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Have you avoided lifting heavy weights in the past because you were concerned about ‘bulking up?’ Have you stuck with the machines at the gym for your strength workouts because they seemed the least intimidating way to train your muscles or for lack of knowing what else to do? If you do use free weights for strength training, do you always stick with 10 lbs or less?

Unfortunately, the concept of women’s strength training has been fraught with lots of misconceptions.  The fitness industry and fitness media focus too heavily on cardio for women’s fitness, and downplay the importance of strength training for overall health as well as developing a lean, toned physique. This is made worse by poorly informed and inexperienced trainers that direct women to strength train using ineffective methods like machines and very light dumbbells.

More recently, the fitness trend is moving in the direction of encouraging women to lift heavier weights.  I’d like to invite you to follow this trend.  It truly is the best way to get that sexy, athletic figure you are going for.  Let’s look at 5 reasons why women should lift heavier using dumbbells and free weights….NOT machines!

women lifting weights1)      You’ll Get Lean and Toned, NOT Bulky

Women are frequently concerned that lifting heavy weights will cause them to bulk up or look like a body builder.  Actually, looking like a body builder is a full time job.  Unless you’re striving for that look, it won’t happen.  Women aren’t able to get bulky because they lack the testosterone levels of men.  Female body builders have to supplement, eat LOTS of protein and spend many, many hours lifting to get those physiques. What lifting heavier weights WILL do for YOU is give your muscles some sexy definition, which in turn will make you look great in a bikini!  More muscle translates to a lean, toned look and a decrease in clothing sizes!

2)      Developing Muscle Is Crucial To Lowering Body Fat

Some research has shown that strength training burns body fat more exclusively, while cardio alone can cause both fat and muscle loss. A study conducted by the University of Alabama in Birmingham compared women lifting weights with women doing exclusively cardio.  While both groups lost weight, the women who lifted heavy weights lost primarily body fat while the women doing just cardio lost a lot of muscle along with some fat.  Since muscle burns calories all day long (see #3), you definitely don’t want to lose any of it!

3)      Muscle Burns Calories Even At Rest

In the long run, building muscle works much better for you than steady state cardio.  This is because of the afterburn effect.  For every pound of muscle you add to your body, you will burn an additional 35 to 50 calories per day.  Doesn’t sound like much…but if you add 10 lbs of muscle, that’s 350 – 500 calories per day.  We’re talking as many calories as a whole hour’s worth of intense cardio! In a study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women who lifted using heavier weight for fewer reps burned twice as many calories during the two hours after their workout than when they did more reps with a lighter weight. So, there’s some good reasons to trade in your hours of cardio and baby weights for some heavy metal!

women circuit training4)      Lifting Weights Reduces Injuries and Pain

Strengthening the muscles of your back will help decrease pain and prevent injury.  Strength training also helps to prevent injury in nearly all of your joints. Strengthening the muscles surrounding those joints improves strength of the connective tissues and provides stability.  Here’s one caveat – strength training using those weight machines at the gym can actually cause injury.  This is due to a few main issues.  First, these machines are built for big dudes and generally don’t have the right proportions for women who tend to be shorter and have smaller frames, even if the seat is adjustable.  Second, the machines are fixed and force you to move in un-natural planes of motion, which means you can’t adjust them to your body’s specific range of motion ability.  If you learn to lift using free weights, you’ll be able to avoid this injury situation as well as build stronger, better looking, more effective muscles.

5)      Lifting Heavy Strengthens Your Bones

In addition to strengthening muscles and connective tissues, strength training, especially with heavier weights, also helps to strengthen your bones and prevent bone loss.  For us women, bone loss begins in our 30s and continues on for the rest of our lives, causing increased risk of fracture and osteoporosis.  Lifting weights can prevent or reverse this.  Research has shown that regularly lifting heavy weights can not only prevent bone loss but can also build new bone.


If you’re looking start a new strength training routine using free weights, my advice is to start off slow and work your way up.  Athlean-XX for Women is a great program to start out with that you can scale to your increased strength as time goes on!  With its beginner and advanced modifications for exercises, it really is a program you can start out with as a beginner and use for life.  We work a different muscle group each day for 30 minutes using circuit style training with bodyweight and dumbbells.  Shorter, intense workouts will get you the tone you want without risking injury from overtraining….AND they’ll save you time!  Will you burn fat doing Athlean-XX for Women? Absolutely!  You’ll be surprised to see how much your heart will get pumping doing these ‘strength’ workouts!  With Athlean-XX for Women you get your strength training and your cardio in one shot!  Pair that with our healthy, flexible Nutrition Plan, and you’re on your way to an incredible bikini body in just 90 days.  Join us on Team Athlean and see what some heavy lifting can do for YOU!

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