The other day my friend was nice enough to invite me to check out her gym for free.
We went to a women’s-only gym that specializes in cross training group classes. The women were all so lovey and welcoming, the instructor was enthusiastic and motivating, the facility was bright and welcoming. My only problem? The workout. More specifically, the weights we used.
The actual exercises were good ones — deadlifting, squatting, kettlebell swings, etc, combined with all kinds of running and jumping to get the heart rate up. But when it came time to lift weights, I was a little disappointed at the size of the weights. The heaviest kettlebell couldn’t have been bigger than 30 pounds. When I grabbed a 20 pound kettlebell to deadlift, all the women tried to advise against it. I deadlifted 120 pounds for 5 reps the other day — 20 pounds is more than manageable.
I’m not telling this story to shame these women or to brag about myself. But after this experience, I realized that there is still this misconception that women shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights. Some of the most powerful, strong, and awesome women I know still believe this. Why do they think they shouldn’t lift heavy?
- They’ll bulk up and look manly
- They’ll hurt themselves
- Women can’t lift anything nearly as heavy as men can
Pardon my bad language, but these three reasons are total and complete bullshit! Women are so much stronger than even they give themselves credit for. Just look at your mom — she gave birth to you; if that’s not strong, I don’t know what is.
I am a petite woman, and I used believe in this myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy. I had my three pound dumbbells and that enough for me.
I’m not sure where this myth comes from and why it’s still being perpetuated. Even when I was looking up weightlifting photos for this post, I was shocked that almost all the photos were either of men lifting ridiculously heavy weights or women lifting delicately small, pink ones (see example above).
If you are a women reading this, please heed my plea : STOP lifting small and START lifting heavy!
But, you ask, what if I bulk up, injure myself, or can’t do it? I’m no weightlifting expert but from personal experience I can tell you….
No, you won’t bulk up and look manly if you lift heavy
The idea that women are delicate flowers who are limited by their femininity and gender drives me crazy (if you can’t tell, I’m an unabashed feminist). You are not going to suddenly become ultra masculine overnight because you lift heavy. Yes, you will put on weight — I think I’ve gained 10 pounds since I started lifting. But you will also feel better, look stronger, and be more confident in your body than ever.
My grandma once said to me that she noticed I’ve put on weight. I told her that I’ve never felt better about my body.
You won’t injure yourself if you have the right trainer
I would advise any woman (or man) against weightlifting without learning proper form from a trainer. I’m new enough to weightlifting that I haven’t gotten my form dialed in and that is so, so important to lifting effectively and without injuring yourself. That being said, as a woman you’re not automatically setting yourself up for injury because you are lifting something heavier than 40 pounds. In fact, you’re doing your body a huge favor.
Yes, you can lift with the bros
How heavy you can lift is all relative to your size, genetics, and, yes, gender. It is true that men are, overall, physically stronger than women. But that doesn’t mean you can’t join the Bro Barbell Club. I’m 5′ 2″ and 103 pounds so no, I’m never ever going to out lift a 160 pound dude, but I’m learning to stop comparing myself to others and believe in my own ability to be a badass female weightlifter.
And there are women out there that are stronger than men. I’ve met some truly strong, badass women that out lift a lot of guys.
Have you ever lifted heavy before? If not, what’s stopped you? Let me know if the comments 🙂