Why Women Should Lift Like Men, Part II

Now we get into the nuts and bolts of the issue as we get the answer as to why women should lift weights like men from some of the best female trainers in the Silicon Valley. In Part II Lea Swenson, NASM-CPT, is going to share her thoughts as to why she thinks they should.

When this idea first hit me, I knew Lea had to be included. The daughter of a former competitive body builder turned bike racer was the perfect person to interview on this topic. Plus she’s gone rep for rep with me in the studio so I know how she views training.


When I sent the questions over to her, it didn’t take long for her to get back to me.


Al: Why don’t women train like men?

Lea: First off I think it has a lot to do with the perpetuation of the myth that women aren’t “meant” to lift weights. Yes, there are physiological differences between us. Men are stronger blah, blah, blah but women can recover quicker from heavy strength training than men.

Serena Williams is a great example of why its ok for women to lift like men.


“Since they typically have around 2/3rds the strength levels of males, they don’t tax their muscular or nervous systems to the extent of males and can therefore recover faster. You can therefore train heavy more frequently.


Furthermore, research suggests that women fatigue less than men and that their type I fibers are larger in comparison to their type II fibers than men,” (Bret Contreras interview on SwimScience blog).


This is the kind of stuff that should be hyped!!


Then, there is the intimidation factor. Walk into any commercial gym and take a look at the demographic spread. It’s about as extreme as a junior high school dance. Boys in the weight room girls in the group exercise room or on the cardio equipment.


I have been around gyms and have thrown weight around my whole adult life so, for me, I don’t think twice about grabbing some weight and going to work. But for a woman who is beginning a program, I can see how intimidating it would be to walk into a weight room and work alongside a grunting dude who is throwing his db’s down at the end of a set.

Don’t even get me started about having to ask the guy who is married to the squat rack if you can “work in” with him.  Women, typically, don’t get a lot of respect in the weight room unless they look like they know what they are doing.  It’s a Catch 22.


I also think that, until recently, there haven’t been as many strong women “role models” or figures. I am so in love with the Girls Gone Strong movement. I have inspirational figures like Alli Mc Kee, Neghar Fonooni, Marianne Kane and Molly Galbraith (to name a few) to look to (and follow their blogs) who are all real, approachable females that don’t look like the roided out freaks that have, in the past, been the “strong female” archetype.


The new tagline “Strong is the new skinny” is going to make all women start to think twice about the line of BS we’ve been fed about how we should train.


Al: Why Curves? Spin Class? Pilates? Yoga?


Here is my cynical side…this type of programming exists because someone can make a buck off perpetuating myths and preying on public ignorance. Mix in the fact that people, not just women, want a quick fix and don’t want to put in the effort and discipline that strength training demands and you’ve got exercise’s equivalent of snake oil.


Al: Why aren’t women lifting weights?

Lea: See above answer.


Al: Why do their workouts have to be softer?

Lea: They don’t.


Al: How do you approach your own  training?

Lea: I would say that I currently train for strength and to get my body moving properly. I am all about biggest bang for my buck. Loving metabolic circuits right now.My first inclination was to answer with “I train more like a guy”, see how indoctrinated we have become??


Al: What is the one exercise you’d recommend for women to do?

Lea: Turkish Get Up. Strength, stability, flexibility, cardio. Doesn’t get better than that for me right now.


Al: How do you answer the “I dont want to get too big” comment?

Lea: This one drives me batty!! This is, again, purely a lack of education. If women were educated on how challenging it is for ANYONE (aside from the genetically predisposed individuals for whom hypertrophy comes easily) to put on enough lean muscle mass to be considered “bulky”, this statement would never be uttered again.  Not to mention the hormonal differences that preclude our ability to get huge. Again, a generalization.

 If you would like more information on the best way to maximize your time in the weight room, or would like to schedule a consultation with Lea, you can contact her on facebook or send an email to  swenson.lea@gmail.com.


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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.