The Top 7 Questions Women Ask About Weight Training
What's up ROCKSTAR! Today I’m joined by 2 of my good friends -who are also trainers - to answer the Top 7 Questions Women Ask About Weight Training.
Since so many of my wonderful readers are using the new Lioness Strength Training Program, I wanted to take a few minutes to answer the most common questions I get - from women of all experience levels.
Coach Maddie Berky and WBFF Pro Jessica Williams are here to add their perspective and experience to the discussion and to help you get the best information.
1. Am I going to Bulk Up?
Bree: The first thing I want to mention is that it is VERY challenging to put on muscle mass in general. Even men, who have higher levels of testosterone, have to work hard to put on mass. Women - you are not going to get bulky just by adding heavier weights to your workouts. As you add lean muscle, your body burns more calories at rest - so you’ll be burning more fat and adding muscle. Weight lifting sculpts those beautiful body lines.
Maddie: This is a HUGE fear for a lot of women. When we focus our success and failure on the number on the scale, it becomes really dangerous. What’s tricky with a weight training program is that you are putting on beautiful muscle, but your weight may not change much because muscle is more dense than fat - meaning it takes of less space for the same amount of weight. So your clothes may be fitting better and you’re feeling great, but when you step on the scale the number may be more than before. Taking the scale out of the equation is the first thing you should do.
Jessica: Weight lifting gives women those nice supple curves that we love - you should never be scared of weight lifting making you bulk up.
2. Do I need to take supplements?
Bree: Your supplement approach should always be goal-dependent. Most of your diet and nutrients should come from real food, but adding in things like protein powder is fine too. I am currently adding lean muscle, so I use protein powder to ensure I get enough protein each day. I use a vegan, sprouted grain, plant-based protein powder that’s sweetened naturally with stevia. It’s important to find a quality product. If you’re using whey, look for grass-fed. If you choose to take supplements, please be careful when reading the labels and opt for the most natural form you can find.
Maddie: My main goal is to recover quickly and support the work I do at the gym. I eat real foods like chicken breast and sweet potato to recover after a hard workout. I don’t use protein powder at all anymore.
Jessica: I am currently training for a WBFF show, so I do take supplements. I also like having real food when possible - I like the same thing as Maddie, chicken breast and sweet potato. I also take a BCAA drink for recovery, multivitamin and fish oil.
3. How should I approach eating?
We all want to stress that getting most of your nutrients from real foods - healthy protein, complex and simple carbs, healthy fats and plenty of greens - as opposed to relying on supplements or pre-made foods is ideal. In the next couple of questions we're going to address pre and post workout eating specifically.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to eating and exercising is NOT EATING ENOUGH. Usually people get hung up on food myths like eating fat will make you fat, or eating carbs will bulk you up. And many, many women just do not eat enough food in general.
There is also a terrible habit of skipping meals, thinking this will help you get leaner. But this actually depletes your body and can have the opposite result because your body thinks it's starving and it will hold onto the fat you have. Skipping meals and not getting enough essential nutrients will mess up your hormones, slow down your metabolism, wreak havoc on your energy and sabotage the results you should be able to achieve.
Following a good plan if you are still learning about how to put meals together that contain the essential nutrients is an awesome idea. It's difficult to navigate through the cultural myths and subtle messages about dieting, not to mention all of the advertising and products marketed at women that can trick you into buying things that don't really help you get healthier, lose fat or get lean.
4. How should I eat Pre and Post-Workout?
Bree: I focus on carbs and protein pre- and post-workout. I do include a little fat pre-workout during breakfast - I usually have eggs, greens and toast.
Maddie: This is the one time of the day where fat might not be totally appropriate to include. I like to have a little fat pre-workout because it settles my stomach, but the macronutrients you want to focus on are carbs and protein. Protein with build, maintain and repair your muscles, while carbs will be an energy source and to help replenish the energy lost during a workout. I usually choose a lean protein like chicken or turkey with a half a sweet potato.
Jessica: My favorite fat is avocado so I’ll have avocado on eggs with oats before a workout. After a workout I’ll have carbs like sweet potatoes or rice with chicken breast.
5. What's the difference between using barbells, dumbbells and machines?
Bree: I’m a fan of using a combination of all three. Some machines I will use for a different exercise than they are intended - like the hamstring drop in Lioness Phase 1. I like machines because they help isolate muscles if you’re a beginner because when you add weight with a barbell or dumbbell, you are less stable.
Maddie: There are so many options when you walk into a gym. A barbell is a wonderful way to add load because it’s symmetrical and more stable. Dumbbells are less stable, which can be helpful if you’re working on stabilizing muscles. Form is super important here. Machines are my least favorite because they are “one size fits all” and they don’t necessarily work for everyone’s body. They are less intimidating and more stable, so they’re a great place to start.
Jessica: Machines aren’t my favorite either. They help with form and fires up the correct muscles, but they aren’t the best for me.
6. How do you choose the right weight?
Bree: It really depends on your goals at the moment. If you’re looking to add mass, you want to choose a weight that allows you to hit 6-8 reps per set of the exercise before you really fatigue. If you’re working on endurance or strength, choose a weight that lets you hit 8-12 reps before you really fatigue. Always stop lifting before your form starts to suffer. Your mind-body connection is super strong, so you always want to train with proper form. Don’t try to bust out 10 reps just because that’s what is prescribed. Listen to your body.
Maddie: Every day will be different depending on many factors. Really be aware of how you’re feeling before a workout. Adjust your weight and reps accordingly.
Jessica: Lift as heavy as possible for YOU without sacrificing your form. Even if you have to drop weight during your next set, that is better than having bad form.
7. I feel intimidated going to the gym...how can I feel more confident?
Bree: It’s really important to familiarize yourself with the equipment at the gym. Watch YouTube videos or Google some of the names of different lifts. Every gym will be different. You’ll have all the video demos for Lioness, plus workout trackers and downloadable PDFs. You belong here - you don’t need to doubt yourself.
Maddie: Figure out what’s going to make you feel strong and powerful and practice that. Adopt a power pose and walk in to the gym like you mean it. “Fake it till you make it!” Have a plan of attack so that you aren’t coming up with exercises on the fly. Find a really solid, easy to follow plan like Lioness. Establish why you’re doing the program - don’t get stuck on a purely aesthetic reason. Keep asking that “why” and you will uncover the real reasons behind your hard work.
Jessica: Personal trainers are about $500 for 10 sessions, and you may not feel confident on your own even after those sessions.
No matter where you start, you are right where you’re supposed to be. I know you can achieve your goals! Let me know if you have any questions, comment below!
- Bree Argetsinger, CHEK certified Exercise Coach, Nutrition Coach and Fitness Motivator
- Maddie Berky of MADwellness, CPT, specializing in Crossfit and Olympic Lifting
- Jessica Williams, CPT and WBFF Competitor
Get your hands on the Lioness Strength Training Program for the Absolute Best Guidance and Complete Plan to follow!