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Weight Lifting for Women - Dispelling the Myths

Strength Oldschool

By Physicallyelite

Fitness Woman

Attention women:
Do you not lift weights because you think it will make you become muscle-bound? Do you only do a couple sets of 15 reps on exercise machines because you only want to “tone”? If so, this article will show you that these and other myths aren’t true and also explain why lifting weights using barbells and dumbbells is the best workout possible. As an added bonus, this article also has a workout to help you begin building the body you desire.

1. Lifting Weights Makes You Muscle-Bound

While strength training will help you build muscle, women simply don’t have enough testosterone, a key hormone for building muscle, to become muscle-bound and appear masculine. The muscle you are able to build lifting weights will only improve your appearance and femininity.

2. If You Lift Weights, Do High Reps to “Tone” Your Muscles

Most strength training workouts for women prescribe 2-3 sets of 12 or more repetitions. While higher repetitions have their place in your workout, they do little to improve your appearance. If looking and feeling your best is your goal, most of your workouts should utilize sets of low to moderate repetitions (5-8) for multiple sets. Performing 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps is especially beneficial when dieting, as it is the best rep range to use to ensure you hold onto your muscle. The more muscle you can hold onto when dieting helps you burn fat faster and keep it off once you achieve your weight loss goals. Sets of 12-15 reps will only make you look and feel worse during your diet.

3. You Should Use Machines Instead of Dumbbells and Barbells

While training with machines has its place, such as helping you learn the basics of strength training, workouts using free weights (barbells and dumbbell) are the way to go. Free weight training produces greater benefits than machine only workouts for many reasons with the most important being the fact that it enables you to perform exercises that train many large muscle groups at once. This means you burn more calories for every set you perform and will get better results faster. The following example illustrates this, doing a set of barbell or dumbbell squats trains your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and abs. Compare this to a popular machine exercise for legs such as leg extensions which targets only your quadriceps. Other benefits of barbell and dumbbell based workouts is that they are superior to machines for improving your strength, balance, and bone density. These benefits become especially important as you get older, since being stronger and maintaining balance will help you better perform daily tasks and decrease the risk of injury from falls. Increasing bone density will help decrease your risk of osteoperosis and its related complications.

4. You Must Lose Weight First Before You Lift Weights

Last but not least is the myth that you should lose weight before you start lifting weights. This myth exists because women often become discouraged when they diet and lift weights since the weight loss that occurs isn’t reflected on the scale. This is because the weight lost is body fat, not the muscle you need to stay healthy. Lifting weights while dieting will help you keep the muscle you have ensuring the weight you lose is body fat. Studies confirm this showing that combining aerobic exercise, dieting, and strength training leads to greater losses of body fat and weight than when you only diet or diet and do aerobic exercise.

Getting Started

Below is a workout that will help you build the body you desire. It’s a 3-day a week workout that should be performed on alternating days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday for example. Each workout includes exercises for the entire body, and uses sets of 8 reps to help you burn as many calories as possible at each workout while building, or at a minimum, holding onto your hard earned muscle when dieting. Combine this workout with 2-3 days of aerobic exercise and a proper diet and you will get the best results of your life.


1. Always use correct technique. If you need any of the exercises explained to you, consult with a qualified personal trainer. If one isn’t available there are many web sites that give animated demonstrations of correct exercise technique. One good source is

2. Use a weight that you can perform for 2-3 more reps than what is prescribed. There is no need use a weight that causes you to ‘fail’ at the end of each set. You should leave the gym feeling energized, not exhausted.

3. Increase the weight used when you can do 2-3 more repetitions than the 8 prescribed on the last set of a given exercise. Only increase the weight used if you can do so without sacrificing proper technique.

4. Start a new routine after doing this one for 4-6 weeks. This will help keep your progress on track and keep your workouts enjoyable.

5. Lift weights before aerobics. If you want to do an aerobic workout on the same day you lift weights, that’s fine. Just make sure to do it after you lift. This ensures you have ample energy to perform all of your exercises with correct form.

6. The exercises in the workout below are divided into groups (A1/A2, B1/B2, etc.). Each group is to be performed one after the other with about a minutes rest between sets for the total number of sets given. Once you have completed all of the prescribed sets for each exercise in a group, move on to the next group of exercises after 1-2 minutes rest. Doing the workout this way burns more calories, and you’ll accomplish more in less time. Also, if you are just getting into shape you may need more than a minutes rest between sets and groups of exercise. If this is the case, rest for as long as you need in order to perform the exercises with proper form, decreasing the amount of rest as your conditioning improves until you reach 1 minute.

Below is an example of how this workout is to be performed.

* A1 Lunges: Set 1
* Rest 60 seconds
* A2 Dumbbell Bench Press: Set 1
* A1 Lunges: Set 2
* Rest 60 seconds
* A2 Dumbbell Bench Press: Set 2
* Rest 60 seconds
* A1 Lunges: Set 3
* Rest 60 seconds
* A2 Dumbbell Bench Press: Set 3
* Rest 60 seconds and move onto the next group of exercises.

The Workout


Exercise Sets Reps Rest Between Sets
A1 Lunges 3 8 60 sec
A2 DB Bench 2 8 60 sec
B1 Leg Curl 3 8 60 sec
B2 DB Row 2 8 60 sec
C1 Crunches 3 8 60 sec


Exercise Sets Reps Rest Between Sets
Seated Row 3 8 60 sec
Stiff Leg DL 2 8 60 sec
Inc DB Fly 3 8 60 sec
Dumbbell Squat 2 8 60 sec
Back Extension 3 8 60 sec


Exercise Sets Reps Rest Between Sets
DB Shldr Press 2 8 60 sec
DB Step-Ups 3 8 60 sec
Reverse Fly 2 8 60 sec
Calf Raise 3 8 60 sec
Reverse Crunch 3 8 60 sec



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