An Open Letter to Everyone Who Has Told Women “Don’t Get Too Muscular”

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NOTE: As some of you may or may not know, I’m getting married this weekend. As such, I’m going to be a little hit and miss as far as how often I update the blog for the next week or so. I’m going to be too busy eating my fair share of carrot cake and *ahem* partaking in extracurricular activities…;O)

Today is a RE-POST of an article I published last year on the site. It’s without question one of the more popular posts ever published on TG.com. For anyone who missed it the first time around (or is new to the site), enjoy!

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Seattle based blogger and writer, Sophia Herbst. I first crossed paths with Sophia- via the interwebz – a few months ago when I read her outstanding article on the Huffington Post 1200 Calories.

I included it as part of my Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work series and low and behold, Sophia reached out to thank me for sharing and to say that the feelings were mutual:  she was a big fan of my work as well.

We pretty much became internet BFFs at that point.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and she reached out again to see if I’d be interested in contributing to an article she was writing on CrossFit.  We exchanged several emails – along with some inappropriate (to share) commentary – and I asked if she’d be down with writing a piece for my site.  She was more than happy to oblige.

She’s an amazing writer. I don’t use that compliment lightly. And while I’m not a woman, as a man, it was almost impossible for me not to nod my head in agreement with everything she had to say below. 

Enjoy!

Also, just a heads up: there is some not-so-PG-13 language involved.  Deal with it.

An Open Letter to Everyone Who Has Told Women “Don’t Get Too Muscular.”

I have been strength training for about two years now. Before that, I was a starvation-dieter.

I began dieting around the age of 13 or 14. My freshman year of high school I discovered I no longer fit into size zero jeans and bam! Diet time. By the time I hit 21, the years of self-imposed malnutrition had left me at 100lbs, able to easily wrap my thumb & middle finger around my upper arm (“bicep” doesn’t seem like the appropriate word) and unable to open jars, heavy doors, or windows by myself.

Why am I telling you this?

During my seven years of starvation-dieting, I was never once told, “don’t get too thin”.

In contrast, during my two years of strength training I have been told, “don’t get too muscular” countless times.

The first time it happened to me, I had excitedly been telling someone about my new squat PR. Weighing in at a (finally) healthy 125, I had just squatted 100lbs. I was in the middle of explaining  “my goal is a bodyweight back squat-” when I was interrupted with a “well, don’t get too muscular now”.

Being new to strength training, this crushed me.

For an awful few days it took my focus away from becoming stronger, and back to measuring myself by the gauge of “is my body pleasing for others to look at?”

After I got over it, my dismay turned into anger – no – absolute fury at this society in which 42% of girls 5-8 years old want to be thinner, and 10 million women are battling eating disorders (source), yet we hear the words “don’t get too muscular” far more often than “don’t get too thin.”

Now, while this unsolicited “advice” is generally never welcome nor appreciated, it brings up two issues: The encouragement of female weakness, and the lack of respect for female body autonomy.

One: Culturally-Encouraged Female Weakness

Let me tell you right now, women who strength train know how hard it is to build muscle.

If you tell a woman who strength trains “don’t get too muscular” then congratulations! You have just ousted yourself as a totally ignorant fool who doesn’t even lift.

The problem is that women who don’t strength train don’t know how hard it is to build muscle, and so this phrase, “don’t get too muscular” will seriously deter them from ever picking up heavy things in the first place.

This is a big problem. Naomi Wolf explains it better than I ever could:

A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”

― The Beauty Myth

When women strength train, it is an act of borderline social disobedience. “Don’t get too muscular” is the phrase of choice used by people who are threatened by strong women to put them “back in their place”.

And it’s working.

We have three generations & counting of women who have been brainwashed into voluntarily physically debilitating themselves. 

Three generations of women who have been more focused on losing weight than running for government. Three generations of women have would rather be thin than intelligent. Three generations of women that would rather let the men-folk open jars for them, rather than develop the strength to open jars for themselves.

Now, I am not advocating that people start going around, accosting teenage girls with desperate pleas of “don’t get too thin! Put some meat on dem bones!” But to be completely honest, I probably would have benefited very much if I had received the message “don’t get too thin” at some point in my adolescence.

So. If you are going to say anything to a woman about her body (which you shouldn’t be doing in the first place, as I am about to explain), “don’t get too thin” is 1000% preferable  over the completely moronic “don’t get too muscular”.

Two: Lack of Respect for Female Body Autonomy

Why do people think it’s appropriate to tell women what they can & can’t do with their bodies in the first place? What makes someone think it’s perfectly acceptable to tell a woman “don’t get too muscular”?

This is an issue that’s been going on since the dawn of time, with female body autonomy being disrespected from reproductive rights, to personal space in public places, to -yes – appearance, weight, & fitness.

Most tellingly, no woman – no matter what kind of body she has – is immune from invasive suggestions on how she should be caring for her body. Women who strength train are warned against getting too “bulky”, “muscular”, or (my absolute favorite) “manly”.

Women who are on the larger side by far endure the most unwanted commentary. From people remarking on what’s in their shopping carts, to what they should order at a restaurant, to what type of exercise they should be doing, to what they should be wearing whilst exercising… it never stops. Even thin women can’t escape the self-appointed body police, who unhelpfully pester them to eat more because “men like women with curves”.

If you are a man, and the idea of a random passerby raising knowing eyebrows at your gut whilst commenting on your ice-cream cone sounds invasive and preposterous – that’s because it is invasive and preposterous. You are just lucky enough to not experience it every day.

Sometimes multiple times a day.

Men, for the most part, do not have to entertain this type of “well-intentioned” advice, because people actually respect male body autonomy. This is something that women would like to enjoy as well.

The people who tell women what they should do with their bodies are, frankly, so arrogant they believe their “benevolent suggestions” are actually doing the woman a favor.

Y’know, helping us be more attractive to potential mates.

This completely disregards the fact that women do not exist to be aesthetically pleasing for others, and we (this may surprise some) often do things for ourselves.

Which brings me full circle to my anecdote in the beginning, about the first time someone interrupted my squat-excitement to not-so-helpfully remind me to avoid bulky she-man status.

Women who strength train are doing it for themselves, not for you. Women who lift weights have already eschewed social norms by touching iron in the first place, and I guarantee they give negative fucks about your opinions on their bodies.

So next time you are tempted to “help” a woman by telling her not to deadlift things because you don’t like muscular women, remember that nobody cares about your stupid boner. Especially not the lady deadlifting 200lbs in the gym tank that says “GET SWOLE”.

But even more importantly than not telling this to women who already have the ability to overhead press your girlfriend, don’t say it to women who aren’t strength training yet (like your girlfriend).  Because chances are, with every “don’t get too muscular” a girl hears, weight gets added to the already-heavily weighted scales that tip women away from becoming strong, healthy, and powerful, and towards a life of cardio, carrot sticks, and misery.

And no woman deserves that. 

*** Be sure to check out Sophia’s bio below and to find out how to read more of her stuff!!!

Note from TG

At this point, if you’re a woman reading this who has little experience with strength training (or if you’re a friend, family member, or significant other of someone who’s expressed interest) you may be wondering to yourself, “well, where do I start? I don’t know my ass from my acetabulum, let alone how to perform a squat or deadlift correctly!  And, how often should I workout?  How much weight should I lift? Is it okay to train two days in a row?  OMG DID I LEAVE THE STOVE ON THIS MORNING!!?!?!?!?!”

Deep breaths!  Relax.

Lucky for you I have a lot of smart, genuine, and highly respected friends in the fitness industry (male and female) who have gone out of their way to provide some fantastic resources for women.

For those with limited access to a gym

Lean & Lovely – Neghar Fonooni

This is an excellent choice for those with limited equipment and who prefer workouts that utilize bodyweight and kettlebells.

Lift Weights Faster – Jen Sinkler

Another resource which places more emphasis on minimal equipment and no traditional “cardio.” It will still make you hate life, though…..;o)

For those with full access to a gym

Modern Women’s Guide to Strength Training – Girls Gone Strong

This is one of the most comprehensive “female-targeted” products out there. Not only do you get a “how to” guide to strength training, but a full-blown nutritional manual written by Dr. Cassandra Forsythe.  No 1200 kcal diets here!

The Lift Like a Girl Guide – Nia Shanks

This is a video series that guides you step-by-step on how to build your own fitness program catered to your goals and needs.

For those who just want solid information

The New Rules of Lifting for Women – Lou Schuler, Alwyn Cosgrove, and Dr. Cassandra Forsythe

No book does a better job at debunking a lot of common myths with regards to women’s fitness than this book.

Strong Curves – Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis

A bit more “sciency,” but still a fantastic resource for any woman looking to get stronger and building her ideal body.

About the Author

 

Sophia Herbst is a Seattle-based freelance writer, blogger, and proud feminist. When she’s not writing for Cody, a health & fitness startup, she’s changing the conversation about social & cultural issues through her blog.

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  • Adam Noll

    Fantastic article! Not only do you provide great, entertaining articles of your own on this site, Tony, but you also bring in other authors who have unique and informative views of their own. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to try to de-brainwash females in my life who ask for advice on looking better, but immediately express the fear that they’ll get too bulky if they lift weights. From now on I think I’ll just provide them with the link to this article!

    • TonyGentilcore

      I knew this one was going to be a hit. Sophia is a rock star.

  • Great article to share with my daughters

    • TonyGentilcore

      Absolutely Nick!

  • Lisa

    Thank you Sophia. Your writing reminds me of my tweens, teens and twenties, when I felt criticized and berated about my body and the body I was “supposed” to have every single day. On one hand, I feel glad and happy that I don’t have to suffer through the “shoulds” of others or the media like I used to – I train, and I’m a big strong woman, and I don’t hear any shit about it from the outside world. Quite the opposite, in fact. On the other hand, I unfortunately still hear the “shoulds” whispering at me – from within me. I am sorry to say that even though I know better, I’ve internalized some of the criticism, and I fight that voice – not daily – but on a weekly basis. I do what I know is right, what I enjoy, and what I know is best, but the scars of societal influence still sting me in the dressing room, out to dinner on date night, and on the beach in my bathing suit. To read this, to think about this, and to ‘hear’ this voice, externally, loud and proud for the e-world to behold… it helps. Please, continue.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Couldn’t agree more Lisa!

  • Marcy Runkle

    I like this, but I’m not sure what wanting to having a thin frame has to do with running for government and being intelligent. They’re certainly not mutually exclusive.

    I’m a woman who strength trains and lifts weights regularly, and I *don’t* want to get bulky. I’m not defining “bulky” as looking like a cartoon Hulk, I’m defining it as the images of ripped women that show up as the “see?!” with every article about how dumb women must be for thinking they’ll get bulky. I admire those women for having strong goals and for the hard work it takes to achieve them, but that’s exactly what I don’t want to look like. I lift weights to improve my bone density and for general overall health, and because I enjoy the company of the people I work out with.

    And yes, to look good. As a single-and-looking woman, it absolutely does matter to me what men think of my body. We don’t live in a utopic vacuum of a world where bodies don’t matter in attraction. That’s one of the reasons I joined a gym in the first place, to lose my extra body fat and give myself a fighting chance in the dating pool. It keeps me motivated. And I see nothing wrong at all with wanting a less-muscular frame; I’m looking to be healthy and slim, not anorexic.

    Anyway, I guess I just want to say that allowing women the body autonomy to choose for OURSELVES what we ideally want to look like is the entire point! There’s no need to bash women who have a different body ideal in the process. Not everyone lifts weights solely for their own strength, and that’s ok! To each her own, as long as it’s healthy.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Hmmm, I feel as if you missed the entire point of the post? Nowhere in her commentary did Sophia dis “thin” or women who aren’t necessarily interested in strength. No where.

      • Marcy Runkle

        I reread the article and that’s fair. I admit to writing my comment with a little bit of anger and bias because so many of these articles about women’s strength training are a bit condescending in that regard. It’s like if you want anything other than rippling abs and a round behind, you’re not being a strong woman.

        But I guess it’s the idea presented that NO woman trains to look good for other people that is sort of weird to read, because I know *many* women who work out for that reason. Looking smoking hot on a date is often what I think about when I’m struggling to hold the end of that plank. Sure working out is ultimately about health, but it’s also very much about looks. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing – whatever gets people to work out is reason enough. I guess I just don’t equate cardio and carrot sticks with misery, and I don’t believe that “a culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience.” I don’t feel mindlessly obedient when I’m eating carrot sticks, I feel healthy.

        At the end of the day we’re all on the same page – women of course deserve body autonomy (!!) and the chance to feel good about what we’re doing in the gym, regardless of what that is. I do apologize for the sort of bitter tone to my comment, that wasn’t my intention!

        • Sophia Tripp

          Hi Marcy! I just wanted to chime in with my own thoughts after reading yours.

          First, on the connection between the pursuit of thin-ness & lack of political activism, etc. An emphasis on appearance is often used as a distraction from more productive pursuits. This was covered in detail by the fabulous documentary, Miss Representation, which is available on NetFlix and I highly recommend everyone watch.

          Your second point was about how there’s nothing wrong with working out because you want to look good. I agree! Motivation is motivation. However, I personally try to steer my readers away from viewing fitness with a “looks based” perspective (get sexay!) and towards a “performance based” perspective (back squat X pounds). This is because in my experience, looks-based goals have been harmful to my self-esteem & health. This is definitely a personal view, but my blog posts are also personal, so that’s why I say it.

          Thanks again for adding to the discussion Marcy!
          -S

          • TonyGentilcore

            YES!!! Whenever I start training a new female client – whether she’s an athlete or not – I ALWAYS try to focus on more performance based goals. This is something I covered in my Training Jane from Joe: Do Women Need to Train Differently Than Men? webinar. Women tend to be more societal comparative (I.e., comparing themselves to other people), while men tend to be more temporal comparative (I.e., comparing and competing against themselves).

            If I can somehow convince a woman to stop focusing on body image and scale weight, and more so on things like chin-up performance, push-up technique, and their DL – it’s almost always a win-win.

            Here’s the link to the article and webinar: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/training-jane-from-joe-do-women-need-to-train-differently-than-men/

          • Marcy Runkle

            Thank you, Tony! Perhaps one day I will hit the gym and performance-based goals will click with me. In the meantime, the fact that I actually go to the gym regularly these days is a major win, lol. 🙂 Thank you for the great site!

          • TonyGentilcore

            Happy to help out Marcy. I sincerely hope you stay around and read some more of my stuff!

          • Charles Nankin

            as for me and for longevity: the abs-showing, overtrained, amenorrheic, wizened-face, aerobics-addicted, ego-oriented, low sex-drive, siliconated, lipo-sucked, precious gym-bunny is def not what i or nature are into 🙂 but i might be wrong! #AnOdeTo #BurnMoreCalories

          • Marcy Runkle

            Thank YOU! For what it’s worth, I **love** Miss Representation, and recommend it to most women I meet. 🙂 You’re right that they do bring up the thin vs. power issue in detail… I guess I just know too many women who are both successful and in great shape to put a lot of stock in that, though. I think that’s questionable parenting/schooling more than society influence, sort of like the “studies” that say that dressing your baby girl in pink is going to make her bad at math. Personally I love pink AND math, and always have. (My bigger takeaway from that documentary is the extreme sexualization of women in media! It’s out of control.)

            I wrote a novel in response to the poster above… (god, so sorry for the word vomit)… that touches on your second paragraph. I often wish I could be that woman who cares about performance-based achievements, and I totally respect it, I’m just not sure it’s a passion that can be forced, you know?

        • Matthew Woodard

          Im no expert, but I think the point still being missed, and I think One of Sophia’s (tell me if I’m wrong please) bigger points is that training for strength and performance aren’t necessarily going to make you look bulky. The girls you see that look like that either a. Have the genetics that led them that way, or b. Chose that and go above and beyond to look like that. Hell, the vast majority of men are actively trying to achieve it and it’s tough. As for performances based goals, I don’t really understand NOT training for performance based goals. Aesthetics are absolutely a part of the equation. For everyone to some extent. I think, from reading Tony’s work,he means get strong for you, not be a competing power lifter. (Unless that makes you happy) The problem I have (and I get a lot of “lost cause” clients) if you aren’t weight training for some type of performance goal, your “progress” will quite literally stop. Or you’re just getting by on genetics. The human body is ultimately just another organism. No matter your goal, sport, wants, workout method of choice….whatever…there is only one truth in all of fitness (and life) and that is progressive overload. Period. Your body speaks one language: stress. Every single thing in your life is a response to stress. Good and bad stress. Your health, your looks, your mentality, your emotions. That’s it. It understands stress. Magnitude, amount, and frequency. So when it comes to fitness and looks and fat loss, if you utilize the same stress paradigm over and over, I.e. Don’t train for performance, at some point you are going to stall and very possibly go backwards. On a side note. Check out Sophia’s 1200 calorie article if you get a chance.msorry for the long post tony. Was just talking about this out work

      • Big Ben

        But getting too muscular doesn’t make sense for women.

    • DaleK

      Hi Marcy Runkle

      I’m probably misunderstanding you. You say you lift for health reasons (mostly) but then you go on to say that your primary motivator for even joining a gym was so that you’d stand a chance in the dating pool. I hear ya. It’s what got me going. Sex. Plain and simple.

      Take men and THEIR preferences (or what you perceive their preferences to be aka thin not “muscular”) out of the equation. Would you be engaging in what you define as “healthy” behaviors?

      I’m not bashing you here. For me it’s more of a been there done that. What I’m fairly clumsily trying to do is illustrate the fact that while you believe you are choosing for yourself – I wonder if that’s actually the case.

      You are choosing to look a certain way in order to please someone else (a man). You aren’t choosing what you want to look like. Someone else (the media) has defined what is “attractive” to men and you are spending blood, sweat, tears and dollars in order to be attractive. Sometimes we confuse being attractive with being worthy of love and self respect. Unfortunately this is so ingrained in women that it’s nearly impossible to get them to see what’s happening.

      • Marcy Runkle

        I totally agree with you… the problem is that I don’t have a few hundred years to wait for society to come around. 🙂 It’s like… if I really, really want to shave my head, because of whatever reason (empowerment, etc), I should definitely do it, because society shouldn’t be telling me how to look. I should be doing it for myself, because I want to! But if I do shave my head, I can’t be surprised or offended when no one wants to date me. (I know this is an extreme example… there’s obviously a lot more nuance between a women being slender vs. being ripped. Both would certainly be found attractive by different groups of men, way moreso than a bald woman.)

        Anyway, for better or for worse, men are visual people. And yeah, for sure the “standards” are a result of society saying, “this is what women should look like.” I mean, of course I see what’s happening. Is it fair? No!! Is it reality? Yes. So as someone who would like to get married in this lifetime, I guess I feel the need to appeal to the majority standards, at least for the type of men I usually date. And I don’t feel like an enslaved woman because of it… I find plenty of empowerment and self worth in my career, in my hobbies, in my relationships with my friends and family… I’m generally a fulfilled and happy person. The gym is the one place where I focus on the superficial me, and I spent way too many years avoiding that and stubbornly insisting that men should care more about personality. I love finally caring about what I look like on the outside! And I let my wonderful trainer worry about the program design and nutrition details that will help me reach my personal goals – I just trust him and do what he says, haha.

        Just for the record, I totally admire and respect the women who lift for numbers and achievement!! I just can’t say I’ve ever personally *felt* anything after setting a lift PR, because it really doesn’t matter to me to be able to pick up heavy things. And I’m totally fine with that. But I do happily celebrate with fellow gym ladies who are ecstatic after setting a new PR, because I know how much it means to them and I can appreciate the hard work and feeling of triumph. I get that same feeling of triumph when I finally master a new violin piece that I’ve been struggling with, because music is something that I AM passionate about. I just can’t seem to make myself passionate about weightlifting, much as I’ve tried. So my motivation in the gym may not be everyone’s ideal, but it works for me. It gets me there, I work hard, and that’s ultimately a good thing.

        I’m gonna leave this alone now. I do think this was a really well-written (and necessary) article, and the last thing I want to do is get into something nitpicky on a wholly positive corner of the internet. Lesson learned to not let my personal biases show through in comments – I really, really didn’t mean to blow this so out of proportion. Cheers, and thanks to Tony and Sophia for being thought-provoking!

        • minlo

          I just wanted to playfully say WRONG! Bald women are way sexy!

        • Frederique

          Your hang ups are very annoying. That may be why no one wants to date you rather than just your appearance.

          • Marcy Runkle

            Thanks for the friendly tip!

        • miG

          I do have to say Marcy, I read everything you wrote and thought it was interesting and offered another point of view for me. What was more interesting was the fact that this conversation remained a conversation and you nor the people who replied didn’t let the conversation heat up to an argument which very often happens here in the Wild West that is internet. All power to ya Marcy and I hope you find someone who gets you, makes you laugh and holds you dearly when life gets tough 🙂

        • zoltan

          I completely agree with you – remember, it’s women who tear each other down when one voices even the most remote suggestion of wanting to please a man. There ain’t nothing wrong with wanting to be attractive to the opposite sex.

  • yifat

    So true !! I just wish i had started lifting 20 years ago and enjoy all the things it gives , ever since….
    It changed me in so many levels!!
    And thank god i didnt listen to my running caoch who said i would look like a man… 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Steve

    I will be sharing this on my Facebook page for, gasp, a CrossFit gym 🙂 No matter your opinions om CrossFit, it has gotten more women in the gym lifting heavy things than any program in history. Squatting 200 + is a badge of honor in my gym and we have at least 30 women who can hit that any day of the week…

    Great piece Sophia and thanks Tony for posting, keep up the great work!!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Right on Steve – please, share away! I hope that CrossFit comment wasn’t directed towards me (if it was, it’s cool), because I’ve long changed my views towards it. While I still have my qualms with it, I couldn’t agree with you more: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/cutting-crossfit-break/

      • Steve

        If I misread the inappropriate comment piece being about CF, if that’s on me my apologies 🙂 Love some of your deadlift stuff on Cressy’s site…

        • TonyGentilcore

          My man, it wasn’t inappropriate at all. I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t somehow poo-poo on CF when that wasn’t even my intention.

          Internet hugs!

  • Andrea Evans

    I love this. This happened to me as I was at my local sports store buying new shoes fro Crossfit. The employee helping me was a young, small framed guy. He told me he had walked passed the box I work out at numerous times and saw “all kinds or rocked out girls in there…so intimidating” and cautioned me to not get “too rocked out.” My initial thought was “Do you even lift bro?” but upon further reflection, I realized this was just as “bad” as his warning me to not get too big. Whatever you look like, thin, fat, muscular, short, tall, it’s ok and it’s ALWAYS inappropriate to give unsolisticed advice to someone else.

    • TonyGentilcore

      You should have overhead pressed him and then tossed him into the garbage can!…..;o)

  • When I was single I was told my hobbies, judo and weightlifting, were perhaps too masculine to help me find a mate. I told this guy I considered my hobbies to be a “douche filter” and that he didn’t pass. My current boyfriend thinks it’s AWESOME that I lift so much, train so hard, and compete at it all.

    I compete in weightlifting and strongman now, so yes, I’m a bigger girl, too.

    • TonyGentilcore

      OMG – I loved this!!!! “Douche filter”…….hahahahahaha. That’s classic.

  • Thank you for inviting such an articulate narrative of women’s issues from a woman. Sophia touches on many important topics- including respect for a woman’s autonomy that includes how she trains and presents herself. My hope is more women, fearful of outdated myths, read this, hear her message, give the world the middle finger, and do that makes them healthy, happy, strong and free from what others may think! You and Sophia just gained a loyal follower.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for the kind words Donna!

  • Patrick Johnson

    My beef is with the women who come to the gym and spend hours on cardio and never touch a weight. Anybody man or woman who has ever strength trained knows how hard it is to build muscle. Too many women are scared of getting too bulky. A woman will take far longer to put on muscle than men unless of course they use drugs. Women need to strength train if for no other reason than to help prevent the bone breaks, hunched backs, etc of old age.

  • she-ra

    Fantastic article! Thank you for putting women’s training in a political framework. I was doing farmer’s walks near a woman who was “training” with her trainer. She was curling 2 1/2 lb weights and saying, “tone, tone.” I replied, “Strength, muscle.” I felt like asking her how much her purse weighs. Does she ever pick up a child or grandchild? Does she carry a bag of groceries from the car to the kitchen? Pick up a bag of dog food or kitty litter? All these things weigh more than five pounds! Now I’m glad I didn’t say anything because that would be imposing my values (maximal strength) onto her.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Agree. Best to bite your tongue in a situation like that. While I have all the confidence in the world that your intentions would be, um, well-intentioned. It would probably come across the wrong way.

      Besides, I think the TRAINER is more at fault here than the woman herself. She doesn’t know any better. The trainer on the other hand is an epic failure.

    • Christine

      Horsewomen like me have to haul around 50-100 pound bags of feed and bales of hay not to mention handle half-ton animals. The itty-bitty weights are only useful when recovering from an injury.

    • JLynn Smith

      Exactly what I told a golf buddy I started training that refused the 10lb dumbbells – Her PURSE weighs way more than that and if she wants her legs to “look like yours” (mine) she’s going to have to lift significantly more than 10’s….but it’s a start.

  • Dana Fredsti

    Love this article. I started lifting about a year ago and it changed my relationship with my body in such a positive way.

  • Dana Fredsti

    I wanted to add that I started lifting at age 52 and am in better shape than I’ve been in years… and my fiance started training with me/my trainer as well because he loved how happy and confident it’s made me. THat, and the fact he really was in danger of being bench-pressed. 🙂 I shared the link to this article with my trainer – I know he’ll appreciate it!

    • TonyGentilcore

      This is fantastic Dana! I’ve trained numerous women your age and they have fallen in love with training and getting stronger. Most can do strict bodyweight chin-ups, can deadlift their bodyweight an upwards of 1.5-2x body, for reps, they carry, they throw things, they push things, and get after it……just like the guys. And they all love it.

  • Elle

    Great article….I am wondering if you have thoughts for teens. My daughter is trying to loose some excess fat & regain some muscle after a surgery (she is fully recovered). I know what works for me as an adult but am not sure for teens? Any help is super appreciated.

    • Sophia Tripp

      Hi Elle, I wanted to chime in again since you’re talking about your teenage daughter. The single best thing you can do is NOT talk to her about her body, unless she has explicitly asked for your input. I know it sounds harsh, but saying from experience, there is nothing more hurtful than having your parents comment on your body. I know you are coming from a well-meaning place, but refrain from saying anything about her body. She is dealing with her friends, the media, & society at large telling her what her body should look like, and her parents should be a safe place from that. Instead, emphasize how well her recovery from surgery is going in terms of mobility, appetite, grades, mental health… but trust me when I say that she doesn’t want her parents policing her fat percentage.

      • Elle

        Hi Sophia…Thanks for your response. I am asking you because she has
        asked me. I am concerned because it is concerning her and I am not sure
        what direction to point her in that would be most helpful..

        • TonyGentilcore

          Hi Elle –

          As someone who trains a lot of teenage girls, like any “newbie” she needs to start with the basics. Squat pattern, hip hinge pattern (deadlift), push-ups, single leg work, core stablity, etc. I think starting with a 3x per week, FULL-body routine with some traditional cardio “peppered” into the mix would be a nice start. Far too often people (and especially females) gravitate towards ONLY doing cardio to lose weight which is a very inefficient way of approaching things. I could write forever on this topic, but I’d HIGHLY suggest getting her the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women (I linked to it at the bottom of the blog post). It’s chock full of phenomenal information and debunks a lot of myths and fallacies with regards to female training.

          What worked for you, may not work for you……..but it’s NEVER a bad idea to start with the basics and progress accordingly. Hope that helps.

          It may not be a bad idea to hire a reputable personal trainer or strength coach to help guide her, too. If you let me know where you’re located I can put out a “feeler” to my network and see if I could find you one.

          • Lisa Lilge

            Great article and great site Tony! I am confused though why The New Rules of Lifting For Women would appear under a title: For those who just want solid information. It is clear from this post you just wrote that you think it is a great newbie program as everything you mention is included in the program in this book and you also recommend the book. However the way you shared it under that title gave the impression you were recommending it only for the “rules” and not the program. It’s a great book and program. There is a rapidly growing facebook group dedicated to it with over 4,000 members which says something about how popular it is even 7 years after it came out. I too highly recommend it especially to those new to lifting. Thanks again for this article and everything you share here. You, Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson and Christian Thibaudeau are my top 5 favourite experts!

  • This is a fantastic article. In the last year and 9 months I’ve gained 25 pounds of muscle and have never looked better.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Right on!

  • Hilary

    Amazing article. Thank you so much for this. She hit the nail on the head with every point. This was all I needed to finally take the plunge and learn how to power lift! Thanks, TG!

    • TonyGentilcore

      THis made my day. Anytime I can help convince a woman to start lifting heavy things is a win in my book. If you’re stuck as to where to start, I’d HIGHLY suggest some of Nia Shanks work (I linked to her Lift Like a Girl video series at the bottom of the blog). Even if you don’t go with that and decide to go on your own, keep me posted. I’d love to hear about your progress!

  • Elle

    Hi Sophia…Thanks for your response. I am asking you because she has asked me. I am concerned because it is concerning her and I am not sure what direction to point her in that would be most helpful.

    • Sophia Tripp

      Ok well now I feel bad. I’m used ro dealing with overbearing parents but that’s obviously not the case here. I would recommend having her read my article on dieting, huffpost.com/1200-calories. And then either have her follow one of the training plans Tony recommend in the addendum of this post.

  • iRoar

    Awesome! Women need to get on board with this first and start respecting each other’s choices. Whatever they may be. When women are united in mutual respect and encourage each other to reach their goals. Then… men will do the same.

  • Tom H

    Interestingly the unwanted advice runs both ways; as a man I’m constantly told ‘don’t get too muscular’ or ‘you’re looking skinny’. As humans we are predisposed or conditioned into having a sense of what we and others ‘should’ look like and many seem incapable of keeping this information to themselves.
    People are ‘concerned’ that others are dangerously thin, fat or even muscular.
    I guess that in an ideal world we would allow others to do as they see fit… unless it does actually become dangerous.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I’ve noticed this on my end too. I’ve had people comment “you’re getting too big,” or “looking lean dude!”………..and I just take them in stride. For the most part I don’t feel people have ill intentions when they say things like that, but you’re right: it can go both ways.

      • Stash

        On this note it irks me in particular when, as a man, I am told that I don’t have to cope with other people’s perceptions of how I should look or what shape my body should be. It’s portrayed strictly as a problem faced by women.
        From my personal experience it’s incredibly commonplace for women in particular to pass comment, pull disgusted faces and embark upon derisory conversations and air their opinions of you as if you’re not there if it’s discovered that you have hair on your back.
        It’s not that I have a particular axe to grind about my own bugbears but I find it offensive that body image is something that is so often explained as a problem faced by women and foisted upon them by men. Anyone falling on the wrong side of popular body image faces problems whether they are male or female and whichever gender you are we would all do well to remember that the problem is universal.

        • Sophia Tripp

          Hi Stash, I totally agree that body image problems are something that doesn’t discriminate among genders. However, I wanted to point out that (for the most part) my language in the post was mostly gender-neutral as well. I did this deliberately, because I know that women and men are equally guilty of telling women to not “bulk up”. So I definitely don’t think that I explained this as a problem “foisted upon [women] by men”, or that men are to blame. I also think it’s easy to fall into the trap of “women versus men”, as if we are opposing sides at war, whenever reading an article about issues that women face. I heavily drew upon personal experience when writing this, and unfortunately, my personal experience doesn’t include being a man, so I didn’t feel like I could authoritatively cover men’s body image as well as women’s. Thank you so much for your comment, because I am continuing to learn more every day about the male experience & perspective on these issues, and your input definitely gave me more insight.

  • Dunkman

    I agree with 90% of this article. The one nit I would pick is the idea that men discourage women from lifting or being strong to keep them obedient. It sort of helps set up an “us against them” idea that is psychological satisfying, but I don’t think rings true. Of course some individuals want to control the opposite sex, but as a rule I don’t think it’s that nefarious or sophisticated. My own read is that men in particular want women to be physically appealing to them, as if women’s most important role on earth was to please men. And very, very often women try hard to meet those expectations, whether it’s thin or “bootylicious” or “ripped”, or even how they dress. It’s probably a deeply seated, natural human instinct but one that we need to guard against allowing to dictate how women should dress or train or diet. That’s why it’s incredibly important for women like Sophia to encourage women to become what they want to be rather than what they think others expect them to.

  • Phedre

    Quit whining.

  • Charles Zuckerman

    Just re-posted this article on face book with the following intro. An interesting read and one which I mostly agree with. The one element that is overlooked is that, at least from my perspective, a woman who is healthy, self confident, and proud of who she is, will be attractive. Looks are not a goal, but a byproduct of achieving these other more inwardly focused goals. As a long time runner/biker and novice crossfitter I would argue physical strength, endurance, flexibility (which I lack) and balance breeds the body we want – male or female. It also provides the platform we need to achieve all our other professional, familial and personal goals.

    • Omardaslayer

      It’s not about being attractive. No one needs your approval.

      • Charles Zuckerman

        I may not have been clear but I wasn’t intending to imply that anyone needs anyone else’s approval. What I was trying to say was that attractiveness – male or female comes from within and is actually a byproduct of healthy self respect. Being healthy, happy and confident are the basis of attractiveness – not necessarily a prescribed body type or form.

      • mel

        Here’s the thing. I am a woman. I like to be attractive. I like makeup. I’m also intelligent (want to see my doctorate?) and I get a bit tired of being told that caring about how you appear is a bad thing or that I shouldn’t care. I am not basing my self esteem on it, but does it make me smile to hear someone say I look nice or hear my husband say I look hot? You better believe it. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

  • Lauri Bernard

    Thank you so much. You are singing my song. I competed in an amateur body building contest 5 years ago. Even now people are either “Oh you have let yourself go” or worse “You do not want to get any bigger”. It was 4 long years to build up my muscle. Therefore I am in no way “shape” or form going to stop bucking the social confines for what is healthy and happy for women. I owe it to myself, my daughter & her friends and my clients to forge my body with heavy iron as long as I shall live. Those that are going to try to hold me down with their comments need to remember the phrase… “If you do not have anything nice to say then do not say anything at all.”

  • First I’ll admit I did not read this entire post.

    If a woman wants to get bulked up and ripped, I say good for her. I respect that. I admire it. I think it is fantastic. I believe it is healthy and smart. I am also not attracted to it. I’m sorry, I’m just not.

    I am equally as unattracted to women who are super-skinny.

    I believe that the media is incredibly unhealthy, depicting an unrealistic “perfect body”. I am not sure what “perfect” really is. I am not sure that there is a “perfect”.

    All that said, women should strive to be who they want to be. And while I imagine it is hard, try to ignore what they see on TV. Just be them. No matter what the body-type there are men out there who are attracted to it. Women who are comfortable with who they are, or are striving to be what they personally want to be makes them the most attractive.

    • Dana Fredsti

      Scott, one of the points made in the article is that it’s a fallacy that all women who do heavy lifting are going get bulked up and “ripped.” Of the reasons I didn’t lift for so long is because I didn’t want that body type, and this fallacy stops a lot of women from doing something that’s incredibly good for us physically, mentally and emotionally. So while I applaud your sentiments in the last two paragraphs of your comment, I would urge you to read the entire article and help dispel the whole ‘if you lift more than five pounds, you’re gonna get all big and hulky and eeeuww, not sexy!’ 🙂

    • Omardaslayer

      Read the article. It answers a lot of these points. 1) they don’t give two damns about what you, or I or anyone else thinks is attractive. 2) You know how hard it is as a guy to bulk up? It’s even harder for women. 3) There is no ‘perfect’ body. There are bodies. It’s that simple, and they don’t need you or me to comment on them.

      Just read it.

    • Sophia Tripp

      Do you also participate in movie discussion forums without watching the entire movie first?

  • Melissa DiLeonardo

    AMAZING! Brava!

  • Pam S.

    Love the article… as a woman of a different time (Im 70) I must state the obvious…. body image has a strong link to history… we came from cultures that historically treat women as chattel or as political barter… It will take a long time to reverse the effect of that mindset…. we still have remnants of this barbaric treatment today in social and religious institutions.
    I have done weight training in the past because it made me feel good. My daughter likes to defy gravity and lift big. Great Im proud of her. But personally I ran into several problems. At the time I was lifting, I liked to use machines but found that machines were far more dangerous to my health because they were designed for larger frames (men) than mine. Im just 5 ft tall. The spacing, the position of the pivots etc, put far too much stress on my joints. Im hoping that this has improved for the younger generation of strong women.
    I eventually also gave up (with joy I might add) the wearing of makeup because it made my skin unhealthy. I think this is a major factor behind my not looking 70. I also do not wear shoes that are very uncomfortable such as high heels or pointy toes…. mainly because they were causing stress fractures but also because they were so uncomfortable. My intent was not to buck the norm, tho I believe it did. My point in saying this is that we still do a lot of things that are connected to those historical societies and the treatment of women. Ive never been one in the mainstream and ultimately came to see myself as very independent and a moderate feminist because people have a need to attach labels on the people they encounter. I really wish I had encountered other stong women at the time I was lifting but I didnt. I wish I had encountered a trainer that didnt treat me as he would a man. But I didnt.
    So keep up the good work and spreading the word that strong women are beautiful and bold, healthy, and a whole lot of other adjectives…. (Sorry guys, you also have your own set of deamons to deal with… this was aimed at the ladies.)

  • Kate Bachus

    About a million times YES possibly more, let’s just round up and say two million. The psychological implications of the damning of women trying to be strong for the sake of strength are huge. I wrote about them here, and how those implications hurt me seriously when I was trying to become a firefighter: http://katebachus.com/2012/03/02/zomg-the-bulk-27/

    Also back when I wrote that article my deadlift was I think something like 165; it’s 285 now, and growing. 😉

  • fredrik

    I found this extremely enjoyable to read! It was a great article and you provided great information and opinions. You seem to have everything together and it also seems like you have a healthy view upon the subject. Great article! I need to refer this to some of my friends.

    //Fredrik
    http://learnyourmind.com/

  • Marilyn Wright

    Oddly enough I started weight training in 1978, very few people have suggested I watch getting overly muscular. I’ve been lucky; most times I’ve lifted more than 50% of the men in the gym. I have had people, men and women, stop to watch my workout because of the muscular definition. Admiration is one of the best compliments you can give to someone willing to work for what they want. Weightlifting women are working for what they want; strength, capability, independence and the endorphins.

  • Marilyn Wright

    oops, now that I’ve read the comments by others, I think I completely missed the point of the article. I thought we were talking about weightlifting. Everyone else is talking about being physically appealing. If you want to appeal to others, you might consider self-improvement articles. If you want to feel good mentally (think an oxygenated brain and endorphins) and physically (think about a good sweat that comes with working hard), then let’s talk workouts.
    As a single mom, I needed the strength to fix things around the house, move furniture and carry large children (they were both larger than me by the time they were 12). That is what kept me working out through my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. All the workouts pay off in dividends when you are older due to muscle tone. You recover faster from surgeries. Low bodyfat helps doctors do their job because there is less fat to wade through getting to their surgical objective. I have had several doctors comment on how much low body fat helps them do a better job. Weightlifting and moderate weight is just common sense for both men and women.

    • TonyGentilcore

      No, you were original thought was correct. I just feel some people missed the point themselves and decided to take things in another direction.

  • Michael

    “Women who lift weights have already eschewed social norms by touching iron in the first place, and I guarantee they give negative fucks about your opinions on their bodies.”

    Except…..the entire REST of your article proves that you do, in fact, give MANY fucks about other people’s opinion on your body.

    • Kate Bachus

      No. Caring about what other people think about my body is not at all the same thing as being irritated as fuark that society thinks it has to chime in. When you come to my house and say “geez, why don’t you pick up the place?” that means you are rude for having BS opinions about someone else’s house. I’m going to be annoyed at your rudeness, not taking to heart that my house is a mess.

      Two entirely different things.

      Sexism wouldn’t stop existing if I failed to be pissed off by it. See?

  • Craig

    I agree with everything you say up to the point where you say that men are never told to change themselves physically. As a thin guy myself I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to “put meat on your bones” or “you look like a pole” and similar comments. In a world where a guy is often judged by how muscular he is, this still affects me to this day. Specifically my self esteem has suffered, causing me to feel inadequate and often useless. I hate when women make claims that men have it easy like being a male is a walk in the park. I understand women have issues as well, I’m not denying that or belittling any of your problems, but trying to say that men don’t have any either is just ridiculous.

    • Sophia Tripp

      Hi Craig. I just wanted to clarify, I was definitely not arguing that men don’t face body criticism, or that it’s not equally hurtful for men, or that men have it easier. And it’s not a competition over who has it worse! However, I think that maybe you were quick to flare up, as all I wrote “men, for the most part, do not have to entertain this type of ‘well-intentioned’ advice” (the phrase “for the most part” was included deliberately). I am truly sorry that other people’s comments have affected your self-esteem negatively, but I think that that puts us in total agreement! You know exactly where I’m coming from when I say that it’s inappropriate, meddlesome, and hurtful to tell people what to do with their bodies.

      A last note – obviously I am not a man so I don’t know what kind of commentary men get, and to what frequency it occurs. I originally took inspiration to write about respect for female body autonomy after reading this article about women who feel like they can’t eat in public without inviting unwanted comments. Once again, I don’t know if this is something that men deal with too, but I recommend you read it too! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/23/public-food-shaming-women_n_5604185.html

  • GREAT post!! We struggle with potential clients coming in with these concerns!! I will be using this post the help educate and train people on the Facts.

    Dwayne Wimmer
    Owner
    Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio

  • Retroman000

    Gotta say, I really enjoyed reading this. I am a little confused, though, because at one point she writes that she could of benefited from someone telling her not to get too thin, yet later on writes that women shouldn’t be told what to do with their bodies, and that includes skinny women.

  • Stephanie Rivera

    Thank you! Your words are spot on!

  • David Stegbauer

    Well said.

  • Liz

    GREAT article!!!! Lots of Love!

  • shwop

    but…but I like cardio D: can’t an acrobat love cardio???

    • Sophia Tripp

      there’s nothing wrong with liking cardio! the problem arises when cardio is touted as the ONLY way to get the body you want.

      for example, if we told half the population the only way to get a nice bod is to eat brussel sprouts and nothing else, there will be some people who are quite happy with eating brussel sprouts for the rest of their lives, and there will be some people who will be miserable eating brussel sprouts for the rest of their lives.

      either way, i think we can all agree that eating nothing but brussel sprouts is not the best way to get an ideal body, in the same way that doing nothing but cardio is not the best way to get an ideal body.

  • MCM

    I can certainly relate to this article, as I heard this many times myself. A couple other things I’d like to add…1. I have seen many women who in my opinion, are “too muscular” and have lost a “feminine look” due to their weight training. However, women who train to the point of being “too muscular” worked very hard and very long to look like that. In other words, they WANT to look like that. It didn’t just happen because they accidentally lifted too heavy a weight. (perhaps some also have taken performance enhancing drugs) So if I see a woman who looks to me, “too muscular,” I have to respect the fact that she worked very hard and looks the way she WANTS to. Who am I (or we) to judge otherwise. 2. I have to disagree with the statistics about politicians regulating men and women’s bodies. The legislation to change the size of people’s bodies has been gender neutral. To address childhood obesity, the school lunch program has been overhauled, and applies to both male and female students, not just female. Legislation (CA) to stop fast food restaurants from putting toys in their kids meals applies to both male and female children, not just female. Also, the sugary drink tax NY tried to implement apples to all NY residents, not just female. Lastly, the ban of over-sized sugary drinks in NY City apples to all NY residents, not just female. Attempts have been made to change the size of people’s bodies, but the legislation is in attempt to improve the health of residents, not necessarily to change their aesthetics. Reproductive rights, well that is a completely different topic that doesn’t pertain to this issue regarding weight training.

  • Lokui Veli

    Wow this deserves a standing ovation, one of the best articles I’ve ever read!

  • Emily Robinson

    I love this article. It hits at the deeper point of everyone needing to have autonomy over their body. I have been lifting weights for a year and have been lucky enough to only get positive re-enforcement from everyone in my life. I love lifting weights. It makes me not only stronger, but better at my chosen profession (opera singer). It makes me feel better about myself and in the end that’s the only thing that matters. No one should take away a person’s feeling of self-worth because they don’t agree with one choice in their life; the way they look.

  • Tobey

    Great article, I know I have heard it way too many times from women I’ve told they should give weight training a try, “I don’t want to get too bulky”. I then go to explain what happens when you lifts weights but even I was uneducated about what weight training did for the body too so I definitely understand why others say comments like that.

    Just one point I would like to make, males are not completely immune to being scrutinised for the way their bodies look. I myself used to be quite skinny due to a combination of unhealthy eating habits, a fast metabolism and limited exercise during the week. I had been told on multiple occasions I had a stick body or stick arms and I know that overweight males also cop a fair amount of abuse from others too as one of my friends was overweight and I heard all the horrible stories from him.

    I think what needs to happen within society is that we need to break down all the stereotypes and start promoting an actual healthy lifestyle, not that we should be a certain weight or that we should be a certain size or a certain body shape but that we should be eating healthy, nutritious foods, that we should be more active and engage it physical activities somewhat frequently during the week. Mostly though what I think should be promoted is MODERATION, in these types of arguments people always tend to go to the extremes when we really just need to be real with ourselves.

    Well that’s my 2 cents and once again great article, I hope one day everyone will see the light and lift weights!

  • Helen Costa

    Arrghh!! Don’t get me started on the “don’t get too muscular” . People are so stupid when it comes muscle and weight training. They have no idea how difficult it is for women to gain a lot of muscle without steroids, it’s even hard for a lot of guys too. I train for both aesthetics and performance especially upper body strength – push ups, chin ups etc. I want to build more muscle, particularly on my legs. I train legs 3 times a week with grueling high volume workouts and the results are painfully slow. I have specific goal on the type of physique I want. If certain types of men don’t find my physique attractive that’s fine because I don’t find those types of men attractive either, no loss there on my part. As long as I am happy when I look in the mirror, that’s what counts!

  • Adam

    “Three generations of women who have been more focused on losing weight than running for government. Three generations of women have would rather be thin than intelligent. Three generations of women that would rather let the men-folk open jars for them, rather than develop the strength to open jars for themselves.” – Really? Because there are not more women in college now then men?

    Parts of this article I like, other parts are just false.

    1. see above

    2. IF a stranger is telling you anything about your body I have to ask, where the hell do you live? I have never seen or heard of a stranger commenting to a woman on her body. Now, if it is someone you know, that reflects on you. Find better friends or explain why that is crazy rude. This also seems like something that would come from a female friend and not a man. As I would have said in the 90’s “Thems fightin words” OK, maybe 80’s.

    3. At one point the author says “and I guarantee they give negative fucks about your opinions on their bodies.” Of course they care, everyone does. On some level, everyone cares what other people think. If not, this article would not have been written.

    4. I may have totally missed the target of this article. “Which brings me full circle to my anecdote in the beginning, about the first time someone interrupted my squat-excitement to not-so-helpfully remind me to avoid bulky she-man status.” I think she is talking to the 3 or 4 people at each gym that are the “I like to look at myself in the mirror because I am so hot” people. The author really sounds like she is bashing all men for doing this. I think most people are going to get the impression that this happens all the time and that it is somehow the “norm”.

    Just a little story to finish. My friend and I started working out about a 8 months ago. I invited my wife to come with us as I thought it would be some good quality time. When we started she said. “I don’t really want to lift weights because I don’t want to get big.” She was scared that lifting weights was going to make her look like a she-man. Well she has been lifting for months and looks great and feels great. Just thought that was fitting as she was under the impression that touching weights was going to make her look like a body builder.

  • JLynn Smith

    GOOOD LORD I hate when people say “don’t get too big” to women I am training. The time I spend talking them down from the ledge of hour long treadmilling is time I could better spend making them lift heavy things and getting leaner..grrrrrrrrr

  • Monique Bartlett

    I totally agree with this article. As a woman who is not afraid to lift weights and actually prefers it, I also have been told not to get too muscular. I had a boyfriend who broke up with me because I had better muscle definition than him. I too work out for me and not for anyone else and if there are haters, let them hate. I’m not interested in looking like a man, I’m just interested in looking good, feeling great and liking what I see in the mirror.

  • Kelvin

    I don’t really mind women who strength train, in fact i admire them. Women who look too muscular don’t bother me either, except when these same women whine that no guy wants to date them. It’s a fact, no man would want to date a woman who looks more manly than him. You can blame the fragile male ego or whatever, but the fact remains that men are attracted to feminine types. If they are attracted to masculine types then why not turn gay altogether. Women who overdose on gear are on a whole other level. If your face looks like a grotesque man, do you honestly expect anyone to fall for you?

    • Dan_Neufeld

      “It’s a fact, no man would want to date a woman who looks more manly than him.”

      I’ve met more than a few very defined women that, had I not been in a relationship, I would be happy to date.

      “If they are attracted to masculine types then why not turn gay altogether.”

      Sexual orientation has nothing to do with body shape.

      • TonyGentilcore

        “Sexual orientation has nothing to do with body shape.”

        Thank you for saying that Dan.

  • Kelvin

    so what i’m saying is, strength train all you want. be all muscular and overdose on gear if that’s what you want, all for empowerment, for gaining confidence, for feeling good about yourself. but don’t complain about not getting dates or being single because you won’t get an iota of sympathy from anyone. (btw, this is not directed toward the author, but to many females i know from the gym who bulk up and then complain that no one asks them out)

  • Jenny Northrod

    I’ve been told to not get too thin but, I’ve found that men who respect women, respect them in the weight room as well 🙂 I’ve been asked many times, by men, about my circuits and how much I’m lifting, usually followed by “damn”! LOL!

  • Julia @metalandmettle.com

    When I first lost the extra weight I had hanging around for a few years, I was thrilled to be “skinny” and I was a cardio queen! I would elliptical away hours at a time and I was so happy that my formally embarrassing upper arms were finally thin and I could bare them in a tank top. Fast forward a few years and I started picking up dumbbells and enjoyed getting incrementally stronger every few weeks and wish my triceps and biceps would get bigger already! ha So, yes, I wish it was easier to get “bulky” but I am enjoying the journey and cardio has taken a backseat to strength training. Now, I only need my husband to reach the stuff on the high shelf not open my jars.
    *on another note, when I met my husband I was 115lbs and he thought I was a tad too skinny. Now I weigh 125lbs with some extra muscle in the trunk and he thinks I look great.
    Once, my husband expressed concern that I might try to get too muscular but one eye roll from me shut him up.

  • Marilyn Wright

    BTW, may I remind folks who are thinking of the female body builders: They intentionally lose body fat in the 4 to 6 wks leading up to their competition. For a women to acquire their definition, you must get below 15% body fat. Outside of competition, female body builders look feminine as they carry 18 to 20% body fat. The average woman over 20 years old is targeting 20 to 22%. Due to the muscle oxygenation required, everyone lifting lots of weight in the gym, looks muscular.

  • Marilyn Wright

    To Elle who was following up on recommendations for her female teenager, I have a few recommendations
    1. Help avoid the build up of scar tissue. Focus on massaging the damaged muscles and joints to encourage retention of flexibility.
    2. Assign a similar priority to the small muscles as the standard larger muscles. The smaller muscles stabilize the larger muscle groups. The smaller muscles help to prevent injury.
    3. All teenagers mature (physically) at different rates. This means that bones harden at different rates and joints are prepared for physical impact at different rates. Your daughter will need to gauge her running and/or strength training based on pain. Anything other than minor discomfort during the workout is a sign she should wait or focus on lighter workouts until her bones, muscles and joints tell her they are ready. Soreness felt 1 to 2 days after the workouts are normal. Soreness 3 days after a workout is not normal for a teenager.
    4. Swimming is always a good exercise when recovering from an injury.
    5. Swimming does not encourage fat burning. And as mentioned throughout these comments, running does not promote weight loss. Generally running increases your appetite to match the calories burned. If any weightloss is desired, then weightlifting is your best choice as it burns calories after the workout.

  • Love, this.. and shared over on my Facebook fan page @fb.com/winetoweightlifting as it shares a very similar message with what I blog about at winetoweightlifting.com.

    I started using NROLFW two years ago after my boyfriend of the time sent me an article of a girl that used the term “skinny fat” and her side-by-side comparison of her pre-lifting vs lifting. I wanted to be her “after” picture.

    I have never been more confident, more comfortable, nor more proud of my accomplishments and how my body looks, all credited to heavy lifting. Sitting at 5’7, 135# I am far from “bulky” or “too muscular” and heck, I wish it was easier to get some bigger shoulders!

    I hope more women realize this, that the key is to build muscle, therefore you will burn more fat sitting down rather than having to spend endless hours of cardio.

    Thank you for the great post! 🙂

    • TonyGentilcore

      That’s fantastic Jennifer. Thanks for sharing!

  • This is amazing. Since I’ve started getting fit I’ve been told ‘don’t get too thin’, ‘don’t get too bulky’ and ‘don’t lose your curves’. You know what, I’ll do what I damn well want.

  • nitpicker but not really

    too bad a lot of strength training material directed at women portrays the ideal body as “looks good posing like a fitness model in a sports bra.” wtf.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Fair point. But no where in the article was that alluded to.

  • CAN

    This article needs to be made into a theme song that I would have playing constantly. Bravo to the women that are lifting for themselves, and to the men and women that support them. Let’s start a strength revolution. #liftlikeagirl #strongisthenewskinny

  • EE

    I am a guy who is almost exclusively attracted to fit women. For a long time I felt terrible about myself because I thought something was wrong with me. I am working on accepting myself, but I have absorbed too much of the negative ideas society has about men and women, and how us guys are supposed to be strong leaders and the women are supposed to be submissive followers, and I don’t see an end to this for a while. I have no desire for a traditional relationship, and I find it patronizing that people think you should desire that in order to be considered normal. I am now 26, still a virgin, and see no end in sight for my problems. In a cruel twist of fate, it seems that athletic women are the most picky of all, and for a guy (me) who is shy and inexperienced, well, I just don’t have a chance.

  • Jamie

    Good article. One suggestion, to prop up one group doesn’t necessitate making trans people the example of what not to look like. I’m referring to the butt of the joke She-Man example. It’s horribly reductionist as well.

  • Shelley

    I have one problem with this article, at the end it feels like you are attacking men for making such comments. Interestingly enough, the only people who have ever warned me about getting too bulky have been women. My experience has been that 99.9% of the negative comments relating to body shape, size, etc. that I have received have come from women. I have a hard time coming up with any negative or discouraging comments from men (and I grew up surrounded by brothers and their friends). Now negative comments made by my mom, aunts, grandmothers, sister in laws, female friends, female enemies – too many to count. My experience has been that in general men are very appreciative of the female form in all its variations. It was men who encouraged me to get off the cardio train and lift weights, men who were incredibly supportive and helpful when I started lifting and was insecure. The men at the gym where I work out are nothing but positive, encouraging, and respectful. I know I’m not the only woman who has experienced this. Maybe it time women started taking responsibility for how we judge and discourage one another instead of blaming men. So while I guess I agree with the beginning of your article, I really wish you had held women accountable.

  • David

    I agree with most of what this article has to say. What I disagree with is where it says that people tell women not to get too muscular because it’s a sign of female disobedience or whatever. People tell men not to get too muscular too. A lot of women have told me they like guys who are “not too muscular.” Men are naturally more muscular than women on average, so it makes sense that “too muscular” means different things for men and women (from the perspective of whoever’s saying it). So I don’t think the whole thing is solely based on a cultural norm of female obedience. It’s just what people happen to find attractive in this culture, at this time, in both genders.

  • Deb

    Don’t forget one of the earliest (and best) resources on the internet for women who want to start lifting – http://www.stumptuous.com/. Krista Scott-Dixon & I have known each other since the days of usenet’s misc.fitness.weights (over 20 years ago), & she’s now one of the most respected and down-to-earth authorities on women lifting, from both practical & sociological standpoints.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I know Krista’s work very well Deb. Thanks for reminding others of her FANTASTIC work.

  • Bjossa

    Thank you SO much for this! I’ve been healing from an illness and have really wanted to start strength training, but can’t do a gym membership yet as my health is still quite a rollercoaster. I don’t want to shell out for a month I cannot use, and the beginning workouts at gyms are still too much for me – I’m more in a rehab situation right now. I’ve been really stuck on what to do at home, on my own, with limited equipment. I just downloaded the Lean & Lovely program and am ordering my first kettlebell thanks to this post. I’m really excited to rehab, get stronger and move onto the other recommendations you list and eventually being well enough to even *attempt* going to a strength and conditioning gym.

  • Dan

    “When women strength train, it is an act of borderline social disobedience. “Don’t get too muscular” is the phrase of choice used by people who are threatened by strong women to put them “back in their place”.”

    Urghhhh. Oh my god. No. No one cares if women are ‘obedient’. Thin is sexually attractive. Get over it. It’s sexual selection. We are a dimorphic species and thin women are more attractive than muscular women. How can you people live in a world where you think everything men do is about oppressing women? No. One. Cares.

    • Eric Border

      Lol, take a biology class.

    • Dan_Neufeld

      I know more than a few men that find muscular women attractive. I also know more than a few men who find not-thin women attractive.

  • Debbie

    Well she’s a feminist haha

    • TonyGentilcore

      Ya think?…..;o)

  • Lilly

    man, was this easy to relate to. i also lived with eating disorders for 7 years… being very very thin without any muscles at all. and now i’m into competitive sports since 2,5 years and been weightlifting for 9 months (crossfit). my goal is to reach a solid base of strength and fitness. what can i say, it is the best feeling ever to push your limits and consequently perform better in whatever task it may be and see and FEEL such progress… but it’s such a long journey if you start from scratch or even negative/minus because of the pshyical abuse you caused your body with eating disorders/dieting. the past 2,5 years i’ve actively been trying to add weight (because it’s a plus in my sport to be solid)- both muscle weight and “food weight”… my bf would comment positively on my body when i was my thinnest, he’d say i was ‘cute’ and like the fact that i was ‘petite’. today i can squat more than my body weight, which is 20 kg more now than at my thinnest, and he still comments positively on my body- instead of being cute he thinks i look sexy and hot now!! (which is very true;)) what if more people would tell YOUNG women this– eat as fucking much as you want to and train hard, lift heavy and you’ll transform into a confident happy beautiful hotness- it’s not a lie!! end of story

  • Ryan

    Everyone hating and biting each other with spiteful comments!! Whatever happened to spreading love and kindness in the world??!! I am sorry about striking a discordant note about this article but I find it teeming with rage and vengeance and all sorts of pent up negative emotions. Even if someone tells you something that you dont want to hear (which happens to all of us all the time!) why do you have to allow it to bother/ irritate/ affect/ upset you so much? Why cant you just brush it off with a sweet smile?? Let the dogs bark. Real strength lies in being able to hold together one’s mind and emotions not just pump iron and lift weights.

  • Caffe

    Thanks for continuing to raise awareness! Many years ago, I was told – BY A PHYSICIAN- I couldn’t lift weight and have children (I was training to be a firefighter). Twenty five years later, I’ve retired from the fire service and I have two amazing, beautiful grown children. Too bad that doc wasted his time learning the wrong stuff!!

  • Anastasia646

    I love this article for so many reasons! Mostly what speaks to me is about women’s body autonomy – and women’s autonomy, period! But serious question and this is like, I know people will want to hate on me for even saying so, but I don’t know what to do with my hair when I lift. Okay, if you’re still reading, it’s a real struggle because it is very long and there is almost nothing I can do with it to get it entirely out of the way. This dilemma being further aggravated by an incident with two dudes yesterday camping out on each of the two regular squat racks, (“No, thank you, I prefer not to use the Smith machine”), so I was trying to warm up with jump squats, and combo sets of 20 reps close-stance squats and deads with the lighter straight bars, hoping of course that after 2-3 sets they would have moved on with their workouts. No such luck and now I’m like wrestling with this fairly heavy straight bar getting it back on the tower and up over my head with this stupid bun in the way and just miserable. Thankfully, some kind 62-yr old badass dude showed me the cage rack that was over there unused and I was like Heeeyy!! (only after first saying under his breath he thought it was time someone got off the floor, but I was like, actually I would love to be using the squat rack but they are both currently, “occupado”), and managed to finish of a decent 5th set while those jerkoffs were still sitting there playing around on their cellphones. I just can’t. So I’m thinking maybe I’ll try two long braids? But then I’m going to look/feel like a pippy longstocking. 😛 Whatevs. I don’t want to have to chop it off. I just want to be able to get it out of my way and not have it interfere with my workouts.

    • Anastasia646

      Basically…

  • My philosophy has always been “the more muscle the better” (as long as you don’t compromise your health to get it), and I don’t see ANY reason why that shouldn’t apply to women and men alike.

    I’m sharing this and it was incredily difficult to find a lead quote because practically every line is quote worthy. (BTW, the twitter share buttons seems to be broken. Had to share manually.)

  • Victoria Taylor

    This was a great article. If you’re worried about me getting too muscular because I lift weights, maybe you need to take a look at yourself and step up your own game. Lifting weights has completely changed me, not only physically (I’ve lost over 60 lbs), but also mentally; I have this confidence about myself that I never had before. And just going into the gym and lifting heavy a** weights makes me happy; I can also deadliest 2x my bodyweight so please, try and stop me from doing what I love.

  • Dang, sorry I missed this one the first time around. Excellent writing, and solid points all around. Tony, you knew cool people live here in seattle. When are you going to get out here? I’ll put some pork in the smoker.. just sayin.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I do need to get out to Seattle soon! Maybe you can help me organize a weekend workshop???……;o)

  • I wish I could have had this article to show my daughters when they were teenagers. There are a lot of gems for women (and a few for men) in this awesome post. I am pleased my exercise instructor daughter shared it. She encourages many women grab hold of the iron.

  • Big Ben

    A lot of young women are replacing one disorder for another. Women obsessed with getting a vile looking 8 pack. Absurd.

  • Reverend Veritas

    Okay, they’re getting buff because they want to do it for themselves (while many others get fit just to be what they’d consider physically attractive to others) but when we’re talking about the larger issue of the sexual paradigm in society that’s driven by our primitive instincts, then as a somewhat typical male I’m just not physically attracted to what I’d consider masculine qualities like big, ripped muscles.

    Humans and many other animals are a sexually dimorphic species, and as such we seek the opposite physical qualities in a mate that differ from our own for many reasons. One of them being a subconscious need for genetic diversity which is a useful, natural drive for keeping the gene pool from becoming stagnant. That’s why a man with straight blonde hair may find himself more physically attracted toward women with curly dark hair.

    Personally I like my women to be smooth, supple and curvaceous, and I’m not against a big girl with some meat on her bones because I love me some wiggle and wobble, but if I can see most all of her ribs, clearly defined vertebrae, and vascular muscles with bulging veins on a woman then my instinct-driven mind does not associate that with sexual attraction, so I don’t find it appealing and I’m sure the majority of men would agree.

    Again let me reiterate that I understand these women want to buff up for themselves and not for the sake of pleasing others, and just as they don’t care if I think they overdid it to the point that their breasts look like two old, shriveled orange halves resting on pecs like over-inflated air mattresses, I too don’t care if they want to look like that because I don’t expect everyone to conform to my subjective sense of beauty.

    I’m not here to judge, just to offer insight into the male mind when it comes to sexual dimorphism and the evolution of the sexes.

  • This is such a great article! Seriously! I don’t see any problem with body image of women lifting weights. Being manly or muscular? It’s an asset you know!

    • David Powers

      90% of men would NOT like a body building woman would you want a woman whose arms are larger than your waist?

  • Trump2016BallersOnly

    Its all bullshit. It has nothing to do with anything other than the sole fact that statistically speaking, a majority of men do not want to be with women who look like body builders. That is the only reason and you can go do whatever you want but you’re going to have a more difficult time finding a man.

  • Bob Loblaw

    People should build also some emotional strength. That’s great that one can lift whatever weights one may can, but one should also be able to emotionally withstand people exposing and “promoting” their own or common aesthetic preferences. “Even women”, it shouldn’t be needed to say, but apparently it is. It’s not rare for women also to say that they’re not into huge, Schwarzenegger-style musculature (actually helping those who actually think that’s going to help them find love, and/or sex), and yet it will be much more rare to stumble with internet articles whining that women shouldn’t hurt male bodybuilder’s feelings like that.

    The same goes for fat-acceptance thing, “let’s pretend fat is fit because the truth hurts my feelings”. Which also seems to be more of a female thing, in this new, twisted new pseudo “feminism” that instead of promoting an inner strength, is more of a cult of self-pity, ironically saying that everyone should have special care with fragile creatures who, in generations past, fought to be legally and morally considered equals. That’s not exclusively a pseudo-“feminist” thing, by any means, anyways. “MRA” is just the same, and half of whatever people post on tumblr, whatever their gender or new kinds of gender-type-things they feel they are.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Oh, my god, the body regulation “graph”. For starters, that’s totally unrelated with body fat or muscle. It’s actually about abortion, which, even though I’m “for” it, “pro-choice”, the honest take on that is that in the conservatives’ (which I’m not) point of view they’re speaking for the rights of unborn “babies”, which they’ll consider basically existing during the whole gestation. Spinning it on “controlling women” is just an willful effort in limiting one’s own empathy and intellectual comprehension of the other side.

    Second, I wonder how a similar logic of “government ruling bodies” per gender counting would fare taking into account US military interventions. But men are just killing machines anyway.

  • Bob Loblaw

    (disposable killing machines, that is)