Women & Weights: What Women Need to Know

“ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WANT BIGGER ARMS. AT ALL. WHICH SHOULD I NOT DO? PUSHUPS? PULL UPS? ALL OF THEM? ABSOLUTEY POSITIVELY NO BIG ARMS FOR ME”. Lisa, FitStudio.com fitness community member.

Lisa is not alone. Although I have a lot of readers that LOVE weights, I have a lot more readers who are scared to death of them. Whether they are scared of “bulking up” or they just don’t know how to lift weights, women and weight training often mix like oil and water.

I’ve never met one woman who said they want to “bulk up”. Unfortunately, all it takes is to see one beef cake chick in the gym to make every one afraid of touching a free weight. Most jacked up women do a LOT more than just lift weights. Their weight routine is just a small part of it. Between steroids, mega-dozes of protein, supplements and an extreme diet, they are purposely living their entire life to get the physique you hate.

I Want to Play with Man Toys Most women gravitate to the inner/outer thigh machine and ab machine, and avoid chest and back machines. I’ve got news for you ladies! Weight machines, dumbbells and barbells are not man toys, they are unisex (stop, breath, and take it all in) …aaaand they don’t make you a body builder (another pause to absorb the shock of this news). Seriously, if you are avoiding weight training, then you are avoiding increasing your metabolism, burning more calories, toning your body, strengthening your bones, building your self-confidence, and preventing injury.

Weights are not “strong enough for a woman and made for a man”, they are made for hu-mans – women and men alike.  It is very unlikely your body will bulk up – your body will firm up and regain a youthful shape. In addition, 5lbs of muscle is much smaller than 5 pounds of fat, so even if you weigh the same amount but you lift weights, you’ll appear smaller.

Pink Weights vs. Real WeightsPink weights were invented by women who were scared to bulk up. Not really, but it sounds good! I mean, have you EVER seen a girl with a smokin’ hot physique who used pink weights? Ha! Honestly, if you are working out with anything less than 5lbs you might as well throw them away in my opinion. Most women should be using 8, 10, 12 & 15 pound weights for almost everything. The only thing I use 5lb weights for is lateral raises for the shoulders. Other than that I hardly touch anything under 15 pounds. You’d be amazed with how different your body would feel if you increased all your weights.

Sculpting the Body You Want The combination of reps and sets determines what type of muscle you’re shaping. If you want more muscle mass, you lift super heavy for few reps with large breaks of rest in between sets. If you want lean tone muscles, you go lighter (lighter – not LIGHT!) but heavy as you can, for 12-15 reps for upper body and 18-20 reps for legs with very little rest between sets. A workout, like the workout Lisa was talking about, is designed to tone your body, not bulk you up. Bodyweight exercises are awesome conditioning exercises that will get your heart rate up, as well as tighten your entire body. We’ve put thousands of ladies through our BCx program in Vero Beach and these women lift heavy and train hard – and not one of them gets bulky. They lose body fat and they get in the shape of their life.

Skinny or Fit? Some women are so obsessed with being skinny, all they want to do is cardio and diet – which can leave you “skinny fat”. However, a combination of weight training and cardio will get you fit and skinny – the best of both worlds. Also, realize muscle burns more calories that fat, so the more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn through out the day. This means you’ll either lose fat more quickly if you are dieting or it means you can eat a little more without gaining weight if you are in maintenance – and I’m ALL about being able to do either one of those!!

Push Ups & Pull Ups are For Girls Too If you thought pull ups and push ups were for guys only – boy are you wrong. These exercises are actually primo for women! They do everything that women want. Push Ups not only sculpt the arms and chest, but they tighten and tone our core (abdominal, obliques and low back).  Don’t believe me? Do as many man style push ups as you can, then drop to your knees and do as many as you can until you can’t push even one last one out. Then tell me how your abs feel the next 2 days. If you aren’t doing push ups, you are totally missing out!

And then there are pull ups. I’ll be the first to admit I hate pull ups. They are hard, they are almost impossible, but there is NOTHING that works my back and arms like pull ups. If you are like me, you probably can’t even do one pull up – but you could do an assisted pull up for sure!! Although pull-downs are a fair replacement for pull ups for those of you who don’t have a pull up bar, assisted pull ups for women are amazing. Loop a Black or Orange Bodylastics band around the pull up bar and place your foot in the handle, pointing your toe downward so it doesn’t slip off. Straighten your legs out and begin your pull ups. The band will assist you where you need it most (at the bottom) to help spring you back up. Shoot for 10-15 reps for 3-4 sets. You can also change hand positions – wide overhand grip works the top of the V in our back (bra strap area), closer overhand grip works mid back and underhand grip works more biceps.

Train Like a Football Player, Don’t Eat like One You truly are what you eat.  Steve used to say “If you train like a football player and eat like a ballerina, you’ll look like a ballerina. If you train like a ballerina but eat like a football player, you’ll look like a football player.” This is a bit extreme, but true. If you have “bulked up” in the past, that is because you were probably eating too many calories. If you are heavy, you likely have a lot of muscle mass under the fat. In order to feel smaller, you need to make sure you are losing body fat while toning muscle. Many women who weight train, add protein shakes (adding extra calories) without pulling calories from other foods. So, it’s not that weight training bulked them up, eating more bulked them up. So be careful how you eat too. 🙂

UPPER BODY WORKOUTS:

Get rid of those flabby arms & tighten that bod!

Quickie Upper Body Workout

Get more workouts at http://www.DoBCx.com or http://www.youtube.com/DoBCx 

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on January 18, 2012, in Exercise & Training, PFIT TIPS and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Great post – I am always trying to convince women to lift and lift heavy. Big pet peeve is “I don’t want to bulk up.” I’m almost always the only female in the weight room at my gym. If another girl does actually show up, she does like 10 reps, 1 set of everything (like curls, kickbacks, lateral raise, maybe a few rows) with super light weights and then promptly goes back to cardio.

  2. amen! amen! amen!
    pushups and pullups are my foundation…
    love the strength – love how my upper body looks with them.

  3. Agreed! I think a lot of women stay away from weights, and then you tell them to do push ups (um, hello… no weights) and they freak! It’s totally socialized. I am a huge advocate for resistance training, whether body-weight, med ball, stability ball, pilates, yoga, or weights! Great post! 🙂 ❤ fitfluential

  4. So many women need to read this article – I will tweet and post on my facebook page!

    Well done!

  5. well said,great post

  6. Hiya, I’m one of those women scared of going near the weights machines but not because I don’t want to bulk up. On the contrary. I’m skinny/boney on my upper body most fat goes to my bum and thighs. I’m not overweight. I’m put off by the men who use weight machines and feel inferior or out of place if I do use them which I felt in a past experience. This article makes me feel differently now and more confident to use weight machines more. Would like some nutritional advice

  7. Great post! I’m 4 weeks into a weight training program and was having doubts this morning that I would be able to keep a leaner figure. It’s always right after the workout with those pumped up muscles that I panic and picture the beefy bodybuilder. But I’m LOVING my results. The only thing I would say is that 15lbs is heavy for a beginner, specifically on the arms. When I first started playing around with weights, I needed those 5lbs for a lot of exercises. I think if I had tried to go right for 10 or 15s I would have hurt myself and/or been discouraged. Starting with the lighter weight and being able to complete all my sets was key to getting into heavier lifting. That said, I definitely see the value of pushing forward and adding weight as soon as you’re comfortable & have the technique down. Thanks!!

  8. I love lifting weights! I do it at least 3 times a week! In fact, I asked for 25lb. Free weights for Xmas! My sister who got my name for the exchange was non too happy, but, hey. It has changed my body immensely!, I have always had big arms but now they are shapely. I have tone in my back and shoulders, which my hubby comments on all the time! He’s impressed. I feel so good after I am done too.

  9. I’ve had to say this to so many women! What’s sad is there are actually people out there telling them this. I once had a girl ask me in the gym about the amount of weight she was using. She was terrified because a guy working there had warned her against using too much, telling her she would get huge. I told her to look at me. I’m definitely not huge. And I always go as heavy as possible without sacrificing form. She started increasing weight and ended up toning up and losing fat. She was so grateful! I wish more women understood this. I see so many who just do cardio all the time and they have no muscle tone.

  10. Mother of 4 here. … weights and cardio helped me get into my skinny jeans!!!!

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