Weight lifting can be intimidating for newcomers. There’s equipment to learn, form to perfect, and usually a gaggle of pumped-up bros in the way. If you’ve ever been curious about weight lifting—but too intimidated to try it—today’s your day. We talked through the benefits of lifting, and how to get started properly with Claire Fountain, a personal trainer and a contributor for THE/THIRTY.
Read on to learn how weight lifting can transform your body—without bulking up.
Know the Benefits
“Weight lifting is truly the best thing we can do for our bodies as women. Too often we wear ourselves and our bodies out on cardio machines. Lifting weights burns as many calories per hour, and gives the benefit of building muscle mass. More muscle mass means a higher resting metabolic rate, so your body will be more efficient at using calories (and maintaining a healthy weight) when you build muscle,” Fountain explains.
Plus, “muscles will shape your body, so aesthetically it’s a win-win. Being strong and feeling capable does a great deal for women’s self-esteem and confidence and weight lifting also helps to increase endorphins that help to fight off depression and anxiety.”
Forget the Myth that You'll "Bulk Up"
“If you’re a female who is trying to be leaner, or ‘smaller,’ the idea of being bulky can be very frightening, but it’s a huge misconception that you will get bulky. Lifting weights will raise your metabolism, help to shape your body, and it will make you leaner in the long run. Women don’t have the hormonal capacity to really ‘bulk’ up. Also, to truly put on muscle mass, you also have to eat to fuel that with surplus calories for building,” Fountain says.
Learn Good Form
If all of these benefits have you sold, begin by learning proper form. Fountain cautions that you shouldn’t go it alone to start. Instead, “watch YouTube, read, educate yourself on lifting, and—if possible—schedule a session with a trainer. It might be complimentary with your gym memberships. Use the session as a time to discuss form or what you’d like to work on. It can be really helpful for beginners, as form is important for safety,” Fountain suggests.
Start with These Basic Moves
“Though it will not give you a massive butt overnight, a squat will tone and shape your entire lower body—quads, hamstrings, glutes—and strengthen your core. It also has an impact on mobility, balance, and muscles throughout the entire body,” Fountain says.
Place a step or bench behind you.
Shooting the hips behind you, squat down to sit on the bench
Once your butt hits the bench, press through the heels with a tight core back to standing.
Note: It’s important to keep your shoulders down and back and your face forward.
“Women are often afraid of push ups and seem to always get on their knees. As women, we are capable of doing real push-ups,” Fountain says.
Start at an incline (such as hands on a bench).
Prepare push ups with a tight core and neutral neck.
Note: As you progress, you can move to the ground.
A deadlift will “work all the muscles of the posterior chain (think back, butt, backs of your legs, hamstrings) and lifts and tones the body. It is also one of the best core exercises out there,” Fountain says.
Stand with soft knees and weight(s) in your hands. Keeping the back tight, hinge at the hips, and bend the knees slightly.
Keeping the neck and head in line with the spine, hinge forward with the weight close to the legs (as if it’s sliding down the legs).
Squeeze the glutes and return to standing, coming back to your beginning position.
Note: It is easy to let the back be lax here, but that is dangerous to the spine. Make sure you are engaging the muscles of the back and core as you hinge.
Now that you’ve got the full scoop, how do you feel about weight lifting? Join the conversation in our Facebook group to let us know!
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.