Hello lovelies!

I’m going to get a little real with you today. There might be a little bit of tough love in this post, but know that it’s because I care about you and I want you to get the most out of all your fitness efforts! <3

As I’ve grown as both a fitness professional and an athlete, my views on training have changed quite a bit over the years. I used to scoff at 3lb dumbbells used for anything besides rehabilitative work, but I’ve now had my ass handed to me with them in a barre class.

I used to be allllll about the HIIT training, and now I’m learning to find solace in slowing down and really savouring each movement. Oh, and there’s the whole swimming thing. Somewhere along the way I sort of started to enjoy it.

But one thing has remained the same – I’m firm on my views about why women need to lift heavy weights.

I’m sick of training methodologies giving women the idea that lifting heavy weights and doing compound movements will make them “bulky” (I’m looking at you, Tracy Anderson).

I’m tired of reading articles about how to tone my inner thighs, and seeing workouts with weird names like “Sexy Springtime Sweetie” on Pinterest. “20 jumping jacks and 500 crunches – you’ll be fit in no time!

And the whole “develop long, lean muscles” thing? It’s not anatomically possible. Muscles have fixed attachments in your body. You cannot make them longer.

What’s in your best interest?

But most of all, I want women to STOP wasting their time in the gym doing 20+ repetitions of an exercise so they can “tone” their arms, because all the magazines and fitness gurus tell them if they do anything different they’ll get big and bulky.

So many popular fitness programs these days advocate toning routines using baby dumbbells combined with daily 30 minute cardio sessions. One or two sets of dozens of different isolation exercises – sure, these things might be effective. But how long are you willing to put in an hour of exercise a day for minuscule results?

I know many women who struggle to fit in 20 minutes of exercise a few days a week, let alone 60 minutes 5 days a week. For the vast majority of us, whether our goals are fat loss, boosting our muscle definition, having more energy, or just feeling better overall, I think we can all agree that efficiency is key.

If you don’t LOVE these classes and workouts you’re doing and your main goal is to build a better body and feel like a badass, I’ve got good news for you – you can drop the 2lb weights 😉

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Why women need to lift heavy weights

In order for our bodies to change, we need to challenge them. After doing 2lb bicep curls for weeks on end our arms are going to have no reason to change. They’ll have become perfectly comfortable with that particular movement at that particular weight. And we know that when things get comfortable, progress tends to stall.

The principle of “progressive overload” is what we trainers use to continually challenge our clients. Get a client to master a bodyweight squat, and then once she’s comfortable with that challenge her with a 20lb kettlebell. Once she can perform the desired number of repetitions comfortably, we give her a heavier kettlebell. Once she’s comfortable with that, we move her onto the barbell, and so on.

By constantly challenging the body, we give it a reason to constantly adapt. New muscle cells need to grow to provide the energy to lift these heavier weights. These new muscle cells need more energy just to survive, which means our metabolism rises. Which means we burn more calories, and thus more fat.

If you don’t continue to challenge your body once it’s gotten used to those 2lb dumbbells, it’s not going to have any reason to adapt. No new muscle growth. No new muscle cells needing more energy. No heightened metabolism. Just you, doing the same exercises with the same weights, over and over again.

Don’t get me wrong – doing some sort of physical activity, whether it’s with teeny tiny dumbbells or nothing at all, is better than nothing. And those teeny tiny dumbbells have their place. They can be great when you’re strengthening a muscle after an injury, or when you’re just beginning to work one of the smaller muscle groups, like the triceps.

But let’s be real here – your purse probably weighs more than those dumbbells. A baby weighs way more than those dumbbells! If we want to step away from the stereotype of women being the weaker sex, we need to stop feeding into the things that reinforce it.

why women need to lift heavy weightsSource

Why else would you want to lift heavy weights?

  • Increase your muscle mass, or “tone”, in a shorter period of time than lifting lighter weights. Better results in less time? Sign me up!
  • Boost your metabolism so you can torch more calories while you’re relaxing on the couch or sipping a glass of wine with your friends.
  • Stimulate hormonal responses that trigger the fat-burning mechanisms within the body. Combine that with your heightened metabolic rate and you can say hello to a hot new body!
  • Improve your power and make you more efficient at other activities you enjoy doing, such as running or cycling.
  • Learn a new skill. In a world where technology does pretty much everything for us, it’s incredibly empowering to learn how to move your body in new, complex ways.
  • Boost your confidence levels by 110%. You don’t know how good it feels to hit a new squat PR, or to master the deadlift, or to press heavier dumbbells than the guy next to you until you’ve experienced it 😉
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Are there any exceptions?

As with anything in fitness, there are of course a few exceptions to this.

Different sports may require an athlete to step away from the heavy weight training at various points throughout the year. When my triathlon training intensity picks up in the spring, I step away from the heavy barbells for a few months.

If you’re coming off an injury or are new to weight training, it’s important to make sure your lifting weights that are appropriate for the level you’re at. Enthusiasm is great, but if you’re not totally sure about how to do an exercise properly, you’re better off asking your friendly neighbourhood fit pro for some help 😉

And of course, if you legitimately enjoy these fitness routines that advocate using light weights so you don’t get bulky, then hey – all the power to you. Finding a form of exercise you enjoy is the key to staying active for the long-term.

But PLEASE don’t think that just because you’re a woman you HAVE to lift little dumbbells or stay out of the weight room. Know that you can get great results with just a handful of exercises and some short yet intense cardio sessions.

Keep your workouts focused, continue to challenge yourself, eat a balanced diet, and of course, love yourself. Those are the fours keys to developing and maintaining a healthy body composition.

why women need to lift heavy weights

So my ladies, I’d like to hear your thoughts on all this! Do you think I’m full of crap and prefer to lift lighter weights? Are you a fan of lifting heavy-ass barbells? Let’s open up the discussion! Don’t be afraid to tear me apart here 😉 

Showing 19 comments
  • Julie

    This is something I struggle with in my Body Blitz class. I am going to send this to my instructor for further inspiration!
    Julie recently posted…Best Wine of the Month Club – and It’s on Special!My Profile

    • Ariana

      I hope she takes it into consideration! I do have to say though, I attended a Barre class once and kind of scoffed when I was told to grab some 2lb dumbbells, but I was soon put in my place with tricep kickback pulses! 😉 But really, who has time to pulse their arms for minutes on end??

  • Tianna

    back when I had a gym membership, I preferred to lift heavy. Now that I use my apartment’s gym, there are not really heavy weights around so I’ve taken to doing body weight exercises.

    Tianna recently posted…Happy Birthday, Storybook Apothecary!My Profile

    • Ariana

      Body weight exercises are a great substitute for lifting heavy! I’ve had some brutal workouts using nothing but this body 😉 Good job making it work for you!

  • Farrah

    I am all over the big wheels! (As I like to call em’… 😀 ) I am without a gym at the moment though, so I’m currently doing a crap ton of bodyweight stuff that somehow still makes me feel like dying. I’ll improve in time! 😛
    Farrah recently posted…Best Restaurants In TownMy Profile

    • Ariana

      Haha, big wheels – I love it! Body weight exercises are a killer for sure! I’m a fan of working with either just my body or the heavier stuff…I’m apparently not good with moderation haha.

      • Farrah

        hahaha, I’m not good with moderation either! It tends to be an all-or-nothing deal–I need to work on that! :X
        Farrah recently posted…Reflections on Pediatrics IMy Profile

  • Mary

    Let me start this by saying I love the name of your blog, this is the first time I’m stopped by and after this comment I’ll be subscribing. I also loved this post, I’m all about progressive loading, pushing myself past my limit, and lifting heavy. When women see me working with my kettle bells at the gym they stare while prancing off to zumba. Love hearing I’m on the right track…. Subscribing now!!! 🙂

    • Ariana

      Aw, thank you so much Mary! I’m glad you enjoyed it! There’s something so empowering about pushing yourself beyond your limit, hey? It’s also pretty badass to be one of the only women in the gym using kettlebells 😉 Thanks for stopping by! I’m looking forward to connecting more with you in the future!

  • Andreya Atari

    I love heavy lifting. I consider it the foundation of my fitness program, but I do switch it up with cardio every day. So happy to see other women lifting weights as well. I’m sick of hearing people saying I’m going to bulk up and look like The Hulk in a dress and lipstick. I keep telling them women aren’t going to bulk up like men because we don’t have as much testosterone as they do.

    • Ariana

      Exactly! It takes a LOT of work to look like a female bodybuilder. All the power to ya with your heavy lifting!!

  • Bri

    Amen sister!! I’ve written about this and those stupid Pinterest workouts a few times (I made a joke one once that gets a ton of pins still, I hope no one is actually pinning it to try!) and it’s important message for women to hear. Great post!

    • Ariana

      Yes!! I remember you telling me about that! I’ll have to see if I can find that pin 😉

  • Jen @ Pretty Little Grub

    I couldn’t agree more! Lifting heavy weights has been amazing for me. I’ll never go back to the 2lb dumbells again.

    • Ariana

      Great to hear!! 🎉

  • Lecy | A Simpler Grace

    These are great tips! I’ve never been much of a heavy lifter, but am feeling inspired to give it a try! 🙂

    • Ariana

      I totally get that heavy weight training isn’t everyone’s jam, but I definitely think it’s worth giving a shot! Let me know how it goes 😀

  • Carmy

    Yes yes yes! While the little weights have their place (i.e. they’re amazing for barre), more women should do heavy weights! The results are amazing!
    Carmy recently posted…Where to Run in Montreal, QuebecMy Profile

    • Ariana

      Totally agree! I feel I can make progress much more quickly with heavy weights.

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