Should Women Lift Weights?

Written by on December 1, 2016 and it's about ,

Yes. You were designed to lift. So if you’ve been wondering if women—especially naturally thin women—should be lifting weights, then the answer is an emphatic yes.

There are exceptions, of course. Pregnant women need to take special precautions, for example. Always to talk to your doctor first before beginning any workout or nutrition program.

So you should be lifting weights. But why?

If you’ve ever been curious about the benefits of lifting weights, and if it’ll help you reach your goals, then this is the article for you. We cover 3 main areas: attractiveness, health, and lifestyle, and we’ll break things down a bit further.

And if the little lawyer in your head is already coming up with objections, don’t worry—we’ll respond to those extremely common fears too. You know, the ones about being scared of becoming too bulky or not knowing what to do in the gym. Or how to deal with being too tired/busy/lazy.

Below we’ll cover how lifting can improve your appearance, health, and life enjoyment. Keep in mind that some of the reasons will span across a couple of them. For example, building muscle will will make you curvier and more attractive, but it does that because building muscle is very healthy, and we find healthy bodies the most attractive. So it’s technically both an improvement to your appearance and your health!

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Improve Your Attractiveness By Lifting Weights

Build New Muscle For Ultra-Feminine Curves

Many women think muscle is a man thing—that if they build up their muscles, they’ll look like a man. And while it’s true that men will usually have more muscle than women, in your case, by building up a decent amount of muscle, you’ll look more feminine.

Women have a different hormone makeup than men, so the way your muscles look when they grow is different as well. Women have different fat storage patterns than men, so the fat generally goes to their hips and breasts. Their bony structure (the foundation that the muscles attach to) is different. And women have different desires for their body shape. These are just a few reasons why women who build up their muscles will have a body shape that looks radically different from a man.

What you do during your workouts is a big part of this. The more work you put into a certain exercise, the more your body will strengthen and grow that certain place. Men have a drive for upper-body strength, so they feel a magnetic pull towards exercises like the bench press, rows, and bicep curls. However, you might notice that you want to do more lower-body exercises that build up the glutes and hamstrings to round out your hips. You might realize that you’re really good at those exercises too! Women have a lower centre of gravity, proportionally longer legs, and the ability to bear children. Your hips are far more capable than a man’s, and this is especially true in the gym.

You can build up every area to be stronger, and in each case it will probably make you look better. Stronger shoulders, for example, make your waist seem even narrower by comparison, giving you that top half of the hourglass shape.

So if you’re looking for a good workout program, don’t grab one for men. It will have you doing lots of chest/back/arm work, and exercises to make your waist bigger and thicker (e.g. crunches). You’ll want to grab a program specifically designed for women, like ours. It puts the emphasis on lower-body growth through exercises like glute bridges, goblet squats, dumbbell sumo deadlifts, etc. We still do wholesome full-body training to help your body feel and look balanced, but there is a focus on the hips.

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Focus on Fat Loss Instead of Weight Loss

The majority of women want to lose “weight” and just care about getting smaller. They might already have a fair amount of muscle, but it’s all covered by fat. So they need to chisel the fat away to let the muscle create their body-shape. If they lose a little bit (or a lot) of muscle, they don’t really care. But there’s a difference between fat and muscle.

Since you’re on this site, we know you’re looking to build up more shape, and are likely ready to gain weight. You might be the really skinny type with minimal fat who wants to lift weights to build muscle, and that’s great, and in this case, you can move onto the next section since you don’t need to burn any fat.

But there’s a chance you might want to build up curves and an even more feminine-looking body shape through building muscle, yet you might still have a few pounds of fat you wish weren’t there. You don’t want to get smaller by losing weight (fat and muscle loss); you just want to get more toned (fat loss) while getting bigger in certain areas (glutes, for example).

If you just wanted to lose “weight,” you could get into a calorie deficit by eating less or moving more (or both). You’d lose both fat and muscle that way. But not only would you lose your muscular curves, you’d also lose a lot of strength.

But if you get into a calorie deficit while lifting weights (along with an adequate amount of protein, sleep, etc.) then you can hold onto almost all of your curvy muscle/strength while burning only fat. This is how you’d get leaner, not smaller, and maintain your muscular curves. We have a mini-guide on how to do this for our program members here.

Develop Better-Looking Posture

We all want to stand tall, and people often use cues in their heads. Cues like, “shoulders back, chin down.” There’s even crowd-funded posture gadgets to help you maintain the “right” posture.

But it’s not that simple.

In fact, those cues are wrong.

You can’t just will yourself to stand with “better” posture, and a little gadget will just be treating a symptom at best, and at worst, could lead to chronic pain.

You need to strengthen the muscles that will hold your posture together, and to do this you need to do the right warm-ups to help get those muscles into a more neutral and natural position. Not only is this natural looking posture the best looking, but it helps to put your muscles in the right positions for moving and lifting things. Then you need heavy lifting to help strengthen that position.

You could think of improving your posture like moulding clay and then putting it in the fire to strengthen it.

But the reality is that there is really no such thing as “bad” posture as long as you’re not in pain and it’s helping you accomplish your goals. Our bodies adapt to what we do. I find Chili Gonzales, the famous pianist, unusually fascinating. His hunch-back (kyphosis), I’m sure, is an adaptation that he got from spending countless hours at the piano. Presumably, it’d be quite “good” posture for him if it allows him to play the piano longer with less pain. Even then, many professional musicians will use strength training to fix their posture, prevent chronic pain, and lengthen their careers.

But if you want better-looking posture—where you stand tall like you’re active, confident and healthy—you’ll need to spend a bit of time actually being active. Following a weightlifting program that is developed with your posture in mind is the most efficient way to help with that.

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Get Healthier From Lifting Weights

Bone Density Improvements for Women Who Lift

It’s well known that lifting weights has a direct and positive relationship with bone density (study, study, study).

But why does that even matter?

Osteopenia, and it’s more developed progression osteoporosis, are both diseases classified by low bone density. These diseases greatly increase the risk of bone fractures. If you’re feeling healthy now, that’s great, but it’s important to consider the longer term too. Osteoporosis-related fractures can radically affect your quality of life by limiting movement, causing chronic pain, and stealing your independence, among other things.

Women are more likely than men to get osteopenia because they naturally have less muscle mass than men, and because these risk factors go up after menopause. There’s also some factors that increase risk (article):

  • If you’re a slender and smaller-boned woman
  • You’re Caucasian or Asian
  • Those with lower levels of vitamin D

So if you’re a slender woman living in a higher latitude country who’s Asian or Caucasian, this can be pretty scary. But it doesn’t need to be, as there are a lot of factors you can control, such as eating well, lifting weights, and getting outside as much as you can (or supplementing with vitamin D)!

If You Suffer From Aches or Low Back Pain, Lifting Could Bring Relief

Pain is an extremely complicated topic. Pain could signal that:

  • There’s nothing wrong yet, but keep doing whatever is causing this pain and there could be future damage.
  • There is damage, and that’s why it’s registering as pain.
  • You’re feeling pain for no apparent reason.

On the flip side, sometimes there is damage with no pain. Some people have slipped discs in their back with no pain.

While there are a lot of mysteries surrounding pain, lower back pain is something that 80% of us living in the modern world will experience at some point in our lives (study).

Resistance training has evidence behind it that it can help quite a bit with the relief of low back pain (study), and it could help with the relief of a variety of other aches and pains (study, study, study, study, study).

Even better, it can strengthen your back so that you’re less vulnerable to a debilitating injury down the road. On that note:

Build Muscle To Bullet-Proof Your Body & Become Ultra Resilient

Non-lifters often mistake building muscle as vain (since it improves your appearance) or pointless (to them it’s a waste of time of money). But it’s not just a way to improve your appearance or have fun—it’s healthy. Like real healthy.

If you think about fat being the stored energy on your body, it’s really healthy too. It allows you to live during the day without needing to have an IV drip of glucose directly to your blood stream. And if there was ever a shortage of food or some reason you couldn’t eat, you could still have energy for your body to rely on to continue living for a while. The problems only arise when you have a very large amount of fat on your body.

Muscle can act in a similar way, as it’s made out of very important amino acids that your body needs. You get these amino acids when they’re broken down from eating protein, and you can use them to build larger muscles. Your body also needs  a certain amount of these amino acids to continually create new blood cells, regenerate organs, maintain your skin/nails/hair, etc.

If you don’t eat enough protein, your body will just take these amino acids from your muscles to do these daily processes. This is incredibly important if you ever, God forbid, get in a serious car accident and can’t eat, or get a life-altering and life-threatening illness like cancer, etc.

Lifting weights and having lots of muscle also helps fight off heart disease, diabetes, sarcopenia, etc. If you want to dive into this topic further, one of my all time favourite health and fitness articles is available for your reading on the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition website: The Under-Appreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease.

Sleep Better & Feel More Energized

Sleep is wonderful. And if you get enough of it, around 8 hours a night, you’ll be more fat resistant (study, study, study), you’ll have more willpower to make smart decisions and manage your mood (Willpower, 2012), your skin will age slower (study), you’ll look better (study), you’ll learn better (article, study, study), reduce the risk for a ton of diseases (study, study), and you’ll have a stronger immune system (study, study).

Wow. Chances are you already know that sleep is amazing, though. The problem is getting enough sleep and getting good sleep. If you wake up a lot, have trouble falling asleep, or can’t get back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night, exercising should help.

One study compared athletes who did lots of exercise throughout the week to regular people who didn’t exercise, and the athletes had better quality sleep, woke up less during the night. Those who didn’t exercise regularly often complained about their sleep quality (study).

We have a whole article dedicated to improving your sleep, that you can read here, but one huge factor to sleeping well is exercising (study, study).

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Enjoy Life More By Lifting Weights

Confidence & Independence

Getting strong means you can haul more groceries to your home. It means you can lift your heavy luggage at the airport. Or throwing heavy bags into the car. It’s always put a smile on my face to see my wife help other women or older people by lifting heavy things into their car and see the look of surprise on their faces.

Or the way she’s able to carry around heavy grocery bags while wearing our little one in a baby carrier.

Being strong is a huge confidence boost, you can do whatever you put your mind to.

There are even studies confirming this, such as this one, where 60 females lifted weights twice a week and significantly improved their emotional well-being compared to those who didn’t exercise.

If you feel like life is tiring, doing some weightlifting 3x a week is difficult in the moment—yes, but I find it makes daily living feel so much easier in comparison. Running errands, moving furniture, carrying bags, putting awkward stuff in storage, running up the stairs—those things become super easy.

It’s Fun, Relieves Stress, and May Help With Anxiety

Weightlifting can be tiring the first few weeks. But after you adapt, it becomes an incredibly fun activity because of it’s progression. You can continually compete against yourself, improving how much you can lift, how many times you can lift it, how good your form is, how round you can build your butt, how athletic and nimble you can become, and on and on.

If you struggle a bit with anxiety and stress, weightlifting and some cardio might help with mental improvements such as helping with anxiety, depression, and overall mental health (study, study, meta-analysis). There still needs to be more research done in this area, but some of the studies are showing promising results.

Objections: I’m Scared of Lifting Weights Because…

I’m afraid of becoming bulky

Building muscle is hard work! Unless you’re naturally very muscular, it might take 10+ years of hard and intense training, and possibly pharmaceutical help, to reach the size you consider bulky in your head. If you are naturally thin, then even then, you are less likely to look bulky and more likely to look like fit, healthy and active.

To continue to build size, you’ll need to progressively get stronger and stronger. You’ll need to keep lifting heavier weights, lift those weights for more reps, lift them for more sets, lift them with more frequency, etc. So it’ll take you years and years of hard work to get to “too bulky.”

Worst case scenario, you get a muscle to a size that you’re happy with and you just stop making it stronger. Actually, that’s the best case scenario.

I don’t want to go to the gym

We hear this a lot from people who are afraid of being stared at in the gym, or who feel embarrassed about not knowing what to do.

Most people are minding their own business in the gym. They’re there for a reason—to lift weights and go home. And if you are worried about being inexperienced, pick up a program like ours that will help you learn how to begin from the very start, with simpler variations that are easier to master (and safer and more effective for a beginner).

If you don’t like the gym because it’s not practical, or you have a bad experience with creeps hanging around you, waiting times, or you’re grossed out about the germs, you can work out perfectly well at home. You don’t need anything fancy, just two heavy adjustable dumbbells and bench is all you need to get amazing results.

I’m too tired or busy

This really comes down to priorities. We all have the same amount of hours in the day and a finite amount of energy. Some people choose to prioritize a thriving career or business; some people choose a social life instead—whatever it is.

There are noble reasons for being too busy or tired. We know people taking care of sick relatives, people who are raising kids, and people who need to work 2 or more jobs to make ends meet. We’d make the argument that these people will burn out eventually if they don’t take care of themselves, but we know for some, it is impossibly difficult to find 3 hours a week to lift.

But we also know that the average person in the US is watching 2.8 hours of TV per day (article). So there is time. The problem is energy. Most people choose watching TV over exercise because they’re tired. If you’re too tired, it might be time to evaluate your sleep, nutrition, and exercise habits. It’s counterintuitive, but exercise is an activity that will pay you back with more energy. The energy you put into it, you get back—plus more.

Another thing to try is to lift weights when you wake up. It becomes the first thing you do, making it less likely that you’ll run out of time or energy before getting around to it.

Working out at home can help too. No travel time.

There are lots of solutions. Don’t let this be your hang-up!

I don’t want to get injured

Weightlifting is one of the safest physical activities you can do. Even for people with injuries, those in pain, and the elderly with strength and balance issues, even then there are many safe options such as machines, resistance bands, and occlusion training.

Of course, nothing you’ll do in life will be risk-free. Personally, I find the risk of death and injury from driving a car shockingly high, and no one gives that a second thought. And weight-lifting is not even a high-risk activity! You’re more likely to hurt yourself gardening.

Even if you do get injured, the most common injury in the gym is dropping a weight on your toe.

One final thought: not doing any exercise is a guaranteed way to have your health decline faster, and it may cause you to accumulate more injuries, aches, and diseases later on. Dr. Brad Schoenfeld wrote, “You can either choose exercise now or choose disease later. Really not much of a choice…” We wholeheartedly agree.

Take it slow, start with beginner progressions of the lifts, get an evidenced-based program or trainer who can walk you through everything, always add weight slowly, stay away from total failure, and watch out from hitting your toe with weights!

I don’t know what to do, or how to get started

Chip and Dan Heath write in Switch that the easiest way to dissolve resistance (or laziness) is with clarity. If you don’t know what to do, it’s really hard to get started, right?

This is why we have our program. If you buy the program, read the eBook and watch the exercise videos, you’ll know everything, have a crystal clear plan, and thus have the confidence to get started. Plus, if there’s one big thing that’s preventing you from getting started… just ask us about it. The program comes with coaching, after all 🙂

Once you’ve started, you’ll start seeing results come in as consistently as the work you put into it. Our program is designed for both the beginner who has never lifted weights (begin with Phase 0) and the intermediate lifter who still has some room for improvements (begin with Phase 1). If that sounds like you, definitely check it out by clicking here.

Conclusion

You should definitely be lifting weights if you’re healthy enough to do so and you’re not pregnant. If you’re pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be lifting weights, as there are a lot more variables to consider.

There are just so many benefits; you were made to lift!

  • You’ll look more attractive by building feminine curves through muscle
  • It will make it possible to burn fat more quickly, and without losing muscle (if that’s something you’re trying to do)
  • You’ll build up strength in the muscles that’ll help you develop natural and better-looking posture
  • Your bone density will improve, which will help lower the risk of fractures and bone density issues as you get older
  • It could help with pain relief, including back pain
  • Puts you in a better position of health in the chance you need to fight minor and serious illnesses and injuries
  • Your sleep and daily energy levels will improve
  • It’s a fun way to challenge yourself and relieve stress
  • Being strong gives you confidence, independence, and makes regular life easier

What do you think? Be sure to leave a comment below!

Finally! A muscle-building & weight gain program for naturally slender gals

Bony to Bombshell Full Workout Fitness Program Download

Bony to Bombshell is a weight gain fitness program for thin women who want to be visibly (aka jaw-droppingly) healthy and strong. The program includes everything you need to become bootyful – a training program, a nutritional guide, exercise videos, the kindest community around and individualized coaching from us.

So, what'd you think? 9 responses below.

Ileana

Will there ever be a sale on this program ???

i really want it!

Jared Polowick

Hey Ileana,

We don’t have any sales planned as of yet. But we might try and do some sort of New Year’s Promotion (might be a sale, might be a bonus) since we know the USD is really strong right now.

Sign up for our newsletter list to stay updated if you haven’t yet 🙂

Ama

Would you recommend your program to a pregnant woman?

Jared Polowick

Hey Ama,

Great question. Our program is designed for non-pregnant women who are healthy. This doesn’t mean that pregnant women shouldn’t work out, but some of the exercises we program wouldn’t be suitable for pregnant women. They would require a special program that would adapt with their ability and stage of pregnancy. Mobility will change throughout your trimesters, you shouldn’t be placing weights on your abdomen area, etc.

One of our members recently shared this paper with us, about pregnancy and lifting. It’s written by one of our favourite researchers, Brad Schoenfeld. You should always discuss these tuypes of things with a medical professional, so it might be worth printing it out and bringing it to your doctor 🙂

PS congratulations on your pregnancy!

Anna

Hey guys!
I read this post a while back and it reminded me about the whole ¨5 minute workout¨ or ¨7 minute workout¨ and all those high intensity exercises. Their biggest benefit was said to be burning fat at a really fast pace, but do you think it would help a skinny girl like me develop some muscle?
Since they’re bodyweight exercises and don’t take up that much time they’d be a great start for getting into the habit of exercising more regularly, at least for me.

Shane Duquette

Hey Anna,

Those things are crazy popular. A writer I like, Tim Ferriss, takes that approach as well. The issue I have with those workouts is that they’re very low volume (not a lot of reps/sets), and volume is the main driver of growth. So a 5 minute workout might stimulate some growth, but if you did a 50-minute work you’d stimulate way more growth.

I know working out for 10x as long may not sound appealing, but what if that gave you results even only twice as quickly? The 50-minute workout might get you 10 pounds of pure muscle in 3 months, whereas the 5-minute workout gets you 5 pounds of muscle and 5 pounds of fat in that same timeframe. (Because calories determines weight gain, but the quality of your training does a lot to determine how lean those gains are.)

What you’re asking is a little bit different, though, I think. You’re asking if this would be a good way to start getting into a lifting routine? Maybe! It depends on what type of person you are. Will you be more motivated to continue lifting if your routine is easy but you aren’t getting great results? Or will you be more motivated if your routine is longer but gives you amazing results? Keep in mind that a fairly high volume approach can be done with just 3 hours spent lifting each week. (3 hourlong full body workouts per week.)

Having weights will help, but it isn’t essential. The same principle will apply either way. To grow your chest, for example, it’s better to do 5 sets of push-ups with plenty of rest (2+ minutes) between each set than it is to do a couple sets while focusing more on how high your heart rate is getting. The first approach focuses on your muscles, the second on your cardiovascular system.

Does that make sense?

Anna

Thanks for clarifying that for me Shane 🙂
After reading your reply I think I’m gonna be better off with those hourlong workouts . What you said was very useful

Cynthia

Hi there!

Sorry if this has been asked before, but could you tell us specifically what kind of equipment we’d need for the program if we wanted to train at home?

Thanks!

Jared Polowick

Hi Cynthia,

So sorry for the delay! Great question. Our program only requires two adjustable dumbbells and an adjustable bench. That’s it.

As for how heavy the dumbbells must be, it really depends on your experience level and strength. Normally we’d recommend 2 dumbbells of 50 pounds each for the low-end and up to 70 pounds per hand might be a bit safer.

If that sounds like a lot, that’s okay. It’ll give you some room to grow, in fact you might be surprised at how fast your strength develops, and some exercises you’ll be able to lift a lot of weight quite quickly (deadlift variations and whatnot).

I hope that helps a bit!

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