3 Things They Should Tell You about Strength Training for Women

In spite of all the material that is available on the benefits of strength training, many women still feel that it carries a certain stigma. We work with countless trainers who are trying to change the perception that women who do strength training will get bulky and all they really need to do to lose weight and fat is cardio. Stan Dutton explains his 3 reasons why women should be doing strength training. 

Before I get into this topic, I’d like to point one thing out…

A few days ago, I asked all of our lovely ladies at TFW Boston what some of their favorite myths were when it comes to lifting weights for women.

“Someone told me that I’d scare off all guys, and I won’t be able to find a husband or get married.”

“Don’t take protein powder or you’ll get man-boobs.”

“Light weights and high reps, or you’ll look like a man.”

Not only were these comments incorrect, but some were absolutely ridiculous. At first I got mad, then the frustration turned into disappointment, but right before I broke down in tears, I realized something.

Most of these comments had to do with a women taking on physical attributes of men/bodybuilders.

“You’ll get broad shoulders.”

“Grow man-boobs”

While you’re at it, you might even grow a beard — or something like that, because… #Science?

All jokes aside, let’s backtrack. Where did these ideas even come from? There is some truth to every lie, and this situation is no different.

When I ask most women what their plan is to lose weight/build lean muscle, I hear this:

“I’m going to use light weights, for high repetitions (12-20 reps per set), and do low-intensity cardio (jogging, stationary bike, elliptical) for 30 minutes at a time. ”

Here’s the truth, even if I hate to admit it.  This will work — to a point.

Light weights and high reps will indeed help you build muscle as long as your diet supports it.

“Cardio” will help you lose fat,  if you do it right. For low-intensity cardio, you must be between 70-80% of your maximum heart rate for an extended period of time. THEN fat burning will commence. Although running may help you achieve SOME of the results that you desire, it isn’t the most effective method for results that LAST.

Now… Without further adieu, let’s get to the fun part!

The 3 Things that they WON’T tell you about strength training for women

1. It’s the best way to get your results to stick.

If you want to burn fat quickly, and keep it off, it’s going to take some muscle gain. Muscle aids in fat loss by raising your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).  This will help your body burn more calories over the course of a day (approximately 50 calories per pound of muscle).

In other words, if you continued to eat the same amount of food, but put on 10lbs of lean muscle, you’d be burning an additional 500 calories per day.

That’s 3500 extra calories per week.

That’s awesome.

Find out more about how to gain muscle without looking manly here. 

2. Lifting weights = cardio.

I love when this situation happens… A new member walks in to TFW Boston saying “I run 5k’s.  My cardio is really good and I just want to work on toning.”

We do a few sets of kettlebell swings, sandbag cleans, or goblet squats. And suddenly they’re out of breath and sweaty!

When done properly, training with weights can be just as effective, if not more effective, than traditional cardio. Not only will it send your heartrate through the roof, but what makes interval training so effective as a fat burner is that it produces excess post-oxygen consumption, a.k.a. EPOC. A study performed by Jeffrey W. King of East Tennessee State University showed that HIIT increases the resting metabolic rate (aka the number of calories you burn at rest) for the following 24 hours.

Don’t believe me?

Try doing this:

10 Kettlebell swings, every minute, at the top of each minute, for 10 minutes.

This quick 10 minute will have your lungs (and glutes) on fire.

3. You can lift EXACTLY like a man.

The best part? Whether I want to admit it or not, women can be smarter than men.

What do I mean? Guys, thanks to their high testosterone levels, tend to bro-out and try to use muscle rather than technique. Ladies tend to rely on proper technique rather than brute force to lift weights.

That. Just. Happened.

Not to mention, male or female, training with symmetry in mind is the key to long term success.  Having an imbalance in your training (think the guy that only does bench press, has terrible shoulders, and a slouching posture) can be disastrous for your health and aesthetics.

Long story short, women can do the exact same exercises as most guys, and get even better long-term results.


I almost forgot.

You can go heavy too.

This is Melissa, one of our Strong and Sporty participants deadlifting 245 lbs from the floor — in jeans — during a photoshoot. Not only is she strong, but she’s got an amazing body to show for all of her hard work.

Melissa Deadlifting

The moral of the story:

Not lifting weights because you’re worried about looking like a bodybuilder, is like not driving a car because you fear becoming a NASCAR driver.

In other words, it takes years of focused, diligent effort to become a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or NASCAR driver. It isn’t the tools, but instead the way that you use them.

Alright ladies and gents, that’s all I’ve got. Go lift some weights, get sexy, and have fun doing it.

Stan Dutton was born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard.  He found fitness at an early age and worked his way up to a 2nd Degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. A TFW Level 2 coach, and a graduate of the American Academy of Personal Training.

This post has been published with the consent of Stan Dutton. Click here for the original.