What Really Happens When Women Lift Weights

This spring, trainer Holly Perkins's book, Lift to Get Lean, came across my desk at The Stir. It's all about strength training -- for the ladies. I decided to give her 12-week program a try to see if it would really TRANSFORM!!! my body.


For most of my life I was a knock-kneed, unathletic wimp. Then I started doing yoga. And about three years ago I started doing cardio-type exercises. I had dabbled a bit with weights before, but never on a structured program on a regular basis. I knew it was time, though. With my body losing calcium and muscle mass every day ('cause I'm OLD) I needed to get serious about strength training. 

So here's what happens when you do a 12-week strength training program.

1. You will sleep like the dead. If you're working to your maximum level this will Wear. You. Out. Drop your cardio workout for the first week or two while you get used to it.

2. You will feel sore. Even if you stretch afterwards. But this soreness is mostly for the first few weeks and then it's not so bad. Stay with your program.

3. You will occasionally make embarrassing noises in the gym. If you're pushing yourself beyond your limits you may end up grunting a bit against your will. It's okay. At least you're not that guy in the corner exaggerating his grunts and dropping his weights like a freaking gorilla.

4. Your muscles will shake like they're made of rubber during your last few reps. This is called muscle failure, and it means you're doing it right! Keep going.

5. You may bloat like hell. Just for a little while! This can happen about halfway through your program for about a week and then it goes away. I felt like a walking water balloon and then I woke up one day and it was all gone. Weird.

Oh, but: You will not bulk up. You will not bulk up. You will not bulk up. (Actually, I think all those squats did make my thighs a tad thicker.) But seriously, you will not bulk up. 

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6. You will see things you've never seen before. Muscles! On MY body! What??? I saw muscle definition in my arms, shoulders, and back. I never thought I'd see that on my bod.

7. You will get weird compliments. For the first time ever in my entire life someone complimented me on my posture. I've always had terrible posture. Not even yoga and my mother's incessant nagging could cure it. But building up my chest, back, and core muscles, even though I didn't bulk up, made it so much easier to stand up straight.

8. You will change your thutt. Ever heard of a thutt? It's when your butt is so flat it just segues seamlessly into your upper thigh. I used to have one. But now? LO AND BEHOLD! I'm no Nicki Minaj, but I'm finally seeing some honk in my badondadonk.

9. You will fall in love with body parts you never noticed before. I am now obsessed with my shoulders. I never gave them much thought before, but now? They are one of my favorite body parts. And I made them that way through my hard work!

10. You may get a little vain. Okay, now I understand why people are constantly posting narcissistic gym photos on Instagram. To be clear, I DO NOT DO THAT. Because I am not gross. But I understand the impulse now. People are proud of their hard-won results. It's kind of like 'gramming that blueberry pie you just baked.

11. Your yoga practice will change. I can hold poses more easily now. I'm not saying this is necessarily good or bad since yoga is about breathing and effort and practice, but that's kind of cool.

12. You will feel more comfortable with your body. When you work out like this you get to know your body better. You're using it, and exploring it, and through that process you begin to bridge that mind-body gap. You and your body become friends because you're working together.

13. You will become more resilient. I've been waking up at 5:30 a.m. to work out in the morning. And when I'm done I know the hardest part of my day is over. I still get mad and frustrated and stressed out, but I feel more capable of handling the challenges of life. I roll with it because I'm used to doing things that feel hard.

14. You will have a strong sense of accomplishment. I stuck with a workout routine for 12 weeks -- three strength-training workouts a week for three months. I didn't know I could do that!

15. You will feel stronger on all levels. Pushing yourself past your limits is an incredible confidence booster. Forget what it does for your physique, you'll be a stronger person inside and out. For that reason alone it's worth doing.

One thing strength training may not do: Make you skinny. I didn't need to lose any weight to begin with, so that was not my goal. After 12 weeks my waist and hips measure exactly the same as they did in the beginning. Haha! But I'm more toned and I'm thoroughly addicted to strength training, so I'm going to keep doing it anyway.


Image via Ollyy/shutterstock 


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