A note to the Average Woman…

I wrote this for a friend of mine and some ladies she trains. I figured I’d post it here, because I spent some time writing it for the specific audience. I’m not saying there will be droves of women wanting to lift after I post it, but if you have any friends that should see it, print it out and show them.

Hi. I’ve heard that you are starting or thinking about starting a new exercise program. Your new exercise program may be CrossFit, P90x, boot camp, or any related intensity based conditioning activity. Your goals in starting this program will probably revolve around wanting to be sexy, healthy, and physically able to enjoy an active lifestyle. I commend you on your choice because it’s the first step in achieving those goals. Your program choice may even be the gateway to sport and/or athletic activity. In any case, there is a lot to learn regarding what is best to achieve your goal, because, well, conventional wisdom hasn’t been truthful to you.

Since you are investing time and money into an exercise program I’ll have to assume you are decently serious in achieving your goals. It’s perfectly fine to want to be sexier or healthier. However, “sexier” is typically interpreted as “losing weight” and “toning up”. What this ACTUALLY means is “losing body fat and having some muscle underneath it to have a nice figure”. Losing weight will just make you skinny. Skinny is not good.

Exhibit A. Skinny=Fail

Losing body fat to get sexy isn’t only about burning and eating less calories: you must alter your metabolism in the short and long term. Exercising in a way that forces your body to optimally metabolize fat and produce lean body mass is imperative for quick results. Nothing does this better than getting stronger through weight training. I realize weight training has a horrible stigma, so I’m taking the time to highlight some of the perks that lifting weights can provide on your journey to a great body and health.

None of the women I have ever coached gained body fat from lifting weights. In fact, they lost body fat while gaining muscle. This happens because lifting weights elevates your metabolism while you’re doing it AND for the rest of the day. A higher metabolism means you’re burning more calories. Doing cardio at a moderate intensity doesn’t elevate your metabolism at all after you stop doing it. High intensity based conditioning/cardio exercise has a similar, albeit lesser, metabolic effect when compared to lifting, but it doesn’t have the same strength and muscle building properties as lifting weights.

When you lift weights, you break up muscle fibers. Your body needs to repair them and improve them so they can either handle more in the future or handle that same load easier. That whole process elevates the metabolism, it makes you stronger, and it will increase the muscle tissue (a little). But you will NOT be getting bulky. You literally have one tenth the testosterone of a guy, and that means you won’t be building muscle very easily. If you haven’t been a muscular woman your whole life, why would you suddenly become “bulky” now? Unless you’re using some kind of steroids, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Lucky for you, muscle tissue is “metabolically active tissue”. This means that the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the better it will metabolize fat. Getting stronger means more muscle which means less fat. To top it off, you’ll be building muscle in your legs and rump, and this will garner positive attention from men and women alike. Whether you are skinny or a bigger gal, squatting and deadlifting shapes your booty in the most desirable way.

Lifting positively effects your metabolism for fat burning purposes and can help shape you into that appropriately curvy figure you’ve always wanted, but that isn’t all lifting is good for. More muscle mass and less body fat have tons of health implications. You’ll find that you don’t get sick as much, you’re able to handle viruses/infections easier, you won’t feel fatigued throughout the day, and you’ll start improving on all of those little tests doctors like to give you on your yearly check ups (not the gyno, the real, non-creepy doctor). Bone density will no longer be an issue because you’ll surpass the credentials for “weight bearing exercise” by training with a barbell. When you are stronger, your conditioning workouts will be more effective because you’ll be able to do more work, go faster, and/or go longer. If you are doing any of these three things, then you’re getting more worth out of the time you are exercising than you were when you were weak (i.e. you get sexier/healthier faster). If you’re going to invest the money and time, you might as well use it optimally!

Whether it be feeling better, getting in shape, looking better, or being more healthy, weight training will help get you there. As you get stronger you’ll be delighted to see your lifts increase gradually yet steadily. When you’re squatting 120 pounds, you’ll look back and think, “I used to only squat 45 lbs…I’ve come a long way.” All women who lift cite this sense of empowerment they get from lifting as an exhilarating feeling (in six months you’ll be able to lift more than most “men”). I’m not suggesting that lifting weights should be your primary training method, but when your trainer suggests or implements it, don’t give her so much hell. The fact that getting you stronger is part of her plan means you hired the right person.

46 thoughts on “A note to the Average Woman…

  1. Yes, but if more women take up freeweights then I’ll have to give up my title of “the only woman in the freeweights section” at my gym and I’ll choke a bitch before I’ll do that ;)

    Bahaha. Nomination.

    Speaking of which, I’ll do last week’s and this week’s COW this weekend. Oops.

    –Justin

  2. Wow. I was having literally this exact same conversation with my wife this morning! Great timing, Justin, I will show this to the boss in the morning and hopefully she will see that I do know (a little bit) what I’m talking about. She’s willing, but it’s still hard shaking the “conventional wisdom”.

    On another topic, has anyone been watching the weightlifting world champs? I’m loving it! Just finished watching the men’s 69kg.
    Liao hui frickin’ destroyed it – new wr in the c&j and total. He nailed 198 on 2nd lift, thought he’d have a go at 200 but didn’t. I did like the backflip after taking the record, though… His total was like 20kg up on 2nd – unreal.

  3. what a solid read Justin. I linked this on a few boards that I post on. They have the usual “i want to lose x amount of pounds by x date.” and of course, the usual “cut out ALL carbs, do cardio for 10 hours a day, drink only water, low fat foods, etc” bullshit advice floods the system.

    glad to finally have a clear, concise and direct approach to weight training.

    It’s important to note I purposely left out a nutrition portion. It would have left the scope of teaching about lifting, and there’s enough annoying debate about it anyway. I also left out any relevant method of incorporating lifting into the average woman’s training. I can always touch on that later, but I was just focused on the reasoning behind implementing strength training.

    –Justin

  4. It’s been my experience that no matter how logical you thing your case is, you can’t convince a girl to lift weights properly… An article like this will reinforce a decision if it was already taken.

    A better approach is to show her a picture of Jamie Eason’s derriere.

    I thought about putting a picture of her up, but some women will think she is too muscular (I know, it’s weird). They don’t realize that she probably diets down for her photo shoots. I mean, I like her, but I didn’t want to post a picture of the “ideal woman” because what is “ideal” to each woman is going to be different. So instead, I just showed a horribly ugly skinny chick and left the wondering to them. I could have posted pictures of different friends, younger or older, that look great, but I didn’t want any “picking apart” stuff to happen that would diminish my argument.

    –Justin

  5. There’s so many factors involved in why females (and some dudes, quite recently) shy away from the free weights. Walk into any globo-gym, and have a look around. There are tons of machines all shiny and sparkly ready to use. The Oly bars and plates are tucked away and quite intimidating if you don’t know what you are doing. So, lack of knowledge is a huge factor.

    No girl wants to go mingle among the meatheads and look like a doucher trying to clumsily set up a bar and then not know what to do with it, or god forbid it be too heavy to pick up and then she looks like a real tard.

    You guys aren’t the first to try and sell a woman on weights, and you won’t be the last. Any of those women’s magazines try to make the concept more apealling, but the bottom line is they make it too complicated.

    Furthermore, girls are scared of gaining weight. Some girls weigh themselves every day, 3 or 4 or 10 times a day. Their self worth and perspective of the day are based on those numbers on the scale. If she sees something she doesn’t like, she feels fat and worthless and ugly. If she’s lost a pound (or 0.2 of a pound) she’s elated. She’s sexy and hot!! They are most concerned with taking up the least possible space in this world. They all scrutinize each other. Every meal they eat, they try to eat less than their friends, because that’s control. “Oooooh. Ahhhh. Don’t you just have the BEST discipline, EVER.” “You ran 6 miles today, OMG. That’s incredible.”

    I’m not saying every woman is like this.

    Lots are. LOTS. And to wake up in the morning with such awful DOMS (and swollen muscles make you heavier on the scale!) from smashing the shit out of PR’s, just doesn’t do it for some girls.

    It sucks being heavier than I was. I used to be 20lbs lighter, just 2 years ago. I have some really great jeans that I love and some pictures that I look back fondly on and sigh, “I used to run, SO MUCH.”

    But…new jeans are bought…old “skinny me” pictures get buried and PR’s get smashed the fuck up.

    I try my best to continue to spread the gospel of barbellism.

    Women’s magazines don’t try and sell strength training, they sell fucking around with light dumbbells. Two very different things, and the outcomes are very, very different. But the “complicated” part is alleviated by someone who is good at teaching a movement. Coaching/training is much more than just getting the person to do it right. It has to be a good experience all around. Personally I’m good at coaching and training, especially women, but I can’t train everyone.

    I don’t think I’m profound in my message nor claimed to be. In fact, if the only people that were going to read this were my trainer friend’s group of ladies, I still would have written it. But, in the mean time, it can possibly be read by a lot more women and possibly do some good. If it isn’t good enough, I can always change it up or take a different approach.

    –Justin

  6. Awesome write up Justin, i will show this to my wife and try not to creat a “turd hurricane”

    She played all the sports she could at her high school and was pretty dedicated to lifting and practice. I think her biggest issue is motivation. She often says she doesnt feel like doing anything bc A) She doesnt know what to do or B) She feels fat and doesnt want to go to the gym when she feels that way.

    Im curious to know some of y’alls methods for motivating someone who isnt excatly gun-ho about going to the gym…

    I can’t give you a guideline for motivation. Everyone is motivated in a different way: it’s just as independent as physiological adaptation. All I know is that I can talk to a person and figure it out. I know how to read people regarding this kind of stuff and I’m good at helping them. If there was that small chance in hell that your wife is willing to talk to someone on the phone, I’d be more than happy to. She’s not gonna listen to you on this topic.

    –Justin

  7. How many times a day does Chun weigh himself?
    I think the best result that comes from women lifting weights seriously is that they can do more stuff without being limited by a lack of strength. They may never fully get over the hangup of how they are “supposed” to look, but it doesn’t stay the end-all be-all.

    My experience has been that women usually love the body they get from strength training and conditioning. Their conceptual view of what a woman should look like shifts from “skinny” to “strong”. Strong has negative connotation before they actually spend a month or so squatting, though.

    –Justin

  8. Thanks for the great article Justin.

    Coincidentally, I just purchased a nice little setup so I do my lifting at home (goodbye corporate gym!) and I intend to get my wife into lifting with me when she gets back from out of town.

    I have suggested it in the past (before I had the equipment) but she didn’t want to because she thinks I will be a really annoying coach. I’m sure if she was paying someone $50 an hour to get the same adive she would take it as gospel though. Any suggestions on how I can not be “annoying” when I am helping her get started and learn the movements?

    I sincerely doubt you’ll be able to accomplish this. You don’t understand. You are her husband, and you aren’t the expert. It doesn’t work more than it works. Where do you guys live?

    –Justin

  9. Great post.

    2 points: unfortunately, as you alluded when putting men in quotes, this is a note to the average “man” as well. Secondly, as wise as this is, as Steelo suggested with the turd hurricane comment, getting this through to even a rational woman is difficult. We probably all see this all the time. Before you all jump on this, for many (NOT ALL) women sending a link to an article on a site called 70′s Big is a tough F’ing sell. Preaching to the choir here, unfortunately you need to dress this shit up in pink. Have you posted this anywhere else where perhaps that woman who might be resistant to this kind of idea might be a bit more receptive?

    Personally I haven’t. Do you have any suggestions?

    –Justin

  10. When my girls start to worry I tell them 2 things:
    When I was a skinny fat 19 year old I had cellulite, now I’m 32 and it’s gone.
    And,I weigh 20-25 pounds more than I did before I started training. My pants are the same size and my ass looks better in them. This will usually suffice to get them under a bar long enough for them to start feeling their own excitement.
    I also make a big point of comparing their first lift to their new efforts- ladies like a little positive reinforcement :)

  11. Justin, Gubernatrix (gubernatrix.co.uk) might be up for you reposting it. Also maybe Krista from Stumptuous (stumptuous.com). Both are woman-run sites with a strong weight training focus. Couldn’t hurt, might reach more people on the fence.

  12. Feminists could learn a thing or five from this. But only in a perfect world where Feminism was really about female empowerment, self-confidence, and achieving what you want, instead of sitting around, complaining about things for no real valid reason, listening to Bikini Kill, “fighting the man” by not shaving, and acting like an asshole.

  13. Great article, Justin!

    This is my first post here, though I’ve been lurking for a while. I hope it’s coherent… :)

    I’m a 41 year old chick and started lifting heavy a little more than 2 years ago and haven’t looked back.

    There are a number of obstacles to getting the “lift heavy” message across to other women – media stereotypes, “oh GOD, I’ll bulk!”, intimidation factor at the gym, lack of good instruction, the aerobics instructor said “squatting is bad”, etc, ad nauseum.

    For me, seeing other women doing this stuff and ROCKING IT was what inspired me to give it all a try. I know CrossFit gets knocked here a bit, but seeing videos of Nicole or Eva T. pushing big weights over their head was what made something in my brain go: “I’m gonna try that today.”

    Maybe what is needed most are more visible GOOD examples of strong women. I think sites like “Strong is the New Skinny” is a nice start.

    Rachel – Your girls are SO LUCKY to have your example. I wish I’d been exposed to this type of lifting 20 years ago.

    Earlier this year, I did the Starting Strength program for about 3 months. Lifted 3x a week, drank a lot of whole milk and ate a ton of food. I made really nice gains in both my deadlift and squat. I know I gained some weight, but to echo Rachel, my jeans (even the skinny jeans) still fit, and I started to notice muscles in my torso that didn’t seem to exist before.

    It’s all good.

    Excellent. Thanks for sharing.

    Now maybe if you ladies actually sent me some photos/videos/stories then there could be a resonating effect.

    –Justin

  14. To the guys who are trying to train their wives: STOP. Turd hurricane is an understatement. Every few months I get stupid and give it a go, and every few months I swear to never do it again. It takes a certain type of woman and a really patient guy.

    I freely admit that my “fine, get fat and weak” isn’t the best motivational speech.

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  16. I’ve made pretty good progress getting my girlfriend to lift with regularity. She doesnt always want to listen to my coaching, depending on her mood, but as long as she is lifting I am happy. I dont badger her about it. She is healthy and strong and enjoys being so, but still every couple months she sees another one of her friends who is counting calories and weighs next to nothing and questions whether or not she is doing the right thing. But mostly it’s been positive. One weekend while I was out of town, she was at a bar with some of our friends. One of my friends texted me and said some guy came up to her and told her she had nice legs. She looked at him and said, “That’s because I do heavy back squats.” and she turned around and went back to talking to her friends. The guy looked bewildered and just walked away.

  17. And incidently, it’s just as much of a mess when I train my boyfriend. In my experience, a little “professional distance” between coach and trainee is a good thing. It’s not just ladies that don’t want to hear it from the person they say sweet nothings to…

    @apparatus- Assholes are assholes no matter what their “cause.” Leave us sane people out of it- all of my Beastie Babes would call ourselves feminists. And we all shave our legs.

  18. First Time Poster, Long time Lurker. Nice Site you’ve got here.

    Just had a quick question for Big AC:

    In this video of your’s how did you get the lyrics to cancel out? Im trying to download the instrumentals…
    http://vimeo.com/6203238

    Thanks AC.

    It’s a big secret. So don’t tell anyone. The song in the video . . . Didn’t have vocals . . . SSSHHHH!!!

    –A.C.

  19. @Justin, another great post, but I’m in HS and I literally bet that even with the pretty strong/convincing verbal skills that I have, I could not make a single success story out of a HS girl.

    @Gant, what could be more motivational to a woman that that? ;)

    @Ryan, you’re girlfriend is awesome.

    I’ve coached a few high school girls. They were good lifters, but I don’t think a high schooler should be the one coaching them.

    –Justin

  20. I taught ThunderThighs how to lift before we dated. Now I’m pretty sure she only coincidentally employs my training advice. Which is fine because what do I know.

  21. I like you calling him Big A.C. it entertains me.

    Also, “turd hurricane” is my new favorite expression.

    Great post, Justin. I’m going to be copypasting that one liberally.

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  27. @ Gant:

    Getting my wife started on strength training was the best thing I ever did. It was somewhat difficult at first, but once it was clear I wasn’t just going to give up whether she was there with me or not, she took it more seriously. After a while, she took to it like a fish to water and is now one of the best female raw lifters in the US in her weight class. She’s done over a dozen PL meets and loves competing. She never misses a training session unless she’s practically on her death bed, even though she’s usually the only woman among a group of 10 men. I think once they realize that it’s something they can be good at and that over time not only will they experience the physical changes that getting stronger provides but the confidence that that knowing they can kick most guys asses also provides, well, most of them love it.

  28. I originally started lifting after my husband showed me videos of women lifting heavy and looking damn good doing it. Like most other fitness-mag reading women, I though a heavy squat meant a quarter squat with 10lb dumb bells in each hand. I didn’t have a clue that this kind of lifting was being done outside of the Olympics. I think it also helped that instead of saying, “you should do this”, he said “You would be really good at this, would you like to try this with me?
    I have been lifting with my husband for about 2 years. In the beginning, I had a hard time understanding his coaching wasn’t meant to criticize, but to encourage and improve. I also got distracted and frustrated when he tried to correct form in the middle of the motion. It took a good 6 months before I could take correction mid-set. Go easy on your girls in the beginning; most have never attempted anything remotely like this. Once you get them in the gym and familiar with the lifts, positive reinforcement goes a long way (compliment sandwich anyone?). Don’t tell them what they did wrong as soon as the set is complete; give her a chance to ask for advice. I was really encouraged when my husband asked me to check his form or “bark” at him during a set. It helped me not feel like such a newb and being on the other side of coaching opened me up to receive his critiques.

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