The Benefits of Weights Training for Women

Calling all you Lovely Ladies: Want to lose fat? Want to look good? Want to look defined? Then say Goodbye Treadmill, Hello Iron!

And no, I’m not talking about pressing pillowcases. The only things I’m concerned with flattening are my abs.

Weight lifting is riddled with stereotypes and misconceptions. Too many people are falling victim to this misinformation, and missing out on the many wondrous benefits of lifting big, heavy things.


Well here’s the thing: you won’t.

Gaining large amounts of muscle takes years of intensive training. It also involves a hypercaloric diet (eating more than is expended). It is not something that can happen overnight.

With natural training and diet that is optimised for muscle gain, the maximum a male can expect is 0.5lbs muscle per month, and for a woman, it’s half this, at 0.25lbs per month.  This number decreases as an individual nears their genetic potential. More can be gained if steroids are being used, but even then, it takes years of hard work and specific nutrition to gain muscle.

It’s unlikely you will gain much, if any muscle, when eating in a caloric deficit.

Often, when someone thinks they are getting ‘bulky’, it’s simply a case of too much fat around the muscle. Shedding that fat comes down to diet, and diet alone.


Yes, I’m referring to ‘toning’. There’s nothing like the mention of ‘toning up’ to get my eyes rolling.

Scientifically, muscle tone actually refers to the degree of tension in a muscle, which is part of the way it functions. Whether or not you like the way you look, you already have muscle tone.

When people say they want “toned” muscles, they mean they want to see the shape of the muscle more so than they do now. You can’t change the shape of a muscle, but you can give definition to the shape.

Definition or ‘tone’ is created by:

  1. Building or preserving muscle.
  2. Lowering body fat.

Lowering body fat comes down to diet and being in a calorie deficit. We’ll be getting into that later. Building or preserving muscle however, is down to a good training routine of lifting heavy.

Very high reps (more than 12) do not encourage your body to make the muscle bigger, stronger or more defined. If you are doing high reps, the weight is too light to challenge your muscles. Sure, you may ‘feel the burn’, but that is not a sign of burning fat. You’re feeling the burn because of lactic acid building up inside the muscle.

Lifting a 5 lb dumbbell 30 times is doing nothing for the shape of your body. 100 lunges aren’t going to do the job either.

High reps don’t work because you are not encouraging the muscle to get bigger.  You are training yourself to be able to do more reps, but if you’re looking for ‘muscle tone’ you are wasting your time.


Men and women share the same basic muscular structure. Due to lack of testosterone, a woman doesn’t have the potential to get as strong or as muscular as a man. However, the muscles should be trained in exactly the same way.

That’s right- weights training for for women follows the same principles as weights training for men!

If you’re a woman and are still worried that lifting heavy things will make you look bulky, please re-read misconception #1!


Get rid of your belly fat! Slim those thighs! Get Angelina’s arms!

Don’t pretend you haven’t fallen victim to these promises bodypart-specific perfection. I know I have. But the sad truth of the matter is, in reality, we can’t pick and choose where the fat comes off. Nice though it would be to hold on to our boob fat, whilst banishing our thunder thighs, it rarely works that way. Nature is the enemy.

Fat loss comes down to a good diet and a calorie deficit. Whether you create that deficit through extra training or through eating less is up to you, but in order to lose fat, that calorie equation needs to be in check, and your protein, carb and fat intake needs to be optimised. You may have heard the phrase ‘Abs are built in the kitchen’. Well it’s true- it’s all about diet, diet, diet!

Tricep kickbacks won’t melt off bingo wings, nor will the abductor machine slim your inner thighs. Your belly-fat isn’t going to take flight at the mention of ab crunches.

An effective training programme is one that works all of your major muscle groups. The major muscle groups are your legs, back, chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps.

The more muscles you employ in your workout, the more calories you’ll burn.

The larger the muscles you’re working are, the more calories you’ll burn.

The more muscles used in a specific exercise, the more calories that exercise will burn.

See where I’m going with this?

Achieving the body you want, means getting all those muscles moving!


Believe me, as a vertically challenged little blondie, I can say with confidence that once you breach the free-weights area, you’ll realise that your fears are unfounded. If the aforementioned meatheads aren’t lovingly engrossed in their own reflections, they’ll be too wrapped up taking it in turns to do half a bench press at six times their body weight. And the remainder of those in the free-weights section are generally normal, civilised human beings, who are in all likelihood, far less intimidating than the scantily clad cardio bunnies that you’ve already hardened yourself too. So gird your loins, knock back some Dutch courage (okay, maybe pass on the Dutch courage in this instance) and get yourself in there- you might just find that you don’t want to leave.


Here are some of the incredible benefits of lifting heavy (and if your not feeling convinced enough to even read this, just take the time to look at numbers 1, 4 and 21):

  1. Fat loss
  2. Muscle preservation
  3. Improves body composition
  4. Increases metabolism
  5. Positively effects almost all of your 650+ muscles
  6. Increases functional strength (for day-to-day activities)
  7. Increases bone density (especially important for ladies over 35)
  8. Improved insulin sensitivity
  9. Increases energy
  10. Improves posture
  11. Improves balance and co-ordination
  12. Improves digestion
  13. Reduces risk of back injury
  14. Increases HDL cholesterol (the good type!)
  15. Improves immune system
  16. Improves muscular endurance
  17. Lowers blood pressure
  18. Lowers resting heartrate
  19. Relieves stress
  20. Improves mood
  21. Makes you look good naked!

So in summary… get your ass off the cross-trainer and into the squat rack! Your body will thank you for it!

21 replies on “The Benefits of Weights Training for Women

  • Mike

    Great post, but I’ve always felt like high-rep workouts don’t work for women because most don’t take the time to learn the movement properly. So at higher reps, they lose the integrity of the motion. In theory, exercise styles are like political systems, they all work in theory, but no one ever executes them properly. Don’t give up on the high-rep, low-weight programs, as long as the emphasis is on form, then speed, not just a lot of reps.

  • Charli

    Sorry Mike, I have to disagree. Low weight, high reps isn’t going to get a women anywhere in terms of, for lack of a better word, ‘tone’. Would you recommend high reps, low weight to a guy? It has its place, but only in terms of muscular endurance and sports performance. It’s not going to do anything to improve physique and body composition. Obviously good form is important, but 20 reps of good form is going to be fairly useless in comparison to 8 reps of good form.

  • Bee

    I agree with Charli. Muscle grows when you tear muscle fibres followed by its repair High weight and low reps will be far more effective at tearing muscle fibres versus low weight and high reps which equals growth.

    I only train heavy, always have and always will. I’m the only lady that goes to the free weights gym where I train, the others go to the circuit gym, and being the only lady I get asked by a million guys why I weight train. Weight training for ladies (and heavy) is misunderstood by men too and not just the ladies

  • Ashley Bowron

    Okay so ur saying that it is better to use something like an 8lb weight and only do like maybe 4 or 5 reps than to use a 5lb weight and do say 10 reps?

  • Charli

    For fat loss, you want to be keeping most of your work in the 5-10 range (a little work below or above is fine to mix things up). The weight you choose should have you struggling to manage the last rep- it needs to be heavy for YOU.

  • Susan

    I really don’t like lifting weights. To distract myself, I recently started doing 10 lb sets while riding a stationary bike and watching tv. Saves time and boosts calorie burn!

  • Angelique Kronebusch

    I agree with Charli, I only lift heavy as well. I am 34 years old and in the best shape of my life. I dont believe in light weights and lots of reps unless I am teaching my group class to get everyone’s heart rate up with weights and plyometrics combined.

  • Cherrie

    Love weight training and Insanity for Cardio. As Chalene says in Beachbody’s Chalene Extreme, “Go heavy or go home! ”
    Doing high protein low carb diet for 30 days so can’t handle insanity right now with lower energy but will be back at it! Love feeling like an athlete!

  • Tracy

    Hi Charli
    I am 47 and am down to 57kg through daily running and 6kg free weight exercises whilst my body is balanced on a gym ball. My reps have been 15 and 3 sets as well as squats 30 knee touching ground with 6kg weights in each hand. I am starting to do weights seriously next week and wondered if you have a beginners programme to start off with as that’s the problem. I don’t really know what muscles I should be exercising in 1 session. Many thanks T

  • Charli

    Hi Tracy,

    I’d highly recommend New Rules of Lifting for Women as a beginners’ programme – very good info in there. I also provide custom plans if you’re looking for something more specific to you – you’re welcome to contact me here:

    I hope you end up loving weights training as much as I do!


  • Lee

    Hi Charli I follow you on twitter, this was really informative, don’t be fooled by my name I’m female lol!
    Thankfully I have lots of equipment at home including free weights and a multi gym so won’t have to endure the comments from the meatheads! I’ve also been fooled in the past with the high reps low weight myth so I’m looking forward to changing that and hopefully seeing some change!
    I look forward to reading more of your blogs!x

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