Beginners Guide to Weight Lifting

Coach Kate, BS, ACE, ACSTH

Kate Bielefeld is a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. She is an ICF certified coach practitioner by the Certified Coaches Alliance and the Approved Coaching Specific Training Hours program. She has a bachelor of science degree in exercise science and is a successful weight loss and behavior change coach. This powerlifting, coffee-chugging, mom of five has an expert knack for unlocking the untapped potential of the women she coaches. She’s helped hundreds of women reach their health and fitness goals so that they can live healthier, happier, and more fulfilled lives.

Is there some unwritten gym rule I missed somewhere that says “barbells aren’t for women”? Somehow we’ve been led to believe that weight lifting for weight loss won’t get us the slender physique we chase. The moment I started training to compete in powerlifting I was met with fearful comments from friends, family, and clients. They were worried that I was going to compromise my feminin physique. They feared that I would somehow morph into a muscle-bound, bulky she-man simply by tiptoeing over to the free weight section of the gym and lifting weights. 

The Five Lies I Told Myself Before I Fell in Love with Lifting:

Lie 1: I’m not strong enough for a weight training routine.

Billie Sweet weight lifting

Billie Sweet weight lifting

Billie Sweet is an amazing LadyBossⓇ that found a way to make strength training possible for herself, even from a wheelchair!

Reality: Unless you are bed-bound and unresponsive, there’s a weight training program for you. Take a minute to look up Lindsey Hilton. This incredible woman was born without limbs and has found a way to make lifting part of her life.

LadyBossⓇ is extremely proud to have one of our very own LadyBoss’Ⓡ-Billie Sweet-to prove that everyone is strong enough for strength training. Billie is a LadyBoss Angel, which means she is a true leader in our LadyBoss Community. She is inspiring women across the country to drop their excuses, pick up the weights, and find out what magnificent things our bodies are capable of! If Billie can do it against all odds, why can’t you?

The truth is, everyone is strong enough for a weight training routine. And every workout will help you to build your strength. As you increase your strength, you can begin to increase the weight you are lifting, the number of reps you lift the weight, and the number of sets you perform. Overtime, what once was an impossible weight for you to lift could potentially be your warm-up weight!  

Lie 2: Weight lifting will make me bulky.

Reality: Weight lifting for weight loss is not the same as weight training for mass! Simply speaking, muscle growth requires three key elements for size to increase. They are:

  1. Muscle tissue breakdown. Lifting heavy enough to create microscopic muscle tears, or the breakdown of muscle tissue in order to create a need for adaptation. 
  2. Energy sources for muscle repair. Eating adequate amounts of food that keep your body in an anabolic (growth) state.  
  3. Hormones responsible for protein synthesis. Testosterone is released during strength training and can help activate tissue growth. Testosterone is an anabolic (building) hormone. It further stimulates growth hormones which activates tissue growth during anabolic muscle recovery. As women we lack testosterone levels like that of our male counterparts

Lie 3: Weight training for women is dangerous- I could get injured.

Staying safe while weight lifting

Okay, there might be some truth to this statement. But, any activity can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. Shoot, I’ve rolled my ankle walking-not because walking is dangerous, but because I wasn’t paying attention. That doesn’t make walking dangerous, that makes me a…. Well, you can fill in the blank.

To keep yourself safe you’ll want to:

  1. Learn the movement first without added weight.
  2. Understand proper form and basic body mechanics.
  3. Identify the best load (amount you will lift) for each exercise to be completed.
  4. Use a spotter or understand how to use safety features of equipment if you fail attempt.
  5. REST. Your muscles need adequate recovery periods in order to repair the micro-tears in your muscle fibers after lifting sessions. 
  6. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, stop and evaluate.
  7. Ask an expert! It’s often best to get help from an expert when beginning weight training. Fitness experts can watch you perform movements and show you how to make adjustments to keep you moving through the lift safely. They can also provide recommendations on how much weight to use for each lift. You’ll also want to ask them how to plan training days. This keeps you from forgetting muscle groups within your training plan or working groups of muscles too often without enough time for recovery between sessions. The LadyBossⓇ Trainer is an excellent resource for beginner training programs.

Lie 4: Weight training for weight loss means added time at the gym.

Actually, it only takes 3 days a week for 30 minutes to see results when beginning a weight training program. If your strength training session takes 60 minutes or more, chances are you’re overtraining, spending too much time talking, or checking Instagram between sets.

And if you’re thinking you’ll still have to get in your 45-60 minutes of cardio after your weight training, think again! Experts have found that the recovery period after resistance training can be impaired by aerobic exercise that takes place less than 24 hours after the session. Additionally, your muscles are already fatigued from the strength training. So you’ll get a less-than-stellar cardio workout anyway.

So what does this all mean for women lifting weights? It means you can stop stressing about spending hours in the gym everyday! In just 30 minutes, 3 days a week, you’ll be reaping the benefits of a stronger and more toned body composition. That leaves 4 more days for cardiorespiratory endurance training! Or you can be a total rockstar and get in BOTH strength training and a heart-pumping cardio session at once using the LadyBossⓇ Training programs. It incorporates both in one session!

Lie 5: Sore muscles = better workout.

Stretching after weight lifting

When you hear the phrase “no pain no gain” what do you think? It’s true, muscle soreness is a side effect of weight training. New gym goers will often associate the soreness with an effective workout. They’ll ‘chase the DOMS’. DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness, and is ultimately the side effect of muscle damage (remember, microscopic muscle tears happen during strength training that allows the body to rebuild the muscle tissue stronger than before.).

Muscle soreness will happen, and is more common when you begin a new exercise program or increase the load, intensity, or frequency in your weight lifting routine. However, sore muscles can be a significant hindrance on consistent progress. Training with sore muscles puts you at risk of injury due to the loss of muscular strength during DOMS. Peak performance suffers for the 24-72 hours during muscle recovery. Soreness can also sideline your workouts while you’re waiting for the soreness to subside. The good news is that each consecutive time you perform an exercise you’ll experience less muscle damage, less soreness and faster recovery.

Benefits of Weight Training

Weight training for women
Weight training IS for everyone, not just sweaty, heavy-breathing, testosterone-seeping men. Women need muscles, too. Even if it’s just so we can get all the groceries into the house in one trip. Whatever your strength goals are, there are gains to be made in the weight training area of the gym. 

Strength training for women provides many health and fitness benefits. And if your into looking good (clothes or not!) the weights are going to be your new best friend! Aside from the obvious goal of looking good, strength training can also help women stop or reverse bone loss, improve balance, increase their metabolism, control weight, and manage common health conditions like obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes. 

Ladies, don’t let a little fear or gymtimidation keep you from becoming your healthiest, sexiest self. Sure, the idea of looking better naked got me to “the other side of the gym,” but that’s not what has kept me there. You can work out a lot of different emotions while you pick up and set down heavy weights!

Beginner Training Program

Weight lifting for weight loss

Weight lifting doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t have to do every variation of the squat to make it a ‘killer’ leg day. Just keep it simple. An effective full body workout, 1-2x per week, is a great way to introduce your body to weight training. Once you’ve created a foundation of strength training for weight loss, you can begin to add more weight training days using the LadyBossⓇ Trainer. It has workouts designed for specific muscle groups to be trained on separate training days. The Trainer gives you the freedom to choose if you will train three, five, or seven days each week and then provides the workouts according to your chosen schedule.

Some Helpful Tips

  1. Warm Up. Take 5-10 minutes and get your heart rate up and blood circulating throughout your body.
  2. Pick load weight that is challenging for each exercise. Since we’re working in a rep range of 8-10, choose a weight that you can lift at least 12 times but no more than 15 before reaching muscle failure. This is your “work weight.”
  3. Perform the first set of each exercise with about 30% less weight than your “work weight.” 
  4. Rest two minutes between each set.
  5. Complete three sets of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise.
  6. Cool down and stretch. Foam roll or massage tight muscles.

Weight Training for Women Full-Body Beginner Barbell Workout


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