Why women (especially mums) should lift weights

Written by Josh Hoodless

Light weights and high reps sculpt and tone female bodies, right? Wrong!

The conventional thinking is that these smaller weights will help “tone” your muscles without bulking you up. The word “tone” here is misleading because some people refer to the idea that you can achieve defined muscles by changing their shape or tightening an area. In reality you can’t get defined or tight without gaining some muscle and losing body fat.

Your muscles can get bigger or smaller, you can’t change their shape.

Sometimes toning is associated with spot reducing, which refers to targeting a specific area – like your arms, stomach, or legs – to make it leaner. However, spot reducing is not real.

The majority of women don’t want huge, ripped muscles so they are afraid to start a weightlifting routine in case they get too buff after a week. It’s so important to distinguish myth from fact: it is hormonally and physiologically impossible for an everyday woman to naturally grow slabs of muscle like a man. It’s surprisingly hard for men to grow slabs of muscle. Ask any bodybuilder and they will tell you that gaining muscle isn’t easy. You won’t turn into Mrs Olympia just because you perform squats with your body weight let alone with a barbell and weights on it.

Why should women lift? It’s the same reasons why anyone should lift!


Strength training can lead to a surge in endorphins, along with other feel-good chemicals such as endocannabinoids, dopamine, and serotonin. The sense of improvement and achievement after lifting weights, pair with the happy hormone release, can really set the tone (pardon the pun) of your day.


After around 30 years old you naturally begin to lose muscle mass by about 1% each year, with sedentary adults losing anywhere from 3-8% Over time, this can lead to weakness stability issues and higher risk of osteoporosis and fat gain. Just remember if you don’t use it, you lose it until you use it again!


Osteoporosis Australia recommends that we look after our bones by regularly participating in progressive muscular strengthening activities. It’s not just calcium and vitamin D alone that will keep your 206 bones strong.


Having a fall might not be on the cards for a while yet but the groundwork for stability when you’re older needs to be put in place before it’s too late. Weight bearing exercise and the increased muscle mass around joints will go a long way to prevent falling abs shattering them.


Even just sitting around, a person with more muscle mass burns more calories (energy). The energy requirements are higher for people who develop stronger bigger muscles. This can help with managing ideal body weight, which in-turn reduces a magnitude of chronic disease.


From opening jars, starting the lawn mower, picking up children, lifting and moving furniture, to having more stamina at work. Being strong makes regular manual tasks easier and will decrease to need for assistance.


Diabetes Australia explains that a higher metabolism, due to increased lean muscle mass, helps your body keep blood glucose levels in check, while a lower fat-to-muscle ratio reduces the amount of insulin you need in your body.

Have I convinced you yet? Think of the busy mum who picks up a 20kg child under one arm and grabs 15kg of groceries in the other but then goes off to the gym to lift the 2kg dumbbells in fear of bulking up. Throw away those little plastic weights, hop off the elliptical, and give this whole strength thing a hard crack!

Where should you begin?

Do some research into qualified and experienced personal trainers or strength coaches in your local area. Get assessed by them and have a goal-focused customised program for you to work on a few days a week.

One of my favourite things is to put a barbell in a woman’s hands for the first time and help them realise the confidence they have to achieve a stronger healthier body, with no bulking up!