Weightlifting for Women: Why all women should lift weights


    Woman holding two kettlebells in front of her thighs, two outlines of breasts are drawn on each kettlebell in black marker

Woman holding two kettlebells in front of her thighs, two outlines of breasts are drawn on each kettlebell in black marker

Once seen as the domain of muscle-obsessed athletes, weight training is increasingly becoming part of everyone’s routine. And that’s great news, both the CDC in the US and the NHS in the UK recommend strength training at least twice a week.

Women in particular can benefit enormously from including strength work in their exercise program. It is well documented that due to hormonal changes during menopause, women lose muscle mass and bone density, putting them at risk for osteoporosis and other conditions.

But in addition to helping you stay healthy at any stage of your life, getting measurably stronger can also be hugely rewarding and empowering.

Personal trainer Mimi Bines co-founded Lift Studio LDN, an all-women weightlifting gym that aims to equip women with the knowledge and confidence to lift weights and enjoy the strengthening process. I told her about why women should lift weights, how often and how to start.


What are the benefits of weight lifting for women?

The top reasons women should lift weights are no different than the reasons men should: Building muscle is good for you. If anything, women should be doing it more because genetically they were born with less. And as we get older, we struggle to maintain what muscle we have. Having some sort of resistance training in your schedule is sure to have huge benefits, helping you live longer and stay healthier.

How is weightlifting different from other forms of strength training?

Weightlifting is super fun because there is tangible progress. Often with other forms of training, it’s just a mindless hour to get through the exercises. The feeling of getting stronger keeps people coming back. [At Lift] we were there to really teach you how to do things and show you the resources and also explain the science behind it all. Then you can get your teeth into it.

Does weight lifting help you lose weight or reduce body fat?

You have to eat in a calorie deficit to lose any type of fat. And you can choose where to build muscle but you can’t choose where to lose fat.

Many people go to the gym because they want to burn so many calories or lose this amount of weight or tone this part of their body, but this approach doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. While not inherently against these goals, there are so many other benefits to having process-driven goals.

If you’re focusing more on your squat shape and goals that show you what your body is capable of, then you’ll also improve your body image along with that without even realizing it.

How often should you lift to benefit from it?

If you’re on a good schedule, I’d say two days a week is enough. With two days a week you can absolutely make good progress. But what’s more important is that you’re training yourself for failure and that your program fits your lifestyle. For example, if someone was doing two days a week or five days a week, I’d give them a similar amount of volume, but I’d just spread it out over two or five days. They wouldn’t necessarily do more or less, it would just mean it’s more spread out or more concentrated.


What’s a good way to start lifting weights?

The coach watches the woman lift a barbell

The coach watches the woman lift a barbell

The best way to start is with a small group program like the one offered by Lift or with a personal trainer. I have always believed in coaching. You learn so much, it makes it so much easier and more fun, and then you have all the skills you need. If you do it for a couple of months, then you have a good foundation and the confidence that you know what’s important and what’s not.

If you’re going to be doing it alone, focus on five basic movements—a squat, deadlift, press, pullup, and bridge—and nail those movements only. Learn how to do them really well, and then keep adding new stuff to your repertoire from there. But those drills never get old, you never get too good at them, and there’s always something to improve on.

What does it take to make weight lifting less intimidating for women?

This is a good question. Honestly, even when I go to a new gym, I still feel slightly intimidated even though I know what I’m doing and have been doing it for 10 years! I think it’s just having the knowledge that what you’re doing is correct, that your form is good. Having knowledge is powerful. Knowledge gives you confidence. Often men just have that security, they don’t necessarily do it better, but they come in and own the space.

Do you have any tips to help beginners?

If someone attempts a squat for the first time, I have them sit on a box and then they stand up again. That tends to put people in a really good position right off the bat.

If you go to the gym yourself, I would just pick three exercises, practice the moves and try to do them really well, and do more sets. Don’t worry about making every session you have the most intense session ever. Really focus on practice as a skill because it will help you lift better in the long run.

What are the benefits of going to a women-only gym?

It’s a less intimidating space. He is a bridge between having no weight room experience at all and being able to go in and have the confidence to lift on your own.

It is also a non-judgmental space. We put a lot of focus on teaching beginners, so you can rest assured that you’re not the only one there just learning. We have tried to put a big emphasis on this: we are all in the same boat. There’s a nice sense of community. It’s a great place to make friends. Everyone has goals similar to yours, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.


Also, many women, myself included, have had bad experiences in male-dominated gyms. Not being taken seriously or having things explained to you by men or having people approach you to try and help you and touch you is very disheartening. It’s just a safer space for women. It’s a shame, because I don’t necessarily think it’s the solution in society, but I think it’s what we need right now.

Group weightlifting class at Lift Studio LDN

Group weightlifting class at Lift Studio LDN

How are the lessons at Lift?

It is essentially a small group personal workout to build muscle and strength. We focus on the barbell exercises, because you can never lift as much weight as possible with a barbell, but these are pretty technical exercises, so we spend a lot of time working on form and teaching the fundamentals. We run our programs for six weeks and you are progressing through those six weeks. We give people logs so they can keep track of everything they’re doing. We film their reps and sets to make sure their shapes look really good too.

Are there any women who shouldn’t lift weights? People with back problems or pregnant women, for example?

With pregnancy, you must definitely consult your doctor. You shouldn’t start new things while you’re pregnant, but if you’re someone who has done weight lifting, then absolutely people continue to lift weights while pregnant. damage [co-founder of Lift] she was teaching and lifting barbells while pregnant.

And if you have back problems, even better, because weight training is a low-intensity exercise, don’t skip it. Everything is scalable, even based on body weight, so no matter where you’re starting from, there’s an option for you.

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