How to Lift Weights Like a Woman

Lift Weights

ATTENTION: The following post may be offensive to men

(Because after you read it you will know more about weight lifting than they do)

I’ve written previous articles about the benefits weight lifting for women has on maintaining muscle mass, improving metabolism and helping you burn more fat than doing just cardio alone. In fact, some studies have shown that aerobic exercise alone is not enough to help women lose weight. In this article I am going to show how women can safely get started lifting weights so you can start reaping the amazing fat burning body shaping benefits as fast as possible!

Ok, so first of all let’s face it: it's a man's gym.

The standard Olympic bar alone weighs 45 pounds, something like 40 – 60% of a typical women’s body weight. That’s like asking an untrained 220 pound man to come in a bust out a 135 pound bench press his very first time in the gym...very very unlikely.

The problem is that most men, even the guys who work at the gym, don't know this about weight lifting for women. They don't know that it's NORMAL that a woman cannot lift the bar when they begin a weight lifting program. Maybe you've seen that nice boyfriend who tries to teach his cutie how to bench press, only to watch her drop the bar painfully on her chest. Ask a typical trainer at your gym how to get started weight lifting and they won’t know. They'll brush you off or give you a couple of 5 lb. dumbbells and a run through of the pulley machines and walk away.

It's lame really. As a woman, you are perfectly capable of lifting not just the bar, but much much more, and feel the muscle sculpting, metabolism increasing benefits that go along with weight lifting.

Women Can Have Great Success Lifting Weights

Take me. I weigh 105 pounds and I can bench press 125 pounds 8 times. I can box squat 225 pounds (two 45 plates on each side) for a set of 5, and I can dead lift 140 pounds 5 times. Sure, these might not be impressive numbers to a guy, but remember it’s all relative to how much muscle mass you have. Not many guys can even bench press their body weight. I can do that and box squat twice my body weight. When is the last time you saw a normal looking guy box squat over 400 pounds (four plates on each side)?

I’m nothing special here. I started off pretty weak. I couldn't even box squat a set of 10-pound dumbbells. If I can get strong and lean so can you.

Why bother lifting weights? Can’t I just use the pulley machines?

Nope. The pulley machines are great as supplementary exercises, like for working on building up strength and muscle at your weak points, but the three main lifts are where huge calorie burning muscle sculpting benefits truly lie.

The way to weight lift is to pick the 3 most muscle-involving exercises and base your entire weight lifting workout on getting stronger at those exercises. These 3 main weight lifting exercises are:

  1. The Bench Press
  2. The Dead lift
  3. The Box Squat**

**Note: The box squat is a beginner’s version of the regular squat. It is very forgiving on the knees and back and makes it a great place to start when you are just learning how to do the squat safely and correctly. The full squat is great for the more advanced. I recommend you stick with the box squat for at least 2 months before you try doing a real squat. This goes for guys too. Most people I see have super crappy technique and pay for it with knee and back injuries. But this can all be avoided with proper technique.

How to Maintain Your Muscle Mass

The bench press uses pretty much every major and minor muscle in your upper body. During the concentric and eccentric (downward and upward) movements, you have to stabilize the weight with your shoulders and core (low back and stomach). You use your traps, lats, triceps, chest, biceps and forearms to slowly lower the weight to your chest and then quickly explode upward to complete the motion.

No other lifting exercise uses this many upper body muscles in one coordinated movement. This forces you to develop your neuromuscular system. You learn how to flex multiple muscle groups together and as a result you get an amplified effect. Your arms flex hard forcing your shoulders to activate followed by your abs. Every group working together synergistically as a complete system – the way you body was designed to work.

You cannot get this type of multi-joint muscle activity with simple pulley machines. The result? You stress your muscles at a higher level, which forces them to adapt and grow stronger than the silly dude doing just dumb bell curls.

The same goes for the squat and the dead lift. Both lifts use a huge amount of muscle in your lower body.

Weight Lifting Gets Your Entire Body Lean and Tone

By getting stronger at these three lifts you are ensuring your entire upper and lower body is growing stronger and leaner together as one unit. Also, once you have a simple reference point – the 3 lifts – it becomes really easy to choose supplementary exercises that help you improve these 3 exercises.

So now that you know how real weight lifting works, tell those guys to step aside, because in the next article, I am going to explain exactly HOW to lift weights so that you never reach a weight loss plateau. By the end you will know how to cycle weight lifting into your workouts so you never stop seeing results!

 Questions?  Just send me an e-mail!

To get a workout program filled with a ton of awesome workout tips just like this, check out the 2-week quickstart workout and nutrition program, or the COMPLETE 14-week body-toning program!

Quickstart 2-week FREE ProgramJill's 4-Week Complete Program

10 thoughts on “How to Lift Weights Like a Woman

    • Julie,
      While pushups are one of the best and most versatile upper body exercises out there (one of my favorites!), they are not a true ‘substitute’ for the bench press. Pushups are a great complimentary exercise, because doing pushups (and a different variety of pushups, such as wide-arm, tricep, head-stand, etc.) will help to strengthen your bench-pressing muscles! However, where the pushup falls short is that it is difficult to move beyond lifting anything heavier than your own upper-body. This makes strength-gains (and hence weightloss) a slower process, and places limits on your end results. Not to mention thatin order to continue getting stronger with JUST pushups, you’d have to just keep increasing the number of repetitions… which can get pretty boring and painful! So, feel free to supplement bench press with pushups, but please don’t just replace! :)

      • Jill, thanks for your reply. I currently do pushups (on my knees) because I am afraid to do bench press! The men at my gym who do it, lift such heavy ones and I am afraid I will drop one on me. I think I will have to find a partner to spot me. Thanks again.

        • Julie you are so welcome! Keep up the good work with your pushups, and yes… find a girlfriend to come to the gym with you to spot you! Also I know it’s hard but try to not get intimidated by the guys who bench truckloads of weight… but remember it is YOUR gym too! That intimidation factor is often what keeps us women on those nasty cardio machines. There is nothing wrong at all with starting with lifting just the bar (it weighs 45 lbs).. everyone has to start somewhere! You can also check out my complete program (, which will take you safely and easily from doing pushups on your knees… to doing a good bench press :) Feel free to email me any time with questions at! xo

    • You can progress on pushups, doing more reps (slow), difficult variations, band pushups (you can add more bands). I’m a man, and I never done bench press, only pushups (hard pushups) and dips at home. It’s not easy, but it works.

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    • Thanks for the comment Derek! Glad you like the site… and please spread the word to the women you care about in your life so I can hopefully help them too! :-)

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