The majority of ladies I know want to ‘tone up’ and insist that their previous methods; cutting their food consumption and running a whole lot more is their tool of the trade. I also know straight away that a desire to ‘tone up’ means they are scared of weights.

The only problem with ‘toning up’ is that it requires women to weight train, a notion that unleashes a tirade of excuses as to why using weights will make them HUGE!

Let me tell you- I have been going hard on weights for a little over a year and have only shrunk (albeit not massively as I am a small person) and gained enormous confidence with my bodies capabilities – a sense of confidence that could never have been found running for miles or attending back to back spin classes.

Not only has lifting HEAVY weights affected my day-to-day activities (hello being able to carry home ALL my groceries without a car) but the increased muscle mass means I burn more even at rest. (And subsequently have to eat more…oh the pain!)

And the best way for women to weight train?

Like a man.

Lifting light weights with lots of reps is a sure fire way to not see results.

Without massive amounts of testosterone, and an accompanying male appetite for food, women will only achieve that toned, cellulite-less physique they so constantly crave.

Don’t get me wrong, group classes are great for camaraderie and motivation but it will never beat heavy and intense weight training.

For me, weight training has affected my body, mind and spirit in 5 crucial ways:  (let me know your experience)

1. Creates tangible goals:

When ‘lifting weights’, exercise moves beyond the realms of aesthetic goals and touches upon the desire to outdo our last efforts. Writing and tracking our progression of strength allows us to see how far we have come, the results we have achieved and creates a massive sense of pride and reward. In a competitive world, being able to feel accomplished with your own personal pursuits is so imperative for mental health!

2. I get to be part of the bro club at the gym.

Which is dam intimidating but so satisfying once you start to blend in with the crowd. Furthermore, training with weights enters you into a wonderful community. Just like when my dad, a proud panel van driver, drives past a fellow sandman and toots his horn, so to can you feel part of something and connect with strangers. And given our propensity to live our friendships online who doesn’t love a good bit of social interaction with a random.

3. It is proven to boost your self esteem. 

There are quite a few studies that show how a weight training program can help those with eating disorders normalize their eating patterns and in doing so, gain confidence in their ability to ‘let go’ of food anxieties.

4. Weight training requires patience. And being part of a generation who wants change yesterday, cultivating a realisation that change doesn’t happen overnight and requires hard work is vital in reinvigorating a more realistic mindset on achieving goals.

5. It makes you smarter! There is quite a bit of research that demonstrates the correlations between exercise and mental cognition. The theory being that the increased blood flow to the brain enhances clarity and concentration.

So to all my female readers, and there are a few, start lifting heavy, stop running to shed fat and reap the benefits of stronger bones, a ‘toned’ tush and an astronomically faster metabolism.

..let me know what you guys thinks. Does the weights section scare you? Do you find you are addicted to the high that jogging/spin classes gives you?



  1. Great post, Holly! I have recently joined the gym (about 3 weeks ago) as a mission to get fit and tone up – and yes, I have only been doing light weights and cardio.

    Having been quite athletic in my younger days (I played a lot of competitive sport), I naturally have an athletic build. I’m not sure if it is just in my head, but I feel like I put on muscle quite easily and have a hard time “toning down”.
    This is why I have only stuck with light weights and cardio as yes, I am one of those people who avoids heavy weights as I don’t want to be “big”.

    Not too sure what to do! Maybe I ought to give the heavy weights thing a go!

    x April

  2. Hey Holly! Do weights help to tone up around your abdominal area as well?? If so do you have any exercises you would recommend??

  3. Great article!

    I LOVE strength training! And I am totally with you on this! Whist I enjoy my Zumba and dance classes, I feel a great sense of achievement when I can do 15 reps of push ups on my toes, single leg burpees and hold a plank longer than the day before!

    Strength is the new skinny 🙂

  4. Good article (as always), but at least three if not four of those five benefits of weight training could be equally applied to cardio. Running also creates tangible goals (distance/speed), makes me feel part of the gym community, and helps in my daily life (running late? Run there and arrive in half the time!). I know endless cardio is problematic, but mixed appropriately with other types of training, I freaking love the rush I get and the feeling that I am powerful, fit, strong, and have endurance. I imagine you feel this way about your weights? Why do I have to stop doing something that makes me feel amazing and through which I see tangible results?

    • At the end of the day, if it makes you feel good then go for it!

      Also, I know you manage to add restorative practices like yoga into your exercise ‘regime’ which is fantastic.

      My desire to write the article stemmed from the amount of time I see girls spend hours (and I mean back to back sessions) on treadmills in the hope they will drop body fat.
      Excessive cardio causes oxidative stress, increases free radicals and thus accelerates aging. This is fact. (Note: so too does living in a stressful city contribute to oxidative stress)
      When your body cannot fend off these excess free radicals (not enough antioxidants) it negatively affects your metabolism and your wellbeing.
      For people with adrenal stress (ergo most inner city slickers) excess cardio can be quite taxing. And stoking stressed adrenals by stressing out the body with a lengthy jog isn’t going to help your body chill the hell out! So while you may lose weight, you are losing muscle tone and not fat. Which is when you become ‘skinny fat’. (Think of the difference in body type between a marathon runner vs. a sprinter)
      For someone, like you, who has everything all sorted- then do whatever feels good. BUT for most girls looking to lose weight, cardio is of no help and you would get more bang for your buck with a 30 minute weights session! Also, cardio doesn’t give you muscles. Period. And I am swaying towards building healthy muscle tissue vs. skin and bone. 😉

  5. As an avid exercise junkie, I chop and change, can’t stick to one thing for too long but always, always revisit my past workout habits. Sometimes I worry about spending too much time exercising but it feels so good: a satisfying place that I can get lost in! At the moment I’m doing the Hamelin D’abell method (on DVD and his YouTube clips), which has really done wonders for my posture (and hunched up writer’s shoulders); I’ve also been a Tracey Anderson Method pupil (also on DVD) for about three years and adore the dance cardio and mat workout (but not her Meta program as it’s just not fun for me); however, I used to do weights and still have my bench and gear. I was only thinking about starting up again the other day, and now, after reading your valid and inspiring points, yes, I will! Thank you.

    Love from I-so-feel-like-a-rat-in-a-cage-when-running-on-my-treadmill Miche @

  6. Hi Holly,
    Great article – & great timing! I’ve recently become interested in weight training & this has been really helpful.
    I was wondering how heavy you would suggest for a novice? I can’t afford to join a gym so am looking into buying a few key items for a home practice. I already have 2kg dumbbells I’ve been using while doing a Jillian Michaels DVD, but I’m guessing they’re too light?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Sorry I took a while to get to this Tamara – I just wasn’t sure where to start!

      As for weight training. Be kind to yourself! 2KG is definitely too light – BUT if you can’t afford a gym than I suggest bodyweight exercises as your best form of resistance! (Very cheap too!)

      At home workouts will be vastly different to gym workouts. If you are after cheap and accessible workouts. Look up youtube. Things like Zuzka Light, TABATA training and Myomytv are fabulous and have REALLY challenging workouts that last 20 minutes. Perfect for anyone who complains of a lack of time.

      Good luck and let me know how you go with those youtube channels. They look deceivingly simple!


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