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Weight Lifting for Women

Heavier or Lighter Weights?

It’s probably more than you think.

Those pretty pink dumbbells were clearly designed for women. But… at just 2lbs, those  little dumbbells are scarcely weight lifting. Women tend to pick these because they don’t want to bulk up, but that’s a mistake.

As a trainer, I personally savor the moment when a female client comes to me and says that she doesn’t like to lift heavy weights because she doesn’t want to get “big” or because her “legs get big really quickly with weights” or some similar precaution.

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These comments from women excite me because it means that I get the chance to change their perspective and show them amazing results with challenging, heavy-weight—results they never dreamed of: inches lost, improved energy, better sleep quality, increased sexual drive, stress dissipation, improved self-esteem and sense of empowerment.

I usually begin by saying that I guarantee that without challengingly heavy weight they will not see a single change in their physique, period.  They can literally do hundreds and hundreds of reps with light weight and end up with no curves, no definition, no cuts, and no inches lost to show for it.

The Problem with Light Weights

In general, 90% of female gym-goers unknowingly train for endurance by doing things like jogging on the treadmill, zoning out on the elliptical or taking a 60-minute Power Pump “toning” class.  Essentially, in my opinion, lifting light weights for reps on end is the same thing as jogging, i.e. applying a light stimulus for a longer duration (endurance training).

Interestingly, 90% of female gym-goers are wanting fat loss, and yet they are training for endurance.

In other words, they’re doing long, slow workouts with light-to-moderate resistance in order to be able to maintain a steady exertion for the duration of the workout.  If it is fat loss we want, why are we not training ourselves for it???

Hour-long toning classes require the participant complete hundreds of reps, with the goal of increasing weight lifted, all the while performing the same exercises.  Though incremental increases in weight are a great way to increase intensity, how much weight can you really add when you are expected to complete 100 reps with it?

If you’re always doing the same exercises, class after class, your body will adapt become less responsive to the exercise. You’ll end up burning less calories, build less muscle, release fewer amounts of fat-burning hormones) over time for all your hard work.


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Furthermore, besides being a ridiculously inefficient use of time, lifting with a weight light enough to complete sets of 30, 40 or even 50 reps elicits a very different hormonal response than that of heavier, more intense training.

High reps with light weights can produce the wrong hormonal effect for weight loss.

At the physiological level, completing hundreds of reps using pink dumbbells essentially does the same thing as jogging in terms of the hormonal response.

Jogging and high rep, low-weight exercise, increases the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, but without the complementary release of fat-burning hormones like growth hormone, testosterone and even lactic acid, which acts as a chemical messenger in the fat-burning process.

Jogging and high rep, low-weight exercise, increases the stress hormones cortisol.

The low-intensity resultant hormonal soup promotes muscle breakdown and potentially even fat storing in the middle (cortisol is known as the “belly fat” hormone).  Doing these kinds of workouts day after day promotes stripping of muscle, not building.  The stimulus used is never enough to promote growth and development.

The only way to increase fat-burning while building muscle is to lift heavy weights, preferably quickly and get more done in less time.

Why Lift Heavy

In the My Trainer Fitness Workout System, My Gym Trainer manuals, we encourage you to train with challengingly heavy weights.  Here’s why:

Contrary to what many trainers may say, bulking up does happen, however it is not what you think it is.  It occurs when muscle is built underneath layers of fat, without any attention paid to fat-burning.  Thus, you appear larger.  By now we know that we must lift heavy weights to elicit any physique change, but we also need to burn fat simultaneously to lose inches and gain more definition.

Most educated personal trainers know that in order to increase fat-burning during and after the workout, you must breach your anaerobic threshold.  In other words, when lifting, you must get breathless, you must get burning in your muscles (signals lactic acid accumulation) and you must lift heavy enough weight to reach the point of mechanical muscle failure

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Lifting heavy weights to the point of muscle failure, in general, enhances the release of testosterone, which when increased naturally through weight training will increase fat-burning in women (one of the reasons men are leaner than women).  Lifting heavy enough to generate a strong burning in the muscles enhances the release of human growth hormone, which also aids in fat burning and has female-friendly anti-aging benefits.

My Gym Trainer vol. 2

Finally, adding lean muscle mass will enhance your fat burning potential while you are not working out.  A pound of muscle burns 15-30 calories per day at rest, while a pound of fat burns 2-5 calories; it’s a no-brainer of which composition is more desirable.  More muscle makes us more metabolically active. Furthermore, a pound of fat takes up more physical space than a pound of muscle.  So, burning fat and increasing lean muscle will NOT create bulk, but instead strip inches creating a lean, tight, defined physique, not to mention your clothes hanging off you.

Read more about our choice of dumbbells.

Build Muscle, Burn Fat and Lose Inches

So how do you do this?

If you can complete 50 reps without stopping, you are not “toning,” you are wasting both muscle and time.

The best workout is to hire a good personal trainer to get you up to speed on safe lifting at the gym. The next best thing for gym workouts you can do on your own is My Gym Trainer workouts in beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

These workout manuals guide you on how to choose a weight that elicits failure by the last rep.  For example, if the workout calls for 10 reps, choose a weight with which you can barely complete 10 reps, and definitely not 11.

If you can complete 50 reps without stopping, you are not “toning,” you are wasting both muscle and time.

What to do at the Gym

Maximize your time in the gym by training quickly, sticking to less than 60 seconds between sets.  Workout sessions (cardio OR weight training) should be no longer than 35-40 minutes in duration for best results.  Long rest periods between sets is power lifting and does not burn fat.

At the Gym

  • Train quickly (keep on moving)
  • 60 second rests between sets
  • Session duration 35-40 minutes for best results
  • Circuit training
    • 3-4 exercises per circuit
    • move quickly between exercises and sets
    • keep the heart rate up

My Gym Trainer uses circuit training.  You have 3-4 exercises per circuit, through which you move quickly from exercise to exercise with little-to-no rest.  The workouts in MGTs are designed this way in order to keep the heart rate up and generate a greater lactic acid burn in the muscles because there will be less time for the burn to dissipate between sets.

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Gym workouts in 3 fitness levels.

My Gym Trainer offers tons of variety in the exercises in order to keep the body responsive.  Compound movements like pull-ups, squats, lunges, push-presses, rows and bench presses use multiple muscle groups across several joints.

Many other exercise programs that utilize weights can achieve this effect for you. Some crossfit, some group weight classes in your gym do this as well. However, most of those are more the extended cardio style weights. One way to tell is that it’s a longer class.

If you take a strength and resistance training class at the gym, go for the shorter classes that are 20-30 minutes because they’re more likely to use heavier weights than the fast rep, light weight cardio style.

The more muscle tissue recruited by an exercise, the larger the metabolic effect of the workout.

If you want better results in less time, use heavier weights. Just be sure to be safe and stop immediately if you feel pain.

So go heavy and leave the pink to the babies! 😉 We would love to hear from you and about what workouts you’re doing.

Jill Coleman, JillFit, My Trainer Fitness,

Article by Jill Coleman, JillFit.com – Jill Coleman, MS is the owner of JillFit Physiques, a health and wellness brand, with a unique focus on mindset. Jill is one of the original co-authors in the My Trainer Fitness workout system.

 

Those pretty pink dumbbells were clearly designed for women. But... at just 2lbs, those  little dumbbells are scarcely weight lifting. Women tend to pick these because they don't want to bulk up, but that's a mistake.

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Hello! I’m LeAura, a former homeschooling mom, fitness professional, entrepreneur, author, ideator, web publisher, and podcasterpassionate about helping others achieve their best possible life! I’m the owner of this site and a few others that I run along with my entrepreneurial family in areas that interest us, because we love to create and we love to share! If you really want to know more about me, you can check our ‘About’ page. (And while you’re there, please tell me about you)!

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Thanks for reading… take care and be fit!
LeAura Alderson, owner, MyTrainerFitness.com


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3 thoughts on “Weight Lifting for Women”

  1. What happen with the Testosterone on a female body when she works out with heavy weights (not extreme), does it increase and is it a bad thing?
    Thank You

  2. Eve,
    Women naturally have lower levels of testosterone, we are only able to produce a certain amount otherwise women would start taking on male characteristics. Lifting weights will increase muscle mass but again only to a certain point so for the majority of women it’s not possible to get “huge”. And remember with men it takes many, many years combined with eating a surplus of calories to gain muscle mass, so it takes a LOT of effort to get to that point.
    For women it’s really important to weight train to ensure optimum bone density, general strength and mobility and the best one yet…. lean muscle mass will optimize burning fat! So don’t worry about increasing test levels, this is not something women’s bodies are designed to facilitate.

  3. Thnx, so my hair on the body might not multiply and my fertility does not risk. (if i keep training in weights) 🙂

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