Real women lift REAL weights (3 lb dumbbells need not apply)

Alright, you knew it was coming.  This is my PSA to all females out there who are afraid to lift weights and get strong. I’m going to grit my teeth and make this as nice as possible, so just zip your lips and read.

I’m really just so so so so so so tired of hearing the nonsense girls say when it comes to fitness.  As usual, I blame the Kardashians…. because I blame them for everything.  In reality, though, anyone that endorses those stupid tone-up shoes and has a trainer [Tracy Anderson] that insists: “We don’t want to take away Kim’s amazing curves, so we just do specific movements to tighten the skin and to pull the muscles tight against the bone.” can just fall off the planet.  Yes, she really said that (People Magazine – go ahead, click it, and then lets get #ThingsSmarterThanTracyAnderson to trend on twitter)

Rock > Tracy Anderson

Guess what?  There is no such freaking thing as tightening the skin around your muscles – that’s just gross and weird.  Unless you’re talking some serious Nip/Tuck, you will not find that sort of nonsense occurring in the gym.  That requires a scalpel and some Frankenstein stuff.  Put it out of your mind.

Another thing I need you to forget about is body builders.  You are all brainwashed into thinking that lifting weights = body building, and that if you start picking up weights you’re going to start looking like those tan bikini-clad mini-hulks.  I’m not saying bodybuilding isn’t bad ass, because it is, but most of us aren’t training for that.  To be brutally honest, the extreme amount of dieting, supplementation, discipline and volume of training that it takes to be a bodybuilder is completely out of the relm of possibility for just about all of us…so stop flattering yourself.

Instead of talking about celebrities who aren’t real people, I’m going to make this nice and simple.  Did anyone watch the US women’s soccer team over the summer?  If you didn’t – go sit in the corner. For the rest of you, did Abby Wambach or Hope Solo look like crazies on steroids?  No. Would women kill to be Alex Morgan (or would men kill to be WITH Alex Morgan?) YUP.  Do they all lift weights?  You better believe it. And I’m talking real weights – not cute little colored dumbbells.  They are soccer players.  They squat more than you weigh.

Alex Morgan

Abby Wambach

Reality check: women do not have enough testosterone to become huge no matter how much they lift – and it does not change with the increasing intensity of your work out.  You would need to supplement (legally, or illegally) your face off, and even THEN, you wouldn’t reach the status a man does because of those pesky sex hormones and their fluctuation.  In fact, I DARE YOU to try to bulk up.  Nia Shanks, author of the Beautiful Badass blog and part of the Girls Gone Strong movement (which you should check out, btw) claims to be so confident that you won’t, that if you start training FOR REAL and you get bulky, she’ll allow you roundhouse kick her in the face.  I’m just as confident – so when you’re done kicking her, you can come find me. Be warned: I kick back.

I’ll even use myself as an example.  Now before everyone jumps down my throat, I recognize that I’m actually in the minority.  I put on muscle easier than most, and everyone knows I train with weights, so a lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them they won’t get huge.  Fortunately for all you doubters, I have photo evidence. (NOTE: I do not have access to photoshop or any other fancy editing tool and if I did, I wouldn’t know how to use it.  All these pictures you can find perfectly untouched on my facebook.) Boom.

Before I lifted heavy weights, my body composition was relatively the same, but with higher body fat.  Genetically, I am short and stocky, and I would be whether I decided to play video games, run marathons, or lift weights.  I’ve always been a higher size in clothing, and my measurements have only changed slightly over the years.  Ironically, though, what ended up happening once I started serious training was my waist size decreased, and so did my arm circumference, even though you can see visible muscles now.  This is due to the corresponding decrease in body fat, NOT the excess growth of muscle tissue.  Unfortunately, there was no increase in height despite my huge desire to dunk a basketball. Oh well, another life….

Here is a picture of me playing lacrosse during my freshman year of college.  Besides playing lax and the occasional (awful) gym workout, I was not particularly in shape.  I could do regular body weight push ups, but no pull ups, and I didn’t squat, deadlift, or do anything remotely awesome.

Me in 2007

Notice my arm size (this is important) and the presence of a small gut (haha thats just funny).

Now, here I am junior year, after coming back from an ACL injury, completely changing the way I ate and after doing A LOT of heavy strength training.  At this point in time I could complete a body weight pull up, over 30 push ups, and I was squatting around my body weight (which at the time was 160).

Me in 2009

You’ll see that my broad shoulders are still the same broad shoulders they always were, they didn’t magically appear.  My arms, however, are actually slightly smaller, the gut is mainly gone, and my legs have muscles peaking out – muscles that were there already, NOT ones that hypertrophied enough to warrant a jump in pants size.  In fact, I dropped quite a few pants sizes between freshman and junior year.

Here is a more recent photo of me taken just a few months ago – at this point I can complete 5 WEIGHTED pull ups, squat 225 for reps and deadlift 235 for reps and you’ll notice that not much as changed in my body composition from 2009 to now. The only thing that has increased is my strength (and therefore, my awesomeness)

Me in 2011

So here’s my main message: most of you are smart enough to know that not everything you read in the magazines is the truth.  You know that celebrities are photoshopped, you know diet cleanses are stupid, and you know that being skinny isn’t always healthy.  Well here’s a new one: women can (and should) lift weights without worrying about getting bulky.  Use your brains, because I really want you guys to stop being so afraid to challenge yourself.  You’re missing out on AWESOME workouts – and you’re missing out on GREAT accomplishments.  No one said you had to enter a powerlifting meet, but I hope that by putting myself out there I have helped you realize that strength is something to strive for, not shy away from.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, or you just want to read into this more, please check out this article: (its absolutely hilarious – if you like what I write, you’ll love this). Also check the blog & videos of Nia Shanks.  You’ll thank me for it.  And if you ever use the phrase “I just want to get toned” in my presence, I promise I will go out of my way to make you feel bad. 🙂

About sten06

Master's in Kinesiology: Strength & Conditioning BSed in Exercise physiology -NSCA CSCS -NASM CPT, PES -Varsity Lacrosse Coach Saving the world one workout at a time ;)

Posted on January 7, 2012, in Fitness, Strength & Conditioning, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. AHHH yes! Nia Shanks and the entire US women’s soccer team are so wicked cool. If only other ladies would get away from kardashian babble and realize how badass weight lifting is. When you can deadlift more than some men, you gotta admit it gives you an amazing confidence boost!
    Ps– I’ll assist you in beating up the next celebrity trainer or tv host who says the word “toned” haha 😉

  2. Awesome post!!
    Tracy anderson and her stupid 3lb weight thing is a big pet peeve of mine. I dedicated my other site to show that women can lift heavy and look awesome.

    There’s a video on youtube of Tracy Anderson training Gwyneth Paltrow and said she carried her 10lb baby on her right arm but her left arm is sagging – so they decided to prance about and use a 3lb weight on her left arm to “tone up”

    What are you thoughts on celebrity trainers and their advice? I’d love to see a post about that 🙂

    • omg, i saw that video. i just couldn’t even handle it hahaha. i’ll definitely post my thoughts about celeb trainers at some point soon – even though it might get violent 😉

  3. Do it!! I can’t wait. It grinds my gears!! some of them… look forward to it 🙂

  4. You arms look AMAZING btw. And now Max thinks you’re cool because he played lax in high school and college 🙂 the stick is still in our living room. Because it’s a classy decoration obbbviously.

    Also, the mere WORDS Tracy Anderson spike my blood pressure. (True story: I usually think about her before I get it measured because I have chronic low BP and I don’t really want my insurance rate to spike when I’m older.)

  5. YES YES YES. I am actually working on a post right now that is along these same lines..I feel like I’m a preacher trying to spread the gospel! Tracy Anderson makes me throw up a little bit every time I hear anything about her, and every time I see a “celebrity trainer” in a magazine who claims that women can get “trim and toned from these 3 easy exercises!” I want to find them, and shake them until they come to their senses!

    • hahaha omg i love those stupid ‘get toned with 3 easy moves’ and they’re all like with a pencil sized dumbbell and some model who is way too pretty for the gym. and of course shes doing like, tricep kickbacks (an insult to my intelligence) and smiling. no. do you know what i look like when i work out? a sweaty, awful, hot mess. get some.

      i’m just so happy we all found each other because i feel like we’re on a mission to STOP THE MADNESS and spread the good word of REAL fitness hahaha. i’m excited for your post already!

  6. I’m going to follow the both of you because you share the digust I have for tracy anderson.

  7. i LOVE your blog and i LOVE this post.

  8. absolutely LOVE this article! I always try to instill this mentality in my girlfriends who are looking to “get toned”. No one understands that spot training isn’t real and that without lifting HEAVY weights you will never get rid of the stomach pooch that you are complaining about. my blog is, i write about fitness and eating clean and a lot of weight training tips (particularly kettlebell and crossfit training). follow me if you want!

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