’ll ever give you a six pack.

  11. Kelly M says:

    This is a great post. I agree with some of the above posters that say that free weights are best. I feel so strong and confident when I’m squatting or deadlifting, and parts of my body are sore the next day that I didn’t even realize I was using (like abs).
    A note to any women who are afraid to go into the free weight area—just do it! Ask someone for instruction on form if you need to, but don’t be intimidated by the guys. Once you do it a few times you’ll be comfortable and they’ll take you seriously, especially if you’re keeping track of your progress on a notebook or phone.

  12. nguillory13 says:

    Your article was fascinating. Weight lifting is something that I know nothing about. How do I get started when I don’t belong to a gym? What can I do at home? Afraid to do something wrong … Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!
    Thanks!
    Nicole

  13. nguillory13 says:

    Great article!
    Now, I’m intrigued … But how do I begin when I don’t belong to a gym? Afraid to do something wrong & not sure what to do. Any suggestions would be great!
    Thanks!
    Nicole

    • Hi Nicole,

      I would highly recommend getting a trial pass to a gym, some offer a month for free! That way someone can show you the proper form to lift weights so that you don’t injure yourself. 🙂

  14. Sam says:

    Nicole, call around and find a trainer that has actually competed in powerlifting competition if you can. At least they will be able to show you proper form on squats and dead lifts. They should be able to teach you the form with a few sessions hopefully.
    Then check out Craigslist for used barbells. They are usually super cheap when used. Then just do a simple 3sets of 10 repetitions on each exercise until you get comfortable with it. Don’t be scared. It’s not complicated.

  15. Br says:

    Hey Is this you in the picture if not who is that and do you know their routine hah nice she is in good shape?
    I notice a sorting trend in women postin pics like this on their social media a lot these days hah idk I would feel naked hah

  16. I have been away from weight lifting for many years but don’t need to lose weight.. I want to gain weight but in the right muscle groups. I have heard that lifting weights and having only the undenatured whey protein shakes are the safest way to add protein muscle. Do you know of any products that are best suited for weight / muscle gain?

  17. I totally agree with you. I do both Cardio and Lifting. Always have. Had to stop for a couple of months due to a injury but i’m back on my grind. I remember the day my husband called me a skinny fat person. I had no clue what that was or meant. When he told me it was on and popping. 41 years old and still look like a teenager.

  18. ellen says:

    Thank you! i love weights.. i have a bad back and knee at the moment( not from lifting) and i like how you wrote about heavy weights.. i aspire to do olympic lifting.. waiting on drs approval.. and i just turned 58 🙂 keep writing , you are good at inspiring people.

  19. Jen says:

    Thank you for the article. I’ve always wondered if more reps at lighter weights are better or fewer reps at heavier weight. With your reference to 8-12 reps being just the right amount of weight, how many sets do you do of the exercise? Thanks. From a skinny fat girl.

  20. Jenni says:

    Great article! I love weight training! I’ve tried exercise regimes before that include alot of cardio and I did lose weight, however, since starting to include weight training (80% weight training 20% cardio) I find that I am still losing weight but also have a firmer/tighter figure. It has given me so much more confidence and you are so right when you say ‘I feel like a beast’, that is exactly how I feel. I tried out deadlifting and on my first try managed 80kg, within a few weeks I’m now at 100kg. I feel like I can take on the world!! It’s amazing!!! Thank you for telling me of the many other benefits 🙂

  21. friedmansbff says:

    This was a great article. I was referred to it by my friend steve saheb after telling him I didn’t want to increase my weights for fear of getting bulky; I like the long and lean look. I love cardio and running is my favorite; however, I have had really bad knee pain and my doctor told me to increase my weightsto build up more leg muscle… Very little to no knee pain!

    A very insightful article, especially the recommendation on how to benchmark what is too little and too much… Please post more workout-related articles as I am always looking for more advice and ideas.

    -Katie

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