Weight and Resistance Training - Help! My lovely lady lifters, so confused:(

01-19-2009, 11:11 AM
OK, so here it goes. I feel like everything I read contradicts everything else. I am debating on what rep range/wt level to train with. ON one hand I read and am told to go heavy for 6-10 reps and then I had a trainer who said that if i don't want "size" I need to focus on 15-20 reps (especially for the lower body bc I am pear shaped he said heavy lifting will make me bigger, fuller)

Then, there was that lady on Oprah who said women should not lift heavier than 3lbs, which i think is ridiculous but there is another woman, Valerie Waters, who trains and has a website and promotes only high rep weight training d/t women don't want the "look" (fuller, thicker, bulkier) that heavy weight training gives you...

So, I am at a total loss! I am not sure which way to go? I am pear shaped and have stong legs, so I def. don't want to grow but I also thought that women can't get bigger d/t hormones. I do find when I start to train heavy my pants get tight but then I freak out and stop within a week or so and that could be just fluid retention which may eventually pass if I just stick it out.

And, maybe it is all diet!!! I don't know:?:

Any help, experience, insight would be awesome! I really love weight training but I don't want to grow big quads/thicker body overeall or lose femininity.

Thanks ladies!!

RN BSN 2009
01-19-2009, 11:28 AM
I am sure that you can't "bulk up" unless you're taking steroids. Female muscles are going to look toned. Bulking up is a common misconception. Wish you the best of luck.

RN BSN 2009
01-19-2009, 11:30 AM
BTW - I lift 25-40 with my arms depending on which machine I'm on, and I do 40-50 with my legs. I find that my legs are becoming toned and more shapely - Less jiggle! lol... Also I do 30 lbs when I do abdominal. Having more toned and refined muscles will help me burn more calories when I do cardio. Don't fret the short-term weight gain, it'll go away.

01-19-2009, 11:35 AM
My opinion is that people will say what they think will sell and to their targeted audience. A lot of women are afraid of weights, sadly. They see huge bulking men which they don't know that these men have lots of testosterone and spend hours every day lifting as well as taking supplements to bulk themselves up. Then they see lady lifters who also either are in the rare minority of women that can bulk or more likely, take steroids as well as spending hours lifting every day and have an extremely low body fat.

The truth is a hard one for some women to ingest so those who make money from fitness often avoid the truth and instead tell women what they want to hear which usually means inferior results for those women. If you want to be strong, shapely, burn fat at a higher rate, etc, then lift heavy. Although I tend to like the 8-12 rep range, but really you shouldn't be lifting anything light enough that you could do more than 15 reps with.

Oh and I'm also pear shaped with strong legs. My legs have never grown, only shrunk. As long as your food is in order, you will lose weight and you won't bulk up. If you do 'bulk' up then your intake is the first place to look.

Jennifer 3FC
01-19-2009, 11:41 AM
Do not listen to the garbage about the 3 pound weights! As for the rest, you have to train hard to get any of the bodies you see in magazines. Those women are professional models and they focus their life on bodybuilding. Muscle is going to make you look smaller. The women that look bulky have practically no bodyfat, so you can see the muscle, and they also spend their lives training and working for that body.

Just move forward with the method that works best for you (I think lighter weights and more reps would be good for starters) and just watch your body transform, and you'll know which direction you want to go when you get to the fork in the road. :)

01-19-2009, 12:54 PM
Thanks for the replies ladies! I am so relieved bc I really enjoy strength training and didn't want to have to train light or only do pilates to get to my goal.

It infuriates me that there is so much mis-information out there! From nutrition to training, it never ends.

I am going to stick it out for at least 6 weeks. That should give ample time for any fluid retention to resolve and for me to start "seeing" results.

I definitly am not going for the look of a starved supermodel. My goal is to be lean, healthy, fit with energy to burn and a roaring metabolism:)

I am super exited! Anyone else wants to chime in, I am all ears!


01-19-2009, 01:03 PM
Are you also watching what you are eating? that is an important part too. It is a bit easy to eat too many calories, especially when doing intense workouts.

01-19-2009, 01:24 PM
Oh yes, my diet is spot on. I am trying to recomp my body vs lose weight. I am 125lbs and 55.5 inches. My goal is to drop my body fat and increase my lean mass. I am shooting for about 1800 cals a day with a 40/30/30 split, 10,000 steps a day and 30min of cardio 6 days a week.

I am sure that I have to have the weights bc every past attempt without them only lead to a smaller, "fatter/flabbier" version of myself, that is what always seems to happen when I just do a lot of cardio and cut calories.


RN BSN 2009
01-19-2009, 01:42 PM
Best of luck!

01-19-2009, 03:30 PM
Evelove: I just wanted to quickly comment on the tightness you feel the first few weeks of lifting. When we work our muscles to fatigue as is the case with lifting heavy they have a tendency to store extra glycogen in preparation for the next session. For every glycogen molecule that is stored two water molecules are stored as well. This can cause the retention or slight "gain" you may notice in your clothing those first few weeks. This is only a temporary situation and will usually right itself in about four to five weeks. Really. By that time the muscles in your body decide that the work you are asking for it to do is not so awful, that it can handle it. Your muscles will not need to hold onto as much glycogen and water post workout.

Another tip is to be certain that you are eating as soon as possible after your workout and drink lots of water. Stretch. Stretch and Stretch some more during your training as well as after your training. Also be certain that you take at least three of those cardio sessions and do interval training instead of just steady state cardio. Eating clean, interval training, lifting heavy, water, and plenty of sleep/rest will have you realizing your lean body mass goals with the greatest efficiency.

Happy lifting. :hug:

01-19-2009, 05:14 PM
Well, you don't HAVE to lift heavy.
I have weaker joints (elbows and wrists) and I use 3 and 5 lb dumbbells and add tension to the muscle (aka dynamic tension).
If I lift anything over 8 lbs, I get tendonitits.
I'm not going to win any body building competitions, but I'm happy with my muscles :)

Good luck!

01-19-2009, 07:13 PM
I've lifted heavy for about 5 months, since mostly parting ways from my trainer (we still work out together occasionally as friends) who likes to lift a little lighter in the 15-20 rep range. The first change I made to my routine was lifting as heavy as I could until failure, 4-8 reps per set.

Remarkable difference! I've drastically dropped inches and am achieving a very sleek sexy look despite working out like a beast and scaring the men in the weight room. :lol:

For the first month of my new routine I did not drop any significant weight, fluctuated up and down. I was patient, the next month went back to normal for loss and the inch loss was very rewarding.

01-19-2009, 08:06 PM
Look at this thread to see what lifting heavy can accomplish! And scroll down to see them when they're just standing around and not actually lifting. They look so good!


01-19-2009, 08:39 PM
Here's Tony Gentilcore's blog response to women lifting 3-lb weights


01-19-2009, 09:14 PM
Haha that was a great response. He is absolutely right. If I were to lift only 3 lbs I wouldn't feel anything at all, I know that.

01-19-2009, 10:58 PM
When was this woman on Oprah? Seriously? 3 lbs. God forbid if we ever...uhh...pick up our kids? Bring a bag of groceries in? Get pregnant and ask our legs to haul around 20-35 (ok, lets be honest 40-60) lbs of extra weight. Sheesh.

01-20-2009, 09:16 AM
Pssst. Tracy. Here's a little tip about the real world. You know, the one in which most of us live:

1 gallon milk: 8 lbs
ultraportable laptop w/bag & power cord: 5 lbs
case of bottled water (12*20 oz): 16 lbs
woman's handbag: 5 lbs (average)
5-year old boy: 33 lbs
healthy cat: 9-11 lbs
watermelon: 13-20 lb

I could go on, but I need to go to the gym and crank out some bench presses. At body weight.

Be strong,

01-20-2009, 12:02 PM
Oooops sorry tracy my kids were being cranky so I had to carry them both up the stairs. At the same time. Crud I exceeded the 3 lb rule.

Should I lie down now or was it ok because my house wasnt heated to 80 degrees to make me sweat fat.

01-20-2009, 12:30 PM
Should I lie down now or was it ok because my house wasnt heated to 80 degrees to make me sweat fat.


I think I'll try the "3-lb rule" out on DH the next time it's my turn to clean out the cat box. (I've nursed, if you'll pardon the expression, the "pregnancy risk" excuse for avoiding Cat Box Duty for about as long as I can.) Surely the bag with the used litter weighs over 3 lbs.

It never ceases to amaze me what garbage is Out There about fitness. I know I'm preaching to the choir, here, but I'm convinced that 95% of what you need to know about nutrition boils down to 4 simple rules:

- calories in, calories out
- they're called "good fats" for a reason
- lean protein is your friend
- fail to plan, plan to fail

And, since I'm on a roll, 4 simple rules for exercise:

- when in doubt, choose compound exercises and free weights
- more is not better, better is better
- you cannot spot reduce. Or tone.
- 95% of the rules about training that you read on the internets are wrong. :) (This figure increases to 99% if you read women's mags.)

(No, I'm not taking myself seriously.:dizzy:)

Be strong,

01-20-2009, 12:56 PM
OK, so here it goes. I feel like everything I read contradicts everything else. I am debating on what rep range/wt level to train with. ON one hand I read and am told to go heavy for 6-10 reps and then I had a trainer who said that if i don't want "size" I need to focus on 15-20 reps (especially for the lower body bc I am pear shaped he said heavy lifting will make me bigger, fuller)

It is confusing because it depends upon how you lift. I believe strongly in "Time Under Tension" to promote size, so I would look at the overall number of sets and reps you are doing ("training volume") and the speed with which you perform each set. Doing lots of sets and reps with a slow cadence will tend to promote bigger muscles. Fewer faster reps tend to promote strength. Olympic lifters (women as well as men) get incredibly strong without gaining weight using low volume, explosive training.

But, as the other posters mentioned I wouldn't worry about getting "too big". Even if you somehow do get too big, losing muscle is much easier than losing fat, so it is easy to fix the problem.

01-20-2009, 07:01 PM
Thanks for all the replies! Now, I feel kinda silly for asking but the media messages can be so confusing and it is especially confusing when you have trainers that don't even agree or so called experts writing books like, "escape your shape", in which you aren't supposed to use any resistance (even with cardio, aka, no stairmill, eliptical, incline treadmill, spinning), if you don't want to "bulk".

So, did my first lifting session at the gym today and felt awesome. I really think it fires up the metabolism bc I was overheated all day.

I really can't tell you all enough what a help and relief all the responses have been.

You gals, and gents:) are awesome!


01-20-2009, 07:51 PM
Remarkable difference! I've drastically dropped inches and am achieving a very sleek sexy look despite working out like a beast and scaring the men in the weight room. :lol:

I want to scare the men in the weight room!! I did get to pick up a 20lb dumbell the other day after a guy set it down. He looked at me weird. It was fun. But most of the guys are usinglike 50- 90lbs in each hand..I can't do that yet! :dizzy:

About the 3lb weights. They were making fun of Gweneth Paltrow's website on Chelsea Lately, so of course I had to go check it out. She has a video of her training with this Tracy chick, Madonna's trainer. She mentions the 3lb thing and says that Tracy makes her do her right arm more reps because she holds her 30lb son in her left arm. Uh..so she can carry around her 30lb child but she can only workout with 3lbs? Okaaaayyy.

01-20-2009, 10:26 PM
Tell ya what....when a few of us start BFL on Sunday, we will be your testers. I regularly lift 30 lbs in each hand on a deadlift and 25 bench press in each hand and I'll do that and increase for 12 weeks and see if I look bulky at the end. If I do, it's because I didn't burn enough bodyfat off probably, but we'll see! I'm hoping following the HIIT will resolve that.

Lydia, thanks again for that explanation of the H2Glyco relationship. I knew our muscles sucked up water but had never seen the science behind it before. Thanks! :hug: Lots of good posts in this thread - I loved it.

DDC - I have to ask - you got arms like that with 8 lbs or less?! You have gorgeous arms. I'm either overtraining or you're doing alot of other stuff too. More proof that it's not muscle I'm lacking but that I need to shed the 2" of insulation lying over that muscle!

01-21-2009, 09:56 AM
Well thanks, sportmom.

I do isometrics, dynamic tension exercises, and usually only use my 2.5 lb dumbbells. I don't talk about it much because I usually get pooh-poohed, but you hold the lighter weight, but tense the muscle hard like you're lifting a much heavier weight. It's alot easier on the joints and tendons. It works for me. :)

Take care :)

01-21-2009, 11:09 AM
Why would you be pooh-poohed ddc? It's obviously working for you, your arms are beautiful. :)

I like lifting heavy only because I'm an extremist in regards to everything. It keeps me amused. It doesn't matter how we do it - rather that we're ACTUALLY doing it!

01-21-2009, 11:34 AM
DDC: I have to agree with Fran and she beat me to the question. "Your biceps look great flexed in the photo, what exactly do you do.' Thanks for answering this question for us.

So I can look up this technique to learn more and I will. However, would you say that most of your lifting using this technique is isolation type exercise in which you are only focusing upon one muscle group? Have you attempted to lifting this way using relatively lighter weights using compound exercises such as deadlifts?

I'm just wondering if this method could work for someone with joint issues who still wants to engage in compound exercises (using more than one muscle group at a time) for both the convenience of saving time and improved cross communication among the muscles. Which also then causes me to wonder about the benefit of even introducing the weights with someone who may have even more severe joint issues and just sticking with compound exercises that utilize bodyweight. Bodyweight training or using a lighter weight when combined with stability training (single leg) can be very challenging. I'm finding this out myself with the 1 leg dumbell row that convinces every one else I'm and idiot with a dumbbell that doesn't know how to perform even the most basic exercise. :lol:

Interesting. I'm going to try to fit this into my reading time today. Thanks for sharing what is working for you. It's good to know that there are other ways to work the body if we are feeling pain in the joints at some point in our lives. So much to think about today. :dizzy:

01-21-2009, 03:38 PM

I'm really not good at describing things, but I found this video on youtube that shows some snipets of the exercises that I do. They are dynamic tension exercises developed by the late martial arts master John McSweeney. I learned them from a video by Wendie Pett call Visibly Fit 7x11. You do one set of 7 different exercises, she suggests twice per day, but I only do them one per day (and sometimes not every day), and it take less than 20 minutes. To me that's the beauty of it. I don't have to leave the house (and they're easy on my wrists, elbows and shoulders). I would say my most dramatic results are in my shoulders. I am a classic pear, so I lean out quicker in my upper body. You can see in my photo though, the skin hanging down under my arm. The muscle under there is tight, but the skin still hangs :(

So here's a link to the youtube video.

There are more videos of Wendie there, just search for Wendie Pett. She has a website where you can order her video. I also have her book "Every Woman's Guide to Personal Power" which shows some isometric exercises and some calesthenics (pushups, pullups, squats) and "The Miracle 7" which showcases the seven basic moves.

To kind of give you an idea of the "feeling" in weight lifting terms: Pretend you're doing an overhead shoulder press-like your holding a 50 lb barbell (or heavier) -and press up, now when you get to the top, shift your focus to the lats, and pretend you're pulling down really hard on the lat pulldown machine. You're tensing the muscle as hard as you can and moving through a range of motion. That's why it's called dynamic tension.

Now for the isometrics. If you're sitting at a desk right now, put your hands under the desk, palms up, and push up underneath the desk. Tense your bicep, shoulder, lats, and hold for a count of 10-20 seconds. But don't forget to breathe!!
There are isometrics that you can do for all parts of the body. My favorite is the wall sit. Also a hamstring bridge. They have helped take the place of squats and lunges because lunges bother my knees (did i mention I have really weak joints-lol!!) John Peterson's book "Isometric Power Revolution" has all the isometric stuff in it, or this guy's website has some stuff for free:

About once or twice a week, I use my light dumbbells, sometimes the 2.5 lbs, and sometimes the 5 lbs, and just do through regular dumbbell exercises (bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, overhead press, chest press, bent over rows, and dead lifts) but I add more tension to the movement. The key is to tense the muscle and make the weight feel heavier than it is.

Is that as clear as mud?? I hope you can understand.

Have a great day :)

01-21-2009, 03:51 PM

You can see in my photo though, the skin hanging down under my arm. The muscle under there is tight, but the skin still hangs :(

Shhh! THat looks like a very healthy TRICEP to me! ;) Seriously.

01-21-2009, 06:31 PM
DDC: Thanks so much for the added info and links. Actually it is pretty clear, as you began to describe the isometrics I could relate it to some of the yoga moves I learned this summer. Similar concepts at work and I can honestly say that yep, I'm working when I'm tensing like that.

Sore joints are no fun. I have my share of that on occasion, especially with my left knee. After a little reading this afternoon I have also learned that isometric or static training does significantly improve muscular strength. It does appear that some of the strength gains appear to be limited to the specific joint angles in which they are performed. What this means is that it may not be as effective in improving or enhancing overall functional strength which is used for our everyday activities. However static or isometric training is really wonderful in rehabilitating through an injury or preventing muscle loss when a limb is in a cast.

Great stuff. And thanks for the opportunity to learn a little more.

Oh and don't worry about the underarm thing. I do the opposite of what you are doing, heavy dynamic lifting and yep, I've got that too. ;)