Why Women Should Lift Like Men

I’ve recently picked up a copy of “The New Rules of Lifting (TNROL) for Women” by Lou Shuler, Casandra Forsythe and Alwyn Cosgrove. Its a great book in a series of books detailing how to get fit if you don’t have a trainer, I recommend them highly.

However, the more I thought about the title of this particular installment of TNROL, the more it hit me: why are there new rules for lifting for women? 


Don’t their bodies make the same movements during the day that men do? Do their hips extend differently than their male counter parts? Don’t they have hinge joints in the elbows and knees the way men do?


They have to push, pull, rotate, level change, sit/stand, locomote the way men do (and more if they are new moms). So why are there new weight lifting rules for females? While this is a very good book, the fact it had to be written is ridiculous.

I’ve never trained my female clients differently than their male counterparts because everyone needs to be able to make the same primal patterned movements. If I did do things differently, it was because they were pregnant. And even then, while the intensity varied, the exercises didn’t until they needed to.


With all of this being said, why do public gyms look like eighth grade dances with “Men in the weight room, women in the group class studio and cardio areas” as Lea Swenson, NASM-CPT, put it.

Why there is such a divide between men and women in the weight room? I’m going to touch on it here, but its going to take two articles to explain it because it deserves that kind of attention. I’ve got interviews from female trainers and trainees who have some great insights as to why this exists. You want to know what they have to say, trust me.

So back to the topic at hand. Why are women marketed toward classes? Why are they shown lifting lighter weights in ads? Is the emaciated model figure what Madison Avenue says a fit woman should look like? Why are women lead to believe that more cardiovascular activity burns fat? Why, for the love of Jack Lalane, can’t Madison Ave just pump out factual exercise science????? Because it won’t sell.

Reebok shoes that force correct muscle firing? No. Shoes. Will. Not. Do. This. This includes those MBT monstrosities as well.If you move incorrectly out of the shoes, put them on and guess what happens? You’ll still move incorrectly. I know this because I tried some the reeboks and it lead to left knee pain and pretty bad knots in my left hamstring.

To set the record straight, I think women should do the same things men do when they work out. Do your Get Ups. Do your swings, pull ups, dumbbell presses, loaded bridges with an Olympic bar, do it all, just like the boys. Then mock them when you do it better with more weight!

Unfortunately, this isn’t this the case. I know this first hand because of the exercise myths perpetuated in the media as to how women should train. I’ve also heard them when new female IPF Community members come on board. It is not their fault, not in the least. 


The information is hard to come by unless you study it. This is why we are constantly researching the most cutting edge training research to keep your programs on track to improve the way you move.

Let me share four exercise MYTHS with you that the mainstream fitness media doesn’t seem to want to dispel:

1) You can spot reduce.

Unless you get liposuction good luck with spot reduction. Even then, your body will store the removed fat elsewhere. You. CAN’T. Spot. Reduce. PERIOD.

2) Crunches flatten the abs.

Crunches, while not only bad for your spinal column because of the forward flexion invovled, DON’T FLATTEN THE ABDOMEN. I will tell you what does. And this applies to women as well as men. 


Put on more muscle, and you will burn more fat from a higher metabolism thereby flattening the mid section.

3) You have to do more cardio to burn fat.

Cardiovascular activity will do more to put on fat than it will to take it away. If it didn’t, then how is it possible for an endurance athlete to put fat on while training for an Ironman Triathlon? Because that’s exactly what happened to Rachel Cosgrove (click here to find out why).

She did so much low heart rate steady state work at the expense of fat burning intensity that her body got very efficient at holding on to calories, and that’s exactly what it did as she packed on the fat.

What got it off? High intensity metabolic circuit training. 60 mins, intervals with weights and she took the fat off. NOT by doing more cardio.


I generally dislike really intense efforts, but I also know how critical they are in order to boost performance.  What I also discovered over the past several months is how intensity is a key component to weight loss and getting leaner, says Race Across the West Female Category Winner and 2012 Race Across America participant Joan Dietchman. 


“When you first start doing longer workouts, you’re still stressing your body in ways that it’s not used to, so you may see results for a while in terms of shedding some weight, however as your body adapts and becomes more efficient, the weight loss will stop, and in fact if you don’t monitor your food intake appropriately, you may actually be left scratching your head wondering why you’re doing mega mileage yet still gaining weight.”  

Yet another reason humans aren’t meant to go for long duration (8 hours or more) cardiovascular bouts. This is in addition to new research coming out regarding how the right ventricle of the heart is negatively affected by this. 

4) “I don’t want to get too big.”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this, I’d own about 30 McClaren sports cars. They are about $750,000 per car if that helps give you an idea of how Richard Branson wealthy I’d be. I know I’m not supposed to get into the science of this, because the proper protocol is to ask the person how they’d like to look. I get this, I’ve used this.

But, the bottom line is, unless someone is genetically predisposed to look like an eastern European World’s Strongest Man competitor named Marius Pujonowski, IT WON’T HAPPEN. This is a nice way of saying, hormonally, men have the advantage in gaining muscle mass because of the anabolic hormones content required to do so. 

Again, that isn’t to say there aren’t women who easily put on muscle because there certainly aer. But again, generalizing, based on my 15 years of experience in the fitness industry, men tend put on muscle faster.

So, if we know that crunches don’t flatten that abs, cardio can actually make you fat, you can’t spot reduce and hormonally, men are more apt to put muscle on than women, then why do these myths persist in the media? In part 2, I’m going to let three of the best female trainers I know (Liza Rachetto ACSM, MS, Brigit Das NASM-CPT and Lea Swenson NASM-CPT) tell you why.




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Never attempt any new exercises mentioned in the Fitness411 blog without a thorough evaluation from a physician, personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist or sports chiropractor.



  • Ck

    If i were to do weight lifting with heavy weights how many reps should i be doing and sets in order to help with weight loss?