Workout Routines For Women: Why Your Weight Training Workouts Suck

Hello ladies… we need to have a very serious talk.

And guys, you should definitely read this too, because there is a good chance you’ll need to have this same talk with your girlfriend, wife, mom, sister, etc. at some point in the future.

What about, you ask? About workout routines for women, and how they are complete and utter crap.

Now wait, hang on ladies. Don’t get mad or insulted just yet. I’m going to explain exactly what I mean here, and by the end you’ll (hopefully) be in full agreement with that statement.

Now, in order to do this, I’m first going to have to bring a very simple weight training fact to your attention that may shock and scare you. But don’t be afraid, because right after that, I’m going to completely eliminate that fear.

Are you with me? Awesome. Now… brace yourself for what I’m about to say:

Women Should Work Out EXACTLY Like Men

Nope, I’m not joking or exaggerating. Men and women benefit equally from the same exact types of workout routines. Really, it’s true.

People often ask what the differences are between designing workouts for a woman and designing workouts for a man. The honest truth is that there are no real differences. They should be exactly the same.

Despite all of the garbage you’ve heard or read, there legitimately is no such thing as a workout that’s specifically made for a man or a woman in the first place. That’s just marketing crap. There are no significant differences in what works best based on gender or what needs to be done to get positive results from weight training.

Any workout routine that works great for a man will work equally great for a woman. There are absolutely no significant differences in how we should work out. There are no changes that need to be made based on what body part you do or do not have in your pants.

Pretty Crazy, Right?

After all, you ladies have been brainwashed into thinking that guys are the only ones who need to do “guy workouts” with heavy weights and lower reps and big compound exercises and that sort of thing. Instead, you girls supposedly only need to do “toning exercises” and “sculpting workouts” and other similar pointless nonsense.

As I’ve already covered in detail, everything you’ve been programmed into believing about “tone” is bullshit. Muscle tone happens as a result of actually building some muscle (which “toning workouts” never do) and then losing enough fat so that muscle becomes more visible (which “toning workouts” also never do).

That’s how you get “toned.”

High reps, light weights, machines and the rest of the typical weight training methods that are a major part of every female-specific “toning” workout do nothing but waste your time and effort.

More about that here: How To Get Toned

And here: The Toning Workout Routine For Women

Will light weights make me toned?

And as I’ve also covered before, the idea that workout routines for men build “bulky” muscle while workout routines for women only build “lean” or “toned” muscle is also pure bullshit. Muscle is muscle. There are no different types.

There’s just workouts that build it, and workouts that don’t. As it turns out, the ones designed for men usually do build muscle. But the ones designed for women? Ha, they never do. (More about that here: Lean vs Bulky vs Toned)

My Fear-Inducing Point

So, the point I’m getting at here is this. Everything that is synonymous with workout routines for women is crap that does nothing. It doesn’t tone, or sculpt, or firm or whatever other girly adjectives the creators of these workouts use to appeal to you and the myths you’ve been brainwashed into believing.

And they sure as shit don’t build muscle. Which is pretty funny, because building some muscle is what you need to do to actually get that toned/sculpted/firm/sexy body you’re trying to get.

Which brings us to the big important question. How should you women build muscle?

The answer, while scary, is quite simple: by doing all of the things that us guys do to build muscle. The same workout routines, the same proven principles, the same methods… the same everything.

The problem is, if there is one thing I know about women (and there honestly might only be one thing), it’s that you are already beginning to ignore every word I’m saying. Yup, it’s true. The second I said you should work out like a man… you started to tune me out.

It’s okay, I knew you would. I broke the holy code that 99% of the female population adheres to when it comes to working out. And that is: Thou shalt not train like a man or use a man’s workout.

Why? Because of the fear that is ingrained in the mind of every woman who has ever even thought of stepping into a gym or lifting a weight…

I’m Afraid Of Getting Too Big, Bulky And Muscular Like A Guy

There it is. The one single fear that every workout routine aimed at females is built upon.

The problem with this fear is that it single handedly:

  • Prevents the majority of the female population from getting anything close to positive results from weight training.
  • Has most women wasting their time every single workout doing nothing productive in any way, shape or form.
  • Prevents most women from lifting anything heavier than a 3 pound pink dumbbell.
  • Keeps most women away from free weights and compound exercises.
  • Forces most women to do endless sets of higher reps over and over again.
  • Ensures most women will never create progressive overload.

I can go on and on and on here.

That’s because it’s this fear that most of you women have about getting too big, bulky, muscular and manly looking that is literally stopping you from actually getting the body you truly want. And honestly ladies… this fear couldn’t possibly be more idiotic.

Let me explain…


You’ve heard of testosterone, right? It’s typically known as the “male hormone” even though both men and women produce it. Men just happen to produce so much more of it than women that we just decided to refer to it as the male hormone.

Well, did you know that testosterone plays the largest role in predicting how much muscle a person can build and how quickly they can build it? It’s true. And this of course brings us right to the big secret.

Why Women WON’T & CAN’T Get “Big” And “Bulky”

How shall I put this? Hmmm. Alright, I got it…

Women do not have physiological makeup to EVER get anywhere near as big and bulky as they are so scared of getting anywhere near as quickly as they are so scared of it happening.

Seriously. If I could scream that directly into the face of every girl reading this, I would.

Because no matter how hard a woman purposely tries to get that big, bulky, overly muscular and manly looking body that most women are scared to death of getting… they never EVER will.

Even if they made it their one goal in life and did nothing but work to make it happen. It would still never happen anywhere close to the degree that women are so scared it might.

Well… unless of course they use steroids.

How Some Women DO Get “Big” And “Bulky”

You know the women who actually are big, bulky and overly muscular? The female bodybuilders, certain female wrestlers/athletes, or just plain old female freaks? You know, the ones that every one of you ladies are so afraid to look like and who are probably most responsible for putting this fear into your head in the first place?

Well, they all used steroids and various other drugs that screw with their hormone levels and allow them to get bigger, bulkier and manlier than any normal female WILL EVER COME CLOSE TO GETTING NATURALLY.

Hell, steroids allow them to get bigger and bulkier than the majority of men can ever get. And this brings me to another important point.

Most Men Can’t Get As Big/Bulky As Women Are Afraid Of Getting

I kid you not. Most of the men in the world have a billion times more testosterone than most women (exaggerated for effect), and that means we can build MUCH more muscle than you ever will MUCH faster than you ever will. And, even we can’t get as big and muscular as most women are afraid of getting.

There are guys in gyms all around the world doing everything they can possibly do to get as big as they can as fast as they can, and not one of them is doing it anywhere near the degree that most women hilariously think they will do it at.

Seriously. Building muscle is a painfully slow, extremely gradual process for men. And you women will never even come close to reaching these amazing “painfully slow” levels that us guys can.

Yet, women insanely think they will not only reach those levels, but greatly exceed them. It’s just a super idiotic/hilarious thought. Which brings up yet another important point.

The Rate Of Muscle Gain For Men And Women

I’ve already written about this subject in detail (How Much Muscle Can You Gain?), but it needs to briefly be mentioned now to prove just how insane some of you ladies are.

Let’s pretend that we live in some magical fantasy world where women are actually capable of getting the type of muscular manly body they are afraid of getting. It will never happen, but let’s just pretend that it can.

Most women think it will happen overnight. Like one day you’ll lift something heavier than a 3 pound dumbbell or do less than 15 reps per set and the next day you will have gained 50lbs of muscle.

Here’s the thing about that. Even with steroids, it’s not possible.

For the average natural male doing everything right under the best possible circumstances, the average rate of muscle gain will be between 0.25-0.5lb of muscle per week.

And for females? Half that.

Read that again, ladies. I just told you that AT BEST, a MAN whose genetics are significantly better than yours for gaining muscle can only gain half of a pound of muscle per week at most. And most men won’t even be able to reach that amount, and definitely not every week for a significant period of time.

Hell, most men past the beginners stage should be happy with 10-15lbs of muscle gained PER YEAR!

And like I said, for women… it’s half that. That means, AT BEST, the average woman purposely trying to get big and bulky and huge will only be able to gain 1 pound of muscle PER MONTH! And that’s assuming you’re doing everything as perfectly as possible (workout routine, diet, etc.) and trying to build muscle as quickly as you can.

For the love of God, go back and read that part again too.

Have I done enough to eliminate this fear from your mind now? I sure hope so because…

You Are Preventing The Results You Want

Here’s a question. What type of body do you want?

Go ahead ladies, think about it.

Got it? Ok, now let me guess.

You want to look toned and defined. You want to be fit and tight and firm and lean and athletic looking, while at the same time always appearing completely feminine and hot/sexy/awesome in general.

Well, guess what? To get that body, you are going to need to build some muscle.

And guess what else? You know all of those things you are avoiding because you think they will make you big and bulky and manly?

Well, it’s those very things that are required in order for any amount of muscle to be built.

You see, we all build muscle the same way. We all require the same muscle building fundamentals to be in place in order for muscle growth to occur. We all need and benefit from similar amounts of weight training volume, frequency and intensity. We all need to force progressive overload to happen and lift heavy weights that are truly challenging for us. We all need to ensure certain dietary requirements are in place.

Whether you are male or female, young or old, looking to build 5lbs of muscle of 50lbs of muscle. It doesn’t matter. The things that need to be done for ANY amount of muscle to be built will always need to be done.

However, since most women use workout routines comprised of little “girly” weights and super high reps, and are only interested in workouts that avoid big compound exercises, using lower reps, using free weights, and absolutely never attempt to make progressive overload happen or lift anything heavier today than they lifted 100 workouts ago… most women will never build any muscle.

Do you know what this all means? It means you are preventing yourself from getting the type of body you want because of a fear of getting a body that you can’t actually get.

How’s that for irony?

Your fear of getting “big and bulky” is what’s stopping you from getting toned and fit and lean and firm and athletic and sexy and blah blah blah.

The Solution

So ladies, please… stop worrying about getting too big and too muscular, and start doing the things that need to be done in order to build some muscle and get the body you want.

You don’t have to lift hundreds of pounds on every exercise like a guy might, but you do have to lift weights that are equally challenging for YOU and continue to push yourself to progress and gradually lift heavier and heavier weights over time. This is progressive overload, and it’s a requirement for any amount of muscle to be built or any amount of progress to be made.

You will likely also have to use free weights and compound exercises and lower reps and many of the other things most women typically avoid doing in favor of workouts filled with a bunch of pointless nonsense.

Like I said, these are the fundamental factors that need to be in place in order for muscle to be built. You either do them and build muscle, or you don’t. Simple as that.

And sure, some of us may only want to build 5lbs of muscle and some of us may want to build 50lbs.

But, there is still no difference whatsoever in terms of the approach. The same things still have to be done. The only difference is, when someone only looking to build a smaller amount of muscle reaches that goal, they stop right there and just maintain from that point on. The person looking to get “bigger and bulkier” would just keep on going.

So ladies, I beg of you… throw away the 3lb pink dumbbells and start challenging yourself and doing all of the things that I just explained need to be done for muscle to be built.

Use The Muscle Building Workout Routine or The Beginner Workout Routine or any of the fully designed and HIGHLY effective programs that I’ve included in my brand new premium guide, Superior Muscle Growth.

You won’t get huge and manly. You won’t get big and bulky. And the muscle you do gain sure as hell won’t be gained quickly or suddenly to the point where you wake up one day and all of a sudden appear to be any bigger/bulkier than you wanted to be.

Women are just not built for it genetically. Hell, that kind of thing couldn’t even happen to men using steroids (let alone women who aren’t).

Instead ladies, all that will happen is that your body will slowly begin to look more toned and fit and lean and tight and firm and sculpted and all around hot. You know… just like you’ve always wanted it to look.

I guarantee it.

Additional details here: How To Build Muscle: 15 Steps For Men and Women

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

139 thoughts on “Workout Routines For Women: Why Your Weight Training Workouts Suck”


  1. Great article. I was about to contact you about this very topic, I’d been suggesting to my other half that she read your workout advice but she had a quick look and said it looked like it was geared towards men only. I’ll send her the link to this article right now.

    Keep up the good work, this site has really inspired me to make some positive changes to my health and fitness habits.

    • I hear ya. I think most women assume anything written by a guy is always only for a guy. But with weight training and nutrition, there’s mostly just what works and what doesn’t. As long as you’re human and like doing stuff that actually works, it all applies just the same. Hopefully this post helps get that point across.

      And definitely glad to hear both sites have been helped you make some positive improvements.

  2. Yay!
    I am a heavy lifter and happy to slooooooooowly and progressively feel muscle getting stronger and leaner (of course, that could happen a little faster if I respected a perfect diet, but still learning to keep balance)

    Thanks for the useful post!

  3. You’re awesome. Came across this post and it got rid of a LOT of fears travelling around in my head. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking before I read this. All your other articles and stuff are really helpful too. :3 Thanks a bunch!

  4. Great notes! However, since people reading this might be forwarding to their girlfriend, wives, fiancees, etc, you might want to include a small section that identifies what 1 pound of muscle means. It would be a guess but most women reading this will go, “What is 10 lbs of muscle? I don’t want that!” It might say how many pounds of muscle she might need to look “toned.”

    Other than that, I forwarded to my fiancee. 🙂

  5. This is great stuff, something that i’ve been trying to convince my trainer about for weeks now! She gives me ridiculous exercises that feel pointless and every time i ask her to increase the difficulty level she increases the reps!

    So for the last fortnight or so i’ve begun doing my own thing and lifting heavier weights and focussing on compound exercises. And i feel good! 🙂

  6. Ok, so all fears gone! I will give it a try, and the cool part is that since my husband and I are trying to do something together, without kids, and look better, we could do this! But I am confused as to the ‘losing fat’ and ‘building muscle’ separate dietary reqs. I want both?! And how long to do the beginners workout before moving onto intermediate… Other than that, I’m very excited to start! I’m going to do before and after pics, and document progress. Awesome!

    • Awesome to hear it… definitely keep me updated on your progress! As for your questions…

      The main dietary difference between losing fat and building muscle is calorie intake. Fat loss needs a deficit and muscle growth needs a surplus. This one covers the specifics.

      As for how to go about setting up your diet/training when you want to reach BOTH goals at the SAME time, that’s a complicated topic that would honestly take a full article or two to cover properly. But I’ll definitely be getting to it in the future, so stay tuned.

      And regarding when to switch from the beginner routine to the intermediate routine, the short answer is simply whenever the beginner routine stops working. Whether that’s after 4 months or a year… just ride it out for as long you’re progressing. I’ll actually be a writing a post in the next few weeks that will answer this question in more detail. Keep an eye out for it as well.

  7. Hi Jay.Your site is a breath of fresh air.I’m 67 and have loved working out with weights for years.Started with library physique books as they were called when I was a boy.Common sense books that taught progressive weight training.Thank you for bringing back that common sense for today’s people.I will send this information about training to my daughter. She will appreciate your advice. Best regards

  8. Really enjoyed the article. I’m going to try out the beginnners routine. Could you just clarify what cardio i should include as well? I am about to join a gym and want to make the most of my workouts.

    • Honestly… it depends. Cardio isn’t as simple as “do this form of it for this long this many times per week.”

      The exact duration, frequency and intensity depends on each person’s individual needs and preferences. And even more importantly, their goals. Someone interested only in muscle growth has no true need for cardio and may not do any. Someone looking to lose fat on the other hand may need cardio to create their deficit. Then again, that same person could have created their deficit through diet alone and therefore no longer needs cardio.

      And then you have to take into account other goals (health? endurance? etc.) and the fact that some people just want to do cardio whether their is a legit need or not.

      So… it really depends on each person’s situation.

      • This entire site is awesome. I have very little fat on my body besides my boobs and butt, and I’ve been wondering whether I “need” cardio or not to help build muscle/tone since losing weight is not something I need or am interested in. It sounds like I do NOT, which is what I wanted to hear. I’m down with dancing around and walking around the block and doing cardio “naturally”, but treadmills and other machines bore me to death and always made me feel like a quitter. I’m so glad to know I can basically skip that crap and just focus on weight training. I’m going to send this article to every chick I know.

        • Awesome to hear it Niki! And I’m with you 100% on cardio. Completely optional and highly overrated. And boring as hell.

          Intelligent weight training + intelligent diet = all most girls need to get the body they are trying (and often failing) to get.

  9. Hi !

    I’m a woman and I totally agree with what you’ve said. Guys at my gym look at me as an outsider, giving me what-the-hell-are-u-doing-in-the-mens-territory looks. I never leave the gym unless my shirt is SOAKED in sweat. I lost so far around 50 lbs (I weight around 170 lbs now). I do challenge myself.. A LOT and I AM noticing changes. The problem is, I feel like my trapezious muscles (is that what they’re called?) are getting bigger and I hate that. I do shoulder press and that seems to bulk up my trapezious muscles. I don’t know what I should do. Maybe women can only bulk up in that area? I’m thinking maybe I should stop the shoulder press workout? But I do want my arms to be toned and my deltoids to show.

    About the machines. THEY DO NOT WORK. I agree. I wasted a whole month on those. The only machine that actually works and is toning my quads is the leg extension. Otherwise forget it.

    • Congrats on the 50lb weight loss!

      As for your traps, are you talking about the muscles between your shoulders and your neck when you’re looking at yourself from the front? If so, those are your upper traps, and they are honestly not very involved at all in shoulder pressing, certainly not to the degree that would cause what you’re describing.

      • This comment made me think about my husband pointing out to me that my upper traps are getting too big. He doesn’t like it. In fact, he doesn’t like me building muscle at all, and insists I need to be doing low weights and high reps to only “tone”. “You don’t need to be struggling on those heavy lists, you get more range of motion on the low weight, high reps”. “That’s all you need” he says. I feel so discouraged by not having the support, but I won’t stop my lifting (and heavy at that). I love lifting weights, and I love challenging myself with the heavier lifts.

        I think some of these articles miss the point that some men (well, a lot it seems to me) don’t want their women lifting at all, and that’s why women lift girly pink weights, to please their men. I think women’s fears are built through their men.

        My muscles aren’t huge, and I have a lot of fat to lose to reveal my beautiful muscles (I started bulking in December 2014). I weigh 182 and am 5″2, size 10, 40 years old. I’ve been lifting for years, but just purchased your SMG in January and have now started intelligently training (I should have done fat loss first, before bulking). I’m seeing results already using the Fat Loss plan.

        I see my husband looking at me every day and judging me, not liking what he is seeing. He told me he doesn’t want me to lose too much fat, and insinuates (he won’t come out and say it) to not gain too much muscle. How backwards is that?? It’s frustrating as hell.

        My body is tight and firm, looking better and better as I start to drop the fat. So this long post was to rant and say that not only do women have to fight our own fears with gaining muscle, but fight our significant other who doesn’t feel women should have muscles at all. But it’s my body, my life. Suck it, men.

  10. Awesome website!Subscribed 😀

    I’m a female and i want to ask a simple question,If i gain muscles,will i lose weight/fat?

  11. This is the best article I have read in YEARS!!!! I have wanted more muscle for 25 years & the stupid trainers give me these dumb “woman’s training programs” to do, which from a woman’s point of view have NO EFFECT at all – I just got skinny and floppy – YUK YUK YUK so I stated doing the “manly stuff” a while ago & have been looking for a way to do a whole body workout over 2 separate days – I have found them!! Thank you for a “no pink pom-pom” option – I’m off to the gym!!

    • Awesome! You have no idea how much I like to see a woman publicly agree with this article. Deep down I know some women will read it and think “yeah, but you’re a guy… what do you know?” But when other women come out and confirm it… it helps quite a bit.

      Take note, ladies.

  12. What a fantastic and funny read! So many people (so called fitness experts some of them!) tell me I need high reps and low weights which I just thought was boring and wasn’t doing anything.

    Thanks for putting a smile on my face! I’m going to change my workouts to include higher weights and lower reps.


  13. Wow I stumbled upon this site YEsterday and have come back home from work today to read more. I train the wife 4 times per week to loose fat and the training I MAKE her do I always get the “but I don’t want to build muscle” and as many times I tell her you won’t she moans so I then try my hardest to punish her with clean and presses, she hates me for this but I am really glad I found this site so much good reading.
    Thank you
    P.S I am signing up

  14. Once again, I find your writing in depth and terrific! I’ve not started any weight training yet, don’t even belong to a gym, but intend to implement what I learn when I do get things worked out to where I can.

  15. Thank you so much for this article, what a breathe of fresh air!!! I have been an athlete all of my life and have done very intense training with weights and have never looked like a man! When I was training my hardest back in the old high school days, I could lift 400 pounds on the leg press machine and never had man legs. I would bench press 80 or so pounds and didn’t have a man’s upper body. As a matter of fact, with a mix of heavy lifting days, with lighter lifting days (high intensity super sets, keeping the heart rate up, essentially cardio/strengthening rolled into one) I dropped my body fat percentage from 25% to 21% looked super lean yet with lots of muscle. I was 5’4 and 121 pounds. I was lifting as much as I could at the time, and I looked perfectly feminine. I was a sporty, fit, lean & ripped girl. I just cannot believe how pervasive this myth is among women. I have had to to tell women exactly what you are saying in this article, because they are so afraid that one single day of heavy weight lifting in the gym will cause them to balloon into Arnold Schwarzenegger over night! I want to see more attractive sporty and muscular women on magazines instead of these waifs who are unhealthy and provide the wrong image for women to strive for. They are only endorsing the best way to suffer from osteoporosis and getting blown away by a strong gust of wind. Keep up the good work on all of your articles that shatter the most prevalent training myths and give people the real info straight up.

  16. Thank you for this article, it was great to read one that explained so well the myths surrounding women lifting like men. I’ve been lifting heavy for a few years now and the only time I felt that I was bigger than I would’ve liked was when I had a layer of fat covering my muscle! (often women seem to mistake this for lots of muscle bulk) Once that was lost though, with a small deficit and while continuing to lift, I loved the results! Muscle tone, looking strong, looking healthy. I wish more women would realise the benefits – next time I have a female friend complain about how they’re not getting “toned”, I’ll be sending them a link to this! 😀

  17. I guarantee that even after reading this extremely comprehensive, convincing and proven by FACTS article, the majority of females will still be afraid to lift weights because they don’t want to get freakish. Sad fact.

    • Probably right, which is why that minority of women who will read this and train correctly can feel extra good knowing they’re going to look/feel/be better than the average woman.

  18. I kind of understood the testosterone thing – or lack thereof – intuitively, and as soon as I hit an “OK” number of dead hang chin-ups (7), which is already ambitious for a woman in my close friends’ opinion, I started to weigh them.

    But frankly I don’t dare to do them in the gym, I get weird looks and/or regular comments on how manly I will be soon, likee you said, overnight. 🙂 So I do them on my doorway pull-up bar. Short-term goal is chins for reps with a 20kg kettlebell… long term goal is the same with an overhand grip. And no, I’m not huge/bulky/manly. 🙂 Maybe by tomorrow morning! :))

    • HA! Congrats on those pull-ups! There is a very small handful of women in my current gym who I’ve seen do them (one actually throws some weight on a pull-up belt), and it’s always impressive as hell to watch.

      I highly recommend doing them in your gym though. Yeah, you’ll scare/freak out every woman in the joint, but you’ll also impress (and embarrass) every guy. Well worth it. 😉

  19. Thanks for this. But just a simple question, will running lead to big thighs or larger legs? Besides, will running cause injuries and not good for our legs?

    • If the running burns enough calories to put you into a deficit and cause fat loss, your legs will likely get smaller as a result of losing some of the fat that is on them. It’s also possible for some forms of intense running to build some lower body muscle. Then again, look at a bunch of marathon runners and you probably won’t see a muscular leg among them.

      As for injuries… literally every form of activity can potentially cause an injury.

  20. I use your routines and TODAY my wife is finally starting weight training, guess whose advise I am using to initiate her?? YOURS.

  21. First of all, I like to comment about how informative your website is. I have been lifting for about two and a half years now, proper weights, not the tiny pink dumbells. I want to gain more muscle, especially on my legs but its painfully slow. At the gym I go to I am the only woman in the weights room, I never had any problems from the men, though, they stare at me when I do unassisted parallel dips. I see a lot of women who only use cardio equipments and their bodies are typically skinny fat/flabby. Women tend to avoid the very thing that would benefit them the most!

  22. I just encountered this article while looking for references to support my argument with someone on a website that their fears of becoming huge were unfounded. She is one of those women who does tend to put on a little more muscle than many of us, and she linked to a page loaded with images of steroid-chunked women as a an example of what she was afraid of.

    You can even see the ones with the gross uberveins.


    I’m a weight lifter, and I’m not afraid of the freeweights, nor the heavy ones. I went to a gym test session at a “girly” gym, and was so annoyed at the girl’s surprise that I was capable of tripling most of her clients’ weight limits. And I haven’t regularly lifted in months. So even now, seriously out of condition, I’m capable of lifting more than most.

    Do you have any thoughts for the young lady’s concerns I just mentioned? She said she’s getting more definition than she wants… I suggested more body fat and less strength training, but she’s wanting to go high reps with moderate weight instead of the heavy weights she’s lifting. How can she fight genetics?

    • Well, if she has more “definition” than she wants, the primary solution would be to simply put on some fat and until she becomes as less lean and defined as she’s trying to be.

      As for muscle growth, there are certainly women who are genetically better at building muscle than other women… just like some men have better genetics for it than other men. But even then, the worst case scenario is that she builds whatever amount of muscle she’d like to build faster than the average woman can (which, by the way, is still fairly slow) and then just stops trying to build additional muscle beyond that point by simply training to maintain rather than progress.

  23. Great article. I’ve been in the weight room now for almost two months and I love it. Im 5’8 130 and I’m already seeing results. I have biceps! I went from the tiny weights to 35 lbs bicep concentration curls. My husband is my acting trainer. It was very intimidating at first but I actually get the head nods from the guys at the gym so I feel accepted. I think they are just trying to see if I keep coming back. I cant wait to see how far I can go.

  24. Thank you for this article – it confirms what I’ve read a few times, though sadly not often enough. I had this discussion with my sister that was at an all-girls gym – they ONLY have crappo machines, and you’re only allowed to use the free-weights if you’re working with a PT!! I shit you not… ANYWAY, I digress. I did have a question to ask – with regards to progression training, at what point do you decide to maintain, rather than constantly upping the intensity, or is that a really noob-y question??? =)

    I really want to start at the gym, but am trying to build up my courage. It is very much a boys sport here! I did try doing workouts at home, however I got ‘stuck’ after doing squats because the weight that was suitable for my legs was too heavy to lift off my back and i didn’t’ have a spotter. Not fun.

    • You’d maintain when you reach the point where you’re happy with the amount of muscle you have on your body, and you’re happy with your level of strength. Basically, when you reach your specific goal and have no additional improvements you’d like to make in terms of muscle and strength, you’d switch from progressing to maintaining.

  25. The other part of the “freaky look” is the extremely low % of body fat. Women will naturally have higher than men so it will be very hard for them to get down to the point where you can see every striation.

  26. Ahaha? Seriously? Women can’t get big because it’s psychological? Please learn your stuff before posting for thousands of people read it and believe it.

    Women can’t generally get big because they lack TESTOSTERONE. Please don’t teach such hog-wash to people who are begging to learn!

    • Tyronne, you just rushed through the article without actually reading it. The word was PHYSIO-logical and not PSYCHO-logical. Please do some more 1st grade spelling bee to learn your stuff too before posting. And the article said women also produce testosterone, just not as much as men do, that’s why it is called the “male” hormone.
      And yes, women can’t generally get big because of its deficit. The article said just that. You understood the opposite.

  27. I’m not going to lie, I was wondering what my body’s limits would be in terms of muscle gain but this has totally put my mind at ease and I’m glad someone finally said that women and men can and should work out the same

  28. Great article! I just joined a gym again (haven’t been to one in a while). I have always known the truth of this, and it is difficult to get other women to understand 🙂 I will definitely be visiting your site again for more info as I try to perfect my routine. My main concern is building strength and endurance for roller derby 🙂

  29. Hi Jay

    I wish I’d found this 15 or so years ago when I was a dance student! Back then I had a “dancer’s physique” because I spent 3-4 hours in the studio daily either in dance technqique classes, barre/floor barre exercises or Pilates based body conditioning classes and I ate a vegan diet. However, I was also tired from over-training and plagued with repetitive strain injuries (not helped by my low protein, low fat diet).

    Fast forward to myself as a 30 something “skinnyfat” office worker/couch potato, I got into beginner level workouts with weights (body pump classes and kettlebell workouts). I worked out 3 times a week for 30 minutes, barely even that, did NO cardio and didn’t really diet (just upped my protein a bit and watched the carbs). The result after 7 weeks – the best body I ever had in my life, exactly the kind of dancer’s physique “girly workouts” claim to create. Better than on my dancer’s regimen.

    That said, I do still do Pilates, ballet/barre, yoga etc. occasionally, for flexibility, range of motion and just an all over feeling of niceness/tension release. I think they help reduce muscle soreness and improve mobility, coordination and proprioception.

    Question for you: do you do/recommend flexibility work such as Pilates? I think many men could benefit from including it.

    • If you enjoy Pilates and feel you’re getting some sort of benefit from it, then by all means keep on doing it.

      I don’t personally do it, though I do work on flexibility and mobility in other ways.

  30. Absolutely amazing article! I’m a physiologist by training (not exercise specific but undergrad took care of that) and I am very glad to see this article! Thank you for making weight training for all levels seem do-able, achievable and perfectly adaptable to the individuals’ needs.

    One criticism: in most post the “correct form” is spoken about. I have never done weight training, let alone stepped in to the weight room at gym. Could you perhaps include an introductory post about the items one may find in the weights room and which ones are commonly used and how to use them (how do you know how to grip a dumbell? How do you grip a bar? Where? Why? When should you use gloves/chalk?) If possible, I would suggest a post about what “good form” is – when lifting where should you look, how far down should you bend, if lifting a dumbell am I allowed to swing, and for the excercises which muscles should you feel working?) I know this is a lot, but I suspect it will help clear up uncertainties about working out in the gym and at home. Plus it will be helpful to me to know which end of the bar/dumbell/thing to use! 😛

    Keep up the great posts!

  31. I started training when I was about 17 years old.I’ve always loved weight training! And despite all the warnings my friends, family and “MOM” gave me about bulking up & looking like a man, I never listened to them – not because I knew all the amazing effects of progressive overload back then. But lifting weights (and increasing them over a period of time) gave me a sense of euphoria. The 5 lb dumbbell that was so hard to lift in the beginning seemed like cotton – 2 months into it! I guess I’m trying to say is – I’m so glad I did not be “girly” and lift pink dumbbells! 🙂
    Great stuff!! Thanks for such a useful post!

  32. Altho i think u picked on us a lil too much, i did really enjoy this article. I personally do not have “the girly pink 3lb dumbells” but im guessing you meant workouts like walking or whatever else they use them for. I love using my arms! Its my mid-section down thats the problem :/
    But anyways, since i love using weights, i have 10lb dumbells (which my hubby says are good for me right now but aren’t “real” weights. Whatever. My arms are doing the lifting here, my arms are feeling the burn! My heart is doin the pumpin! I love lifting weights 🙂 i love having strong arms 🙂

    And i did enjoy your article cuz i had the same fear. But i also honestly forgot abt the steriods too :p
    You made some good educational points, thank you very much!

  33. I like this article; it’s great to see someone talking about how women should work out the same way men do, and I love all your BS calling. Please, please know, though, that there are lots of women who WANT to get big. We don’t all want to be skinny and little. I want big f**king muscles. I know I won’t bulk up like most men will. But we’ve all got different goals, and the “3lb pink dumbbells” comes off as condescending.

    That said, I love everything else about your site, seriously. Thanks for all the great advice.

    • I definitely understand that, and I know women like you don’t need an article like this in the first place… which is why I wrote it strictly for the women who do (which of course is the vast majority of women).

      So the ‘3lb pink dumbbells’ comment might annoy you, but to most women that’s me literally calling out the exact thing they’re doing/using.

      • hey, just wondering, what if you want leaner thighs not more muscular ones? Like I see many women have dancer-like legs from doing pilates or dancing and such. Yes, they have some muscle but their thighs are smaller, not bigger.

  34. Really enjoyed reading this article and just have a quick question. My boyfriend usually does around 5-8 reps for building muscle, would that be a good rep range for me and other girls to use for most exercises? (e.g. bicep curls, chest press, etc.)

  35. Hi, glad I found your site, started weight training with the husband to give it a try since last week and was also scared of “bulking up”. Must admit my muscles are aching – in a good way, and now super stoked to continue after reading your article!
    One thing men focus on mostly are their arms and chest – and in this past week it was also most (3 out of 5 days) of our routine. I personally want to add additional legs exercises as I feel only one leg day is not enough to sculpt the booty en thighs – which is most women’s problem areas?

    Any suggestions, meaning does the other exercises help burn those areas’s fat or do you have to do specific muscle training?

    Thanks and have a good one!

  36. Very useful information. I was about to start doing squats regularly (with break days) some time ago for the back of my thighs and butt but I already have quads that are already a bit too big for my taste, so I threw the plan out the window.

    Are there any better exercises for the butt and back of the thigh I could do without going to the gym or would squats not affect my quads much? I also read that the different angle you bent your knees in means different muscles work more. Any advice?


  37. I’m so tired of watching friends do endless cardio and Zumba classes holding one-pound weighted sticks to ‘tone’ their arms. I’m also tired of hearing “aren’t you scared of getting bulky?” when I tell them about how I love squats and deadlifts and bench presses. I’ve been lifting heavy for about 8 months and my body hasn’t looked this good in years. Thanks for writing this article.

  38. Yes! This!

    I have always loved lifting, but I only started doing it regularly about 9 months ago. I needed to lose a bit of weight (fat), and I had no desire to sacrifice essential body parts to do so. After talking with some guy friends, I decided that lifting might be the answer. It was. I have lost two sizes, and 28 inches over all. I haven’t lost tons of weight, but I look like I have, and I did it without going on an excruciating and unsustainable diet.

    Some of my acquaintances at the gym were actually startled when I abandoned the cardio equipment in favor of the ugly dumbbells and weight plates. I have been asked the “aren’t you afraid of bulk” question more times than I care to think about. When I am standing right there, clearly not bulky, this question seems a bit disingenuous. I haven’t really figured out why people keep asking. Having to explain how it is physically impossible for me to ever build enough muscle to be bulky has gotten a bit old. I think from now on I will simply refer them to your article.

    A couple of things I really enjoyed in the article . . . first, the barbie weight comment made me giggle. I regularly watch women doing rows, SLDL, and tricep work with the little pink weights, dozens of reps at a time, week after week, accomplishing nothing so far as I can tell.

    Second . . . the amount of time and effort that is actually required to gain muscle is something women likely don’t think about much. Maybe the cardio addicts hear “lift heavy things” and immediately have a negative reaction based on 30 or so years of hype about how women should workout. I have always hung out with guys who lift and have heard the celebratory cheers for each and every gain made, so I went into the whole lifting thing with my eyes wide open. Kudos for pointing this out!

  39. Thank you so much for explaining this in such a clear manner. I am also sick to death of most women’s negativity towards weight lifting created by their stupid beliefs which you have discussed here; The ingrained fear that lifting weights will make you bulky/manly! Lifting weights it the best thing I have ever done for my body and I could not be happier with the results I have achieved. The internet can be an excellent tool for research and source of information about training and nutrition. Sites such as yours are truly valuable and ones I turn to very often for guidance! So thanks again, it’s appreciated.
    I will certainly be sharing this article regularly.


  40. I really enjoy your articles.

    I was wondering if you have an article concerning the apparent weight gain that seems to occur in the immediate weeks following the beginning of a workout/weight loss program. Clearly it can’t be from a ton of muscle gain (which everyone tells me it is, and I am totally with you that it mostly likely isn’t). Have you any articles that would help explain why one would gain weight rather than lose it in the first 2 months of cutting calories down to 1500 per day, religiously following a 3 day per week running program (rain or shine, 30 minutes at about 6:40 min/km), as well as working out at the gym another 3 days a week (Mostly compound exercises like squats and walking lunges, planks and assisted pull-ups) with only Sunday as a rest day?

    Could it be water retention? Swelling?

    Some say that you have to pay attention to your measurements instead of the scale, but for those first two months my waist size did not budge…(or chest, or hips) I only started to lose weight (slowly) about 2 weeks ago, two and a half months into my exercise and nutrition program.

    Thank you for the no-nonsense articles and for taking the time to read my comment.


    • So wait, you went from a surplus to a deficit (and the deficit came via a combination of reduced calories and increased exercise) and then didn’t lose any weight for 2 months (and your measurements didn’t change during that time either)?

      If so, then there was simply no deficit present during that time. If you would have said this went on for just a couple of weeks, I would have told you there was likely some water retention going on (maybe it was even a certain time of the month). But that would have only been a temporary short-term thing at most. To go 2 months straight with no change whatsoever in scale weight or measurements, it’s pretty safe to say fat just wasn’t being lost. Either that or there was something inaccurate happening in the way you tracked your weight and measurements.

  41. Your straight up-ness and sarcasm is so damn refreshing. All your articles are so informative and straight to the point, no beating around the bush, no sugar coating anything, no bullshit…just straight facts with witty remarks that you don’t see often. It’s appreciated.

  42. Hi there! I’ve read a few of your articles having decided to start a weight training programme. I love the activity and am personally cataloguing the developments, following your beginners routine.

    It is reassuring to read your approval of ‘serious’ female lifters and only spurs me – and I’m sure many others – on. Thanks for a refreshing insight!

    Just a quick one, is there an alternative to pull-up/lat pull down I can do at home? I want to avoid the drastic measure of installing a bar in my door frame.

  43. I find it hilarious that women are afraid of getting too big or bulky. I just watched a video of Jennifer Thompson benching over twice her body weight. She is a completely normal-looking woman. Yes, she’s “toned”, but even with her arms and legs exposed, if I’d seen her out of context — say, wearing a t-shirt and shorts at the beach, or walking down the street — she wouldn’t have stood out from anyone else wearing the same amount of clothing. Maybe if she’d been wearing a bikini she would’ve stood out a bit just because of how muscular her upper arms, shoulders, pecs, and abs probably are; but she certainly wasn’t “big” or “bulky” compared to an average woman.

    I also personally know a female bodybuilder; in a bikini she looks extremely muscular and “bulky” and all that; but she’s actually pretty damn thin (thus why she’s bulky-looking), and in normal clothes, you wouldn’t know she’s a bodybuilder.

  44. I’m going to say something a little controversial – I am a bit tired of this approach to getting women to weight train. I agree with the fundamentals of your piece but the way in which it’s presented is incorrect. Many trainers aren’t listening to SOME women, because yes not all women want to look the same.

    This: But, there is still no difference whatsoever in terms of the approach. The same things still have to be done. The only difference is, when someone only looking to build a smaller amount of muscle reaches that goal, they stop right there and just maintain from that point on. The person looking to get “bigger and bulkier” would just keep on going.

    This is true and this should be the focus. Not ‘you can’t get bulky so lift’. I’m a dancer and heavy weight training ruined my lines (which I need to work). I’m fit and strong either way but I need to be more careful with how I train because looks matter to me professionally. It would be nice to hear trainers talk more about how they tailor workouts to clients needs and wishes than to make sweeping statements about women’s bodies.

    Bret Contreras wrote a well worded piece on this recently – I can’t find the link but it’s nice approach to the same subject. At the end of the day we all have the same goals but I feel the industry is letting us down a bit on this point now.

    • On one hand, I don’t disagree with your point.

      But on the other hand, in the years this article has been up, it has successfully gotten my intended point across to literally thousands of women who before this were believing in 100 different stereotypical female training myths.

      So, we’re both right.

    SANDI 🙂

  46. My husband has just sent me this article, after listening to me bitch for years about wanting to be more “toned” but never wanting to join him at the weight bench for fear of getting manly muscles. The smugness on his face right now is nauseating, but I can admit the error of my judgement. (Not to him, obviously, but to myself, at least.) Thanks for the no-bullshit approach, I needed to hear it.

  47. Love the article. I have recently started doing the same workout as my boyfriend in the Marines because he made the same arguments as you. I’ll tell you now it was really hard to find the girly weights you were talking about. I ended up having to paint the weights and add gemstones.

  48. Hi awesome Jay! So glad I found this article. I have a question and if it’s been written about, somewhere, please send me a link.
    Question- Should one lift a lighter weight for the smaller muscles (example- triceps) and heavier weight for the bigger muscles(example-chest) or lift the same weight for all muscles? Hope that makes sense.
    Thanks in advance. ✌️

    • Fat loss should be your primary goal for sure. However, assuming you are healthy enough to do so, strength training should be done as well (you’ll be able to build muscle while losing fat).

  49. Ha cruising around your website and thought I would read this one for fun. Thankfully you didn’t state anything I have already come to terms with in order to get results (btw love your beginner routine, yay!). It’s crazy the amount of weird looks you get from people when you tell them what you do at the gym, including my own husband. Poor guy cringes when he asks what I’ve done at the gym that day, so now I just let him beleive Ive been running on the treadmill or some zumba thing, and thats where my results are coming from lol. Little does he know my butt sits a little higher everyday because of squats <3 <3 Thanks!!!

  50. Hey Jay
    This one is the best article i have just vanished all myths related to weight training..
    Thanks alot

      • Hey Jay..I’m again here to solve one query of mine..I started doing serious strength training after reading this article..all thanks to you..

        I just want to ask that is whey protein bad for women in any ways??like can they increase their testosterone levels??
        Should I consume it & If yes than what should be the amount plus ideal time??

        Waiting for your reply..keep changing people’s life by your knowledge..
        # respect

  51. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA and just today I was doing a high amount of reps with a 5 lb weight, thinking that i should cut down weight and just focus on “toning”.

    I really appreciate the article. It’s very informative and reassuring, and I’ll definitely change the way I workout. Damn myths

  52. I already have one of your workout routine. I hope you can clarify one thing that seems to confuse me.
    I weigh only 41kgs.. Slim for the most part but like most women wanted to lose belly fat and i wanted to start building muscle.. I know that you cant do targeted fat loss in certain area of our body… I have started lifting weights for just two months and i can feel and see my upper arms shaping. My question is guess, should i bulk up to build muscle??
    But in doing that, i’m afraid of putting more fat in my belly..?
    And if i do calorie deficit, knowing that i only weigh 41 kgs, will i loss more weight, and also i’m afraid i wont gain any muscle at all if i’m in caloric deficit??
    My goal is to build muscle and hopefully loss some belly “bulges/fat..
    Thanks for reading!!
    Your book is very interesting btw!!

  53. Hey there! Just discovered your blog and definitely bookmarking it to my browser. In my very new journey to working out, I’ve noticed that “men’s” work outs made me feel a lot more accomplished/stronger/overall better than “women’s” workouts. This explains why.

    I have a question that I’m pretty embarrassed to ask in person so I’d like your opinion on it. I am a woman who prefers wearing men’s clothing. My current measurements make me fit a men’s XS. Even though I am a woman and it’s harder to build muscle, is it realistic for me to expect to bulk up at least to reach a size S or will results never be that big? I guess my question is, how much can a woman bulk up naturally by doing weight training? Thanks so much.

  54. THANK YOU! I like doing exercise videos at home, but really hate the ones designed for women where they’re jumping and flinging their arms in some stupid dance routine. I hurt my elbow the first time I tried one and it took a month to get over it.

  55. OMG! I am the girly girl with Pink 7lbs. Dumbbells. I just started my weight lifting routine because I didn’t see any results with my already one year routine. I was looking what you exactly just confirmed to us. “We cannot built up muscles as a man” thanks so much for your great and valuable information.

  56. Hi, thanks for this website, encouraging and informative. Love it.

    Im currently re-starting a workout routine after being on and off for almost 10 years. Im following your beginners’ routine.

    10 years ago I started to lift heavy. I had a binge eating disorder at the time so I never got the super lean look I was looking for. But regardless how much I was eating and the crappy macros/micros I looked great. Toned thighs, butt, arms, stomach. Very curvy and confident to wear a bikini.

    As I said, It’s been years since I stoped working out consistently and I still preserve my figure and most of the muscle, the benefits are definitely long lasting. Im just a bit fat atm because I reintroduced gluten after years avoiding it, so I went nuts over the cakes and bread lol.

    Also for the ladies scared of “looking like a man”. I actually have abnormally high levels of testosterone due my PCOS and believe me I worked HARD for months and never got “bulky” or “manly”. Only curvy and healthy looking. Gained a butt curve and lost the stomach one 🙂

    Finally, if you’re intimidated by the bro atmosphere at the Gym, simple, get a barbell and a set of weight disks and train home. It’ll cost you less than 2 months worth of gym’s membership.

    Just be sure you know what you’re doing, otherwise go to the gym, pay a PT for a month, he/she will stay with you, tech you the proper forms and then you can go on your at home.

    As you get older you’ll be glad you trained as you’re meant to.

  57. Thank you very much. I mean …. you can not imagine how much tense I was before about getting a bulky body. I always have taken my workout very seriously in the hope that one day i will get what i want. But my gym trainer keep saying you will become bodybuilder. This thing scared me. I love doing weight training.
    but after reading your article I am feeling very much relaxed now. I am not taking any kind of steroids. i just focus on my diet that’s it.

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