Weight Training for Women

How to get a lean, muscular - yet - feminine physique!

By Cassandra Forsythe, M.Sc.

“I trained intensely four to five days a week and I cut back on my cardio workouts. After a short time, I could honestly say that I set the foundation for the figure I always wanted. I could see lines in my abs, my shoulders had a curvy shape to them and my posture was much improved. I stood tall with a confidence that I had never had before.”

Ladies, have a good look around your gym. How many overly large, muscular women do you see lifting weights? Probably not too many— unless you work out at ‘Roids ”R” Us gym. Now, look around again. How many women with nice, muscular— yet feminine— bodies do you see lifting weights? In this case, there are definitely a lot more. These women, who have a solid foundation of muscle, still look like women, and they look damn good, too! So how do these women train to look this way?

Hours of elliptical climbing?
Two cycles through the circuit?
Probably not.
Fat chance.

Instead, these women have achieved their sexy, feminine physiques by weight training— hard and heavy— the same way the boys do.

Tone & Tighten

If you’re a woman whose goals are to tone and tighten up your body, you need to get off the treadmill and cross trainer and start lifting and pushing weights so you can truly achieve these objectives. Many women are under the assumption that they shouldn’t train with weights the way men train because they’ll get bulky and become ”unfeminine,” whatever that is. Well, in reality, it’s not likely they’re going to get huge. In fact, most men— men with loads more testosterone and manly, muscle-building potential— have real difficulty putting on muscle mass. If this is true for men, it’s convincingly true for women.

So girls, stop worrying about getting huge. Those women who know how to weight train look a lot more attractive (in clothes and when naked) than the women who spend hours doing cardio. Of course, keep in mind that aerobic exercise is still important, since it improves cardiovascular health and facilitates reduction in body fat, but it’s not the only form of exercise women need. Nope, you need weights.

Training with weights is the only way you can sculpt your female figure to have shapely arms and harder glutes. Wouldn’t it be nice to wave to your girlfriend and not have your triceps wave back at you? And wouldn’t it be even nicer to shake your booty on the dance floor and know that it will stop shaking when you’re finished dancing? What woman out there can honestly say she doesn’t want abs like Madonna and Janet Jackson? Even if you do step classes all day long, you’ll never have these physical attributes. These outstanding features come with contracting and controlling muscles in every part of your body. Cardio and aerobics won’t do this, but effective weight training will.

A True Story
I’m one of those women who have discovered that I can achieve the ideal body type by working out intensely with weights. When I first started, I thought, like most women do, that weight training was only for boys, and I didn’t want to look like a boy. I wanted to keep my feminine figure, but become “toned” and not have as much fat. So, I assumed that the best way to do this was to spend mindless hours on cardio equipment and every so often, lift a few weights. Over time, I did lose some fat, but I remained how most women look today, ”skinny-fat.” I was smaller, but my body was still smooth and soft, and didn’t quite have the sexy shape I really wanted.

Finally, one day a girlfriend of mine, whose body I always admired, took me to her gym and introduced me to real weight training. At first I felt a little intimidated to work out with weights because I didn’t know what to do. It was so much easier to just run on the treadmill and then maybe do a few biceps curls, because they were simple. That day, we did a chest and back workout. She showed me all the exercises with free weights and some things on machines. The workout was quite hard, and she pushed me to use heavier weights than I would normally have chosen.

I remember how thrilling it was to watch my muscles work in the mirror and see that I actually had some definition (weight training workouts cause a muscle pump that brings out definition while training). After each exercise I got this euphoric feeling, a feeling that I had never experienced before with aerobics. I felt strong and powerful, and in control of my body. Each muscle was full and hard, and I knew that this type of exercise was going to help me achieve my physical dreams. I was hooked.

After the workout, I decided to hire a personal trainer to learn more advanced techniques in weight training. As a university-educated woman, I realized there are people out there who have spent years learning about this topic and they’re the ones I should consult with. The trainer I found was a woman named Carla. She was living proof that weight training created a very appealing, feminine shape. She had a nice shape to her arms and shoulders, her waist curved in tightly before it met her hips, and her legs were strong and sleek all at the same time. Carla’s body was firm, and when she showed me how to perform each exercise I could see the way her muscles moved. I wanted the same thing. So, I gave weight training my full attention. I trained intensely four to five days a week and I cut back on my cardio workouts. After a short time, I could honestly say that I set the foundation for the figure I always wanted. I could see lines in my abs, my shoulders had a curvy shape to them and my posture was much improved. I stood tall with a confidence that I had never had before.

As more and more women have begun to experience the same feelings I’ve described, they’re beginning to recognize that weight training is no longer just for men. It’s the ultimate strategy for women to safely and effectively reshape their bodies into the goddesses they’re meant to look and feel like. Keep in mind that the creation of muscle with resistance exercise will also do more than just make you look and feel sexier. It will enable you to perform activities that are functional and useful. You’ll never feel weak and insignificant compared to the opposite sex. You can become a strong woman, a woman who doesn’t need help to open something difficult (like a jar or twist top), or lift something normally considered heavy. Weight training will also help improve your health and increase your quality of life. Medically, it’s been proven to increase your bone density and help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, which is a common disease for many women.

Question: So why don’t women want to weight train? 
When I was asked to write this article, I decided to poll the women I knew and see why some of them were opposed to weight training. Some of the reasons given were understandable, while some were a little humorous. Here is what they had to say.

Answer #1: “I don’t know how to use the weights.”

Most women who don’t want to weight train decide that ignorance is the final answer. My question to them is this: When you were a child and you didn’t know how to read, did you stop your elementary school teacher from showing you how to do it? Most likely not. So why would you oppose a personal trainer showing you how to weight train? Or why would you not ask one of your friends (female or male) who knows how to properly weight train to help you?

First and foremost, it’s lack of knowledge about the benefits and results that come with this type of exercise that hinder women from taking the initiative to learn. I’m convinced that if every woman is shown how to train effectively with weights, they’ll never rely on only doing cardio for fitness. Like I said, the rush and the euphoria that come with a hard weight workout is the best feeling you can ever have. Weight training needs to be learned, as it’s not an activity we’re born knowing how to do. Therefore, you need to seek the assistance of a personal trainer or an educated friend, so you can reap the results that only weight training can bring.

Answer #2: “There’s no calorie counter on the weight machines like there is on the cardio equipment. So I don’t know how many calories I’m burning.”
This answer made me laugh harder than I have ever laughed before. Many women think that if they know precisely (or maybe not so precisely…) how many calories they burn while doing cardio, they’ll automatically lose weight in conjunction with eating less food. As this mindset may be close to semi-truth, seeing those bodyweight numbers on the scale decrease every few weeks doesn’t mean you’re building a beautiful body. Weight loss may mean your body is decreasing in size— and a decrease in size doesn’t mean you’re necessarily firming up that flabby tummy or tightening those jiggly thighs.

If there was a calorie counter on the free weights and weight machines, women who weight train effectively would see that they were burning more calories than constantly doing aerobics, both during and after the workout. And the best thing about weight training is that you’re increasing the amount of muscle tissue you have, which translates into burning more calories all day long!

Overall, muscle is a calorie-consuming machine. Aerobic exercise mostly uses calories during the time period you’re performing it and for a few hours after. Weight training, however, helps you develop muscle in all parts of your body, which will significantly increase your energy expenditure for a longer period of time.

The take-home message is that weight training is a more effective form of exercise than cardio; so don’t use this excuse to avoid it. Be assured that you’re burning just as many, if not more, calories while creating a firm, sensual body you’ll be proud of.

Answer #3: “Weight training doesn’t feel as intense as aerobics.”
This answer comes from women who always choose light weights for their weight training exercises. Mainly, these women think that if they push their muscles to work too hard with weights, they’ll automatically become the next Incredible Hulk. They’re afraid to push their muscles too hard, because they believe only men should work out this way.

But, the key to success with weight training for any person (men included) is to pick a weight that causes you to reach a point of fatigue (aka failure). You want the last few repetitions of your exercise to be demanding on the muscle you’re working. There’s absolutely no point in doing multiple repetitions of any exercise when you don’t feel any resistance. The whole objective of weight training is to challenge your muscles and provide the stimulus for growth. As women don’t have that much muscle to begin with, the creation of new muscle won’t result in a masculine physique. Instead, the muscle will take the place of existing body fat. And since muscle is a much smaller, denser tissue than fat, it will make a woman’s body look smaller, more shapely and tighter.

Overall, when performed correctly, efficient weight training can feel just as intense and satisfying as any cardio workout. Your heart will pump just as hard, and you’ll glisten with a sweat that no cardio workout can create. Women simply have to put in the effort to learn correct weightlifting techniques, and they’ll ultimately experience the incredible sensation that comes with resistance exercise.

Answer #4: “I feel uncomfortable weight training around men.”
This answer is so common that it resulted in the creation of ladies-only gyms. The consensus of many women is that men are judgmental of any woman who tries to learn how to weight train. Since weight training is traditionally a male-dominated activity, women don’t feel that they belong on the same floor space. However, men are actually very impressed when they see a women weight training intensely right beside them. And oftentimes, men can offer motivation and assistance when you need it the most.

I personally have had many positive experiences where a man has provided me with knowledgeable suggestions regarding my workout. They’ve shown me new ways to do an exercise and have helped correct my improper form. Also, throughout the years, I started weight training with men because they challenged me to work harder than I ever have before. The challenge has made significant improvements in my figure and in my muscle definition.
In addition, women and men aren’t really all that different when it comes to weight training. Men and women can learn from each other and provide the desire to train harder each day. As a woman, you want the body that every man will drool over, while every man wants to look just as appealing to women. The sexual stimulus that’s created when women and men work out together can provide the perfect environment for self-improvement.

The Bottom Line: What’s effective weight training for women? 

So, now that women understand that effective weight training is the key to creating extremely feminine, sexy figures, it’s time to learn what’s effective. Basically, effectiveness translates into training with weights— just like men. Yes, that’s correct. When you set foot into the gym, you’ll devote the majority of your workout to training heavy and hard with weights. You’ll start your workout with a moderate cardiovascular warm-up to loosen up your muscles and set the stage for an intense resistance exercise session.

Weights are now going to be your new ally for ultimate physical improvement. You should spend half, if not more, of your gym visits working out with weights. Make every weight-training day worthwhile by choosing weights that will challenge your muscles and stimulate them to grow. Occasionally— and this is OK— you may make the odd grunting noises like you often hear men make when they’re truly struggling with a weight. Show the world you’re creating the body you’ve always dreamed of and don’t let anyone step in your way.
If you are new to the weight-training revolution, get someone to create a workout plan for you. The ultimate plan should focus on training one to three body groups each day, so that over the course of one week, you’ll have trained the muscles in your entire body at least once. Here’s an example of a four-day weight-training plan:

Monday: shoulders and biceps
Tuesday: legs (quads, hamstrings)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: chest and triceps
Friday: back, calves and abs
Saturday: cardio for 45 minutes

Each week you can change the amount of sets and reps you do for each exercise, as well as the type of exercises you do. But the bottom line is that you must always train hard— no matter what you do. You should feel like you stimulated each muscle fiber after you’re finished with your workout. Also, the sign of a really good workout is when you feel the burn in your muscles one, and sometimes two, days later. This sensation is known as DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness), and it means your muscles were effectively challenged, and now they’ll begin to grow. Rest assured though, that you will NOT grow into he-man. You simply don’t have the hormonal profile for it. Instead, you’ll shed more body fat than you ever have before and your body will look so much more feminine and sexy.

Your New Secret
Smile to yourself when you hear the girl next to you in the locker room complaining that she has to go sit on the bike for the next hour, because you have discovered the thrill of dumbbells and the rush of Nautilus machines. You’ve awakened a lioness in your soul who’s strong and capable. This lioness will never need to ask her male co-worker to open that pesky jar for her again (unless he’s really cute and she wants to have an excuse to talk to him). You can now do more for yourself than you ever have before. You’ll be healthier and happier, and will look better with every step you take.