Why Women Should Lift Weights (No, It’s Not to Get Bulky)

There’s a myth floating around the gym that women shouldn’t lift weights.

Walk into any fitness center and you’ll notice the cardio section is overwhelming populated by women, while the weight room … not so much. But here’s the thing, ladies: if you lift, you’re not going to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1967. In fact, you’ll probably get the leaner, more feminine frame that you’ve been longing for but haven’t been able to achieve despite years of yoga and running on the treadmill. While personal trainers have been preaching for some time about why women should lift weights, we still hesitate to hoist a single dumbbell. Perhaps it’s because many of us are unsure of where to start.

So here’s the beginners’ guide, gals. Start lifting.

Easy does it

If you’re not used to lifting weights, you might fall into the trap of doing too much too soon. When you lift too heavy, you’re more likely to perform the exercise incorrectly or suffer an injury. For most women lifting weights for the first time, 5 to 10-lb dumbbells are a safe starting point. You can also try using a body bar between 15-45 lbs for chest presses and similar exercises.

Learn the logistics

For best results, women should lift weights at least twice per week with days of rest in between. Each weightlifting set should consist of between 8-12 reps. (Note: If you aren’t tired after that, you need a heavier weight.) Between sets, allow you body to rest for one minute, and when you switch to a different exercise, rest for about one to two minutes.

You don’t need equipment!

Before you purchase a set of free weights, try body weight exercises to get stronger and more toned in your own home. An effective body weight workout includes exercises like push-ups, crunches, squats and planks. If you’re already fit, you can probably perform any of these exercises for 10 to 20 reps.

Funeral for your fat

Are you lifting weights to lose weight? If burning fat is your goal, focus on finding a weightlifting routine for fat loss. For many women, the stomach is a “problem area,” and if you want to tighten your tummy, you’ll need to prioritize abs in any weight training routine. Shape magazine has created a great weight lifting routine for women that will help you achieve those coveted rock-hard abs.

Refuel, refresh

No weight lifting routine is complete without a nutritional plan. As you start strength training for the first time, make sure you’re fueling your body with the nutrients it needs from foods like lean protein, fish, egg whites, veggies and whole grains. These foods will contribute to your energy levels as well as accelerate fat loss.

Feeling less intimidated by the weight room? Bring along a friend and show them why women should most definitely lift weights.