Don’t fear the free weights!

December 31st, 2008  |  Published in Exercise instruction  |  39 Comments


Remember that one of the big lies in the gym was that women should stick to machines and stay away from free weights? Related to that is the lie that one should “start out” on machines and then “graduate” to free weights. Well, here’s why it ain’t so, as well as why free weights are often better for women.

from big to small… or even teeny

Many people are concerned about starting with free weights and assume that machines are safer. Their idea of “free weights” involves scary giant barbells and scarier, even more giant dudes lifting them.

Take a look at the picture to the right. That is a 2.5 lb. plate, the smallest size plate (although you can often buy even lighter ones if you look around). That’s my hand, and I don’t have very big paws.

That’s a free weight.

Not so scary, is it? You can start with just holding that little plate for your resistance. Hell, you can even start with soup cans.

No matter what your strength level and ability, free weights will accommodate it. Simply add weight as you practice and progress.

maximum muscle group work

Machines are designed to move a weight along a prescribed track. In many ways they allow you to cheat by helping you keep the movement along a certain arc. With free weights, more weird little muscles are engaged just to help you keep the thing going the way it should. Thus your overall use of your muscles is optimized, since we know that exercises which use compound muscle groups are the best for overall strength building.

stability and balance

A corollary of maximum muscle use, free weights build stability and balance in a way that machines cannot. Just trying to stand upright with, say, a squat bar across your neck requires your body to learn how not to tip over. The body’s muscles are engaged to a greater extent than they would be if you were standing under a machine which supported the bar for you. And you cannot learn this stability from a machine. In the case of muscles, they learn by doing.

You’ll often hear people talk about “stabilizer muscles” as if there’s a certain group of muscles that’s special. Stabilizer muscles are just muscles that act to provide stability during a movement. So, for example, when you squat, your leg muscles are the prime movers, but other parts are helping to execute the movement: calf and foot muscles are making sure your feet stay planted, torso muscles are making sure you don’t fold up like a wet noodle under the bar, back muscles are pulling shoulder blades back to make the shelf where the bar sits, throat muscles are helping to make that grunting sound like a bulldog burping up a bean burrito, etc. But when you do a standing shoulder press, your leg muscles become stabilizers as they work to hold you upright.


Being a short woman (5’0″), one of the major problems I encounter with a machine is that it simply cannot accommodate me. Shoulder pads hover around my ears, bars lie coyly just out of the reach of my stumpy arms, pulldown bars swing teasingly over my attempts to jump up to reach them (that was before I smartened up and stood on the seat). When I first began to squat, I thought I’d start on the machine, since I was a little timid about approaching the squat cage. To my surprise and annoyance I was too small for the machine, and my arms were not long enough to reach the release handle. I flailed about for a while and realized I’d have to face the dreaded cage. I did it and never looked back.

The moral of the story is this: free weights see no height. I can lift a dumbbell as high as I want or bring it down as low as I want. It doesn’t care. Machines, on the other hand, are designed so that an average person (read: man) can use them. Women are shorter than men on average, so it stands to reason that a lot of us wee women are going to be uncomfortable using many machines that just don’t want to accommodate us no matter how far down we lower the seat. Thus free weights are the ideal choice for doing many exercises comfortably and properly.

natural movement

Machines are pretty stingy with what they allow you to do. As I mentioned, the purpose of a machine is to allow you to move a weight along a pre-defined track. For many people, especially shorter women, the prescribed movement is not natural, and can in fact lead to injury. But free weights not only allow you to do the movement in a way that is natural to you, they also allow for slight variations in the exercise which many machines do not. In addition, many machines, such as the bench press machine, begin the movement when the body is in its most vulnerable position. On a bench press machine, the movement starts with the shoulder joint in a stretched position, its weakest point. In comparison, the bench press with a bar or dumbbells begins the movement at “lockout”, or with straightened arms. The trainee can then choose to use as much or as little range as she likes, depending on her individual needs.

I did some damage myself to my shoulder after I used a seated bench press machine on which the seat was stuck too low. By performing that movement which was neither natural nor comfortable, I managed to injure myself. If I had been using free weights, I would have had a better chance of finding a good groove for my individual biomechanics. The human body tends to move in an arc or curve. Machines tend to move in straight lines or limited ranges. What gives isn’t going to be the steel but your soft squishy flesh.

training for real life

Real life isn’t tidy, or organized, or perfect. Real life movements don’t usually happen while you’re safely strapped into a contraption that immobilizes most of your body, unless you’re biceps curling a 48 oz Super Big Gulp to your lips while seatbelted into a car — and c’mon, why are you doing that anyway? Real life movements are off-balance, asymmetrical, one-handed or one-legged, moving in curves and squiggles, done in funny ways, done unexpectedly, and done all day long. Real life movements involve lifting awkwardly shaped things like babies and couches and sloshy cases of beer and Rottweilers that don’t want to take a bath. Machines aren’t going to help you when it’s time to haul the groceries out of the car with a screaming toddler stuck to your hip, or when you need to move that load of topsoil for your petunia bed and can’t find your wheelbarrow.

machines that don’t suck

Now I’m going to contradict myself. There are some machines that are quite good and enable you to do things you cannot do on free weights, or things that may be somewhat awkward or impractical with free weights.

calf machine

While I do like single-leg calf raises done with a dumbbell in hand, machines offer some good options for calf training. The donkey calf machine is one of the best for training in comfort even when you are lifting a lot of weight. Unlike the standing calf machine, which places all the pressure on your shoulders (and which I swear makes me shorter when I use it), the donkey calf displaces the weight across your hips and lower back. (I suppose you could always substitute a friendly partner sitting on your hips, but that tends to get a little weird.)

Another good machine that is generally very adjustable is the seated calf machine. This one isolates your soleus because your knees are bent in the exercise. Because this one is designed to accommodate people’s lower legs, it usually allows you to go right down to the bottom of the rep, unlike the majority of standing calf machines (which are pretty much useless for anyone under 5’4″). X-tra short grrrls may have the occasional problem with the bar slipping off your knees; just try your best to hold on to it!

Finally, the leg press machine is a handy backup for calf work if no other machine is available. Seated leg presses in particular, where the body is upright in a chair sort of thing, and legs press straight out in front, parallel to the floor, are best for this, because like the donkey calf machine, the weight is distributed across the hips. If you find that you’re uncomfortable moving a lot of weight with both legs, try using only one leg at a time to reduce the load.

assisted chinup machine and lat pulldown machine

Chinups and wide-grip pullups are wonderful basic exercises that work several muscle groups. However women do not generally have the upper-body strength when they begin training to execute these movements. The assisted chin machine uses a counterweight to make it easier. You can counterweight up to 90% of your body weight and lower the amount of counterweight gradually as you become stronger.

As soon as possible, however, you should move to doing negative pullups. This means moving a bench over to a chin bar, and starting in the top position, then slowly lowering yourself down. Clamber up there again, and lower down again. A helpful training partner is also good for heaving you up to the top, or for giving you just enough of a push to help you get up there mostly on your own steam. You can even begin with modified lat pulldowns that more closely simulate the demands of a pullup by doing them standing. Stand facing the pulldown machine, just behind the seat. Grab the handles as you would normally, squat down slightly pushing butt back a little and bending knees a bit, then hold that position while doing pulldowns.

More on that here.

cable stations

These is also known as a high/low pulley machine. It has a weight stack, and pulley with a loop to attach a handle in both a high and low position. Some have the pulley on an adjustable track so that you can set it at various heights. You can do a wide variety of exercises on this, as well as modify familiar exercises for either rehab or novelty.


  1. Debbie Irvine says:

    February 12th, 2009at 12:57 pm(#)

    I agree with you about free weights. They feel much better & more natural than machines.

    I’ve been coming back to your website for over a year now & I really enjoy it. You’ve got great tips!!! And you’re funny…

    What a transformation you’ve made with your body. Awesome job!!!

  2. Robyn says:

    February 13th, 2009at 9:14 pm(#)

    I too have been coming back to your site since I discovered it about a year ago. I thought of you the other day while lounging on my couch watching T.V. I came across an episode of Oprah where a “celebrity personal trainer” was holding up 3lb pink dumbells claiming that no woman should lift anything heavier than 3lbs!
    I want to thank you for creating such a great site! Any time I need a little boost of motivation or I’ve been influenced by watching too much TV, I check out your site and snap out of it!

  3. Miranda says:

    February 20th, 2009at 8:59 pm(#)

    I love this site! I play roller derby for the Gainesville Roller Rebels down here in Florida. I have been with the team for 15 months, have lost 30 lbs, and packed on a good bit of muscle. I have been lifting free weights for a few months, and I love that too. I promote the hell out of your site any chance I get, and have turned on many a derby grrl to
    I would love to see an article about women’s roller derby here on the site, as it is a fun, liberating, supportive scene where women come together, get aggressive, and cheer each other on. All body types are welcomed and cherished. Come out to a bout, if you have never been before.
    Krista, thank you for all you do! You are awesome, and what an inspiration!
    Miranda aka Matriarch # 352

  4. Anne says:

    February 24th, 2009at 7:18 am(#)

    I just discovered your site and this is a perfect opportunity for a question I have. I’ve been using a mixture of machines and free weights for the past 18 months (I’m in my mid 50s) and moved to totally free weights a couple of months ago. Since then I have been getting pains in the middle joints of some of my fingers, not while I lift weights but the following morning and with stiffness. It’s definitely connected with lifting heavy dumbells and I’m wondering if there is some sort of support I could wear round my hands to help ? I know my arms and the rest of my body are capable of lifting heavier weights but the joints in my fingers have a problem. Any advice would be much appreciated please.


  5. Mistress Krista says:

    February 24th, 2009at 7:45 am(#)

    Hi Anne, you can try lifting straps.

  6. Fitness Strength Training says:

    March 5th, 2009at 7:47 pm(#)

    I would like to comment on the free weights vs. machine safety. I have scoliosis and arthritis and have been restricted to machines for squats and any heavy lifting by my doctor. He is concerned about the weakness I have in my grip due to the arthritis that I could lose (drop) a barbell while performing squats and get seriously hurt.

  7. Lola says:

    March 10th, 2009at 1:46 am(#)

    Krista, just wanted to tell you how awesome you are for keeping this website.
    My fears with free weights is that maybe I wont be able to work to failure on them as you can with machines, as I usually don’t train with a partner. My other concern is just the intimidation factor when I go into the free weight area of the gym. Its all men, and I really don’t even know how to load a barbell and I am so afraid of walking in and looking stupid, so I have stayed in “my area” of the gym, machine land. I really wish to overcome my fears and be awesome like you.

  8. Mistress Krista says:

    March 10th, 2009at 4:44 am(#)

    I had a lot of fears when I started out too. I practiced things like squats in private. Then, I chose a time when I knew the gym would be empty (in my case, early in the morning) to try the weights. I chose light weights to get the feel of things. You don’t have to train to failure most of the time — in fact, it’s usually better to avoid it. Stop a rep or two short of failure, so you’re always in control. This also helps maximize your recovery, so you can live to train hard another day.

    I said to myself, “I am going to look stupid, just for today. If need be, I am purposely going to fail on an exercise where I know I can fail safely.” And suddenly, once I gave myself permission to do it, it wasn’t so scary any more.

    A power cage is a great help in this regard, but asking someone for a spot is also a nice way to meet people. :) When you smile and say hi to the scary dudes, eventually most of them aren’t so scary any more.

  9. Kristin says:

    March 10th, 2009at 5:23 pm(#)

    I was scared of free weights in college, then when I wandered over I realized, most men are more interested in themselves than in what you are doing.

    As for failing, a good squat cage should have adjustable bars on the sides. I put them a few inches below the bottom of my squat level, and I often just drop them off when I fail(super fun with overhead squats, really loud).

    Now, with the bench press, yeah, get a spot. That can be dangerous.

    Love this site. I’ve sent articles about training while “old” to my dad, who uses that lame excuse. :)

  10. Fitness Strength Training says:

    March 12th, 2009at 10:59 am(#)

    Falling can be a real problem. I am 53, but suffer from scoliosis and arthritis, my doc has restricted me from squats because my wrists will suddenly fail, so I use a machine. I gave my squat rack to my son who is in the military (much stronger than I) – but my wife has one arthritic knee that she has already had one surgery on which occasionally just gives out on her. machines can be an alternative for those of us with issues. It’s not always a lame excuse.

  11. Mistress Krista says:

    March 12th, 2009at 12:17 pm(#)

    You may be interested in data that shows that shear stresses are 30-40% higher when using a machine to squat.

    Andrews JG, Hay JG and Vaughan CL. Knee shear forces during a squat exercise using a barbell and a weight machine. Biomechanics VIII B.H. Matsui and K. Kobayashi, eds. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1983: 923-927.

    In trainees with some limitation that prohibits standard squatting there are many free weight alternatives: single leg squats, front squats, weighted vests, step-ups, unweighted squatting, using a platform to sit on, etc. Each solution can be easily tailored to individual needs and safety requirements, and in the aggregate are still safer from a biomechanical standpoint than the squat machines currently available.

  12. Suzanne says:

    March 14th, 2009at 3:57 pm(#)

    OK, here’s my fitness-inspiration fantasy: You, Mistress Krista, start offering a fee-for-service e-newsletter full of tips, facts, specific exercises, nutritional advice etc. – all aimed at informing and inspiring readers. Did I mention images of healthy, strong, muscular women who are not walking ads for plastic surgery, fake tanning and drag-queen-like make-up? I buy Oxygen magazine right now, the only women’s mag I know where the ‘fit’ women don’t look weak as kittens. I get inspired to work harder when I see images of muscly women – which are so rare – but profoundly turned off by the reams of hideous fat-burning-drug ads and sexist, dumbed-down editorial. Just letting you know – I don’t know how much of a market there is out there, but I for one would pay for a Krista e-zine and scrap the monthly Oxygens. Thanks for a terrific website!

  13. Jay says:

    March 23rd, 2009at 8:28 pm(#)

    Oh my gosh… you too Suzanne! – That’s the same reason I buy Oxygen whenever I can find it and I feel the same way about the ads – I just can’t reconcile them with the rest of the magazine’s content – I don’t get it – then again it just ocurred to me that perhaps that’s the only way they can fund the mag??? Thanks so much Krista for the information – truly appreciated.

  14. Mistress Krista says:

    March 24th, 2009at 8:02 am(#)

    Magazines are essentially a delivery system for advertisements. The articles are carefully laid out to correspond with relevant advertisements. Look at a magazine next time and see which ads are next to which articles. As someone who runs their own magazine that is currently advertising-free I can attest that the ONLY way to make your costs doing print runs (barring a sugar mommy/daddy) is to sell advertising, and lots of it. Moreover, many companies produce their own magazines as a means to sell advertisements (in other words, the advertisements are the purpose, not the articles).

  15. TL says:

    March 25th, 2009at 10:08 am(#)

    Hey Krista —

    You probably don’t remember, but we corresponded a bit when you first announced leaving academia. I’ve been a slug, but have recently gotten back on track (I hope). I stopped by yesterday for the first time in a while and am loving the new site design (even though the old one was faboo too).

    I use a combination of free weights and machines, and here’s why:

    First, I belong to a “gym” that’s really a cardio-vascular rehab facility that’s open to other uses. It’s small and friendly. They have some ellipticals and treadmills, a small range of machines, and dumbells. No barbells or any of the stuff that would go with barbells, like Smith racks. This place is convenient, staffed by real professionals with college or higher degrees in phys ed or PT, and cheaper than the “real gyms” I might use. So, sometimes making-do is the order of the day.

    I’m quite overweight, with very bad knees. I can’t do squats and lunges. Just can’t. Bending the knee more than 90 degrees while it is bearing weight *hurts*. Even when I was in my “recommended” weight range, I couldn’t do them. I can, however, use a leg press machine. Now, I know it’s not the same, and is not working the gluts and quads the same way, yadda yadda. But, it’s *something* to work those muscles. I do also do “step ups” on an aerobic bench, but that’s a less pleasant experience, the knees whimper before the muscles get really worked.

    I also use some of the other machines such as the lat pulldown you mention, as well as a pec/dec fly and an upper back row. Why? Mostly because the barbell area can get crowded and there are only two benches. I do bench presses and concentration curls on the bench, and other shoulder/arm exercises standing. But, I’d rather use the machines for some things and minimize the time spent standing around waiting for a bench to become available.

    The good news is that a new facility is planned for next year, which should have more room and more stuff!

  16. Amy says:

    April 1st, 2009at 10:43 am(#)

    Dear Krista,

    Many thanks for your excellent site. I have been lifting since college (I’m 35 now), and as one of the only women at my gym (on Caltech campus), I really appreciate the inspiration and ideas for new workouts. I never thought of myself as a weight lifter growing up (I’m short and asthmatic), but my life changed when I took a class called Weight Training for Women my junior year. Your site was another revelation – I started lifting heavy per your suggestions several years ago, and it’s made a world of difference. I feel better: stronger, more powerful, more relaxed. For some reason, lifting agrees with me better than any other sport I’ve tried. My job is very sedentary (I’m a scientist), so lifting is the perfect antidote to working on the computer all day.

    Since my gym is almost entirely guys, I love coming here to “be” around other women lifters! It helps.

    Thanks again!

  17. Mike says:

    April 19th, 2009at 3:24 pm(#)

    Thank you for your wit, intelligence, sarcasm and the informative web site you have created for all of us who are in this incredible journey together. I don’t know how I stumbled upon your web site, but I’m so glad I did. . . boy, do I love your sarcasm!

    Kudos to all the women (my wife included) who said no to convention (on what older women should represent) and took the bull by the horns and brought that beast down. I just wish that I could’ve started the journey to fitness sooner.

    A little about me. . .

    The not so good part. . .
    I have a bone disease, moderate scoliosis, severe nerve damage (medication helps nerve pain) and Meniers(sp) disease. In the past 8 years or so, I have lost 2 inches of height.

    The good part. . .
    I am a 59 year old male who started working out last November. Every other day I’m at the gym and can’t get enough. Although my routine consists of using machines to weight train with, I will (soon) occasionally be using free weights to strengthen the muscles of the arm and forearm. In the past 6 months I have lost almost 20 lbs and now weigh in at 145. The abdomen is looking better {size 36 down to 34). Cardio is out of the question.

    What I would like to accomplish is to have the muscle groups be more defined, stronger and for the body to bounce back from injury quicker.


    Some gym buddies have told me about “Isolate Whey Protein”. Susan, who is 72 told me how great it is for her as well as Steve (52). Is this something you would reccomend? And if so, what kind.

    Be well



    Please feel free if you would like to correspond with me.

  18. Elizabeth says:

    May 6th, 2009at 9:03 am(#)

    I just started training someone even more novice than myself — where I had tried lifting before and failed to keep it up, she’s never lifted at all. I noticed that she was actually a lot more intimidated by the machines than by the free weights — I mean, if you don’t know how to use them, they all look complicated and “obscure” (her word) and just a pain in the ass to figure out. Dumbbells are nice and easy to understand. Pick up, put down.

    I wouldn’t have put her on the machines anyway; she’s small and short, so there would be fit problems. Plus, it’s a college gym where the students tend to leave 45lb plates all over the place, and my friend would see significant benefits from an all-soup-can workout — that’s not going to work out.

    Oddly enough, though both genders are guilty of the plate-etiquette violation on the machines, it’s almost all guys in the power cages, and they never leave anything on the bars. Makes my life a lot easier.

  19. Laura says:

    May 28th, 2009at 7:39 am(#)


    It’s so great to hear women so enthusiastic about sport. Anyone I speak to is always saying oh don’t over do it, god you’re mad, why would you want bigger muscles, you’re a girl! My sister and i are both really into the gym and getting fitter and stronger from using both machines and free weights. I love the fact that the gym is full on men, it’s great not being a stereotypical female and you can suprise men with the fact you are strong and fit and not afraid of a challenge! I haven’t lost much weight since I have been serious about training but my body shape has improved and I’m a lot more toned. The best thing is the strength you have, I feel so much more confident now and have gained a lot of respect from guys at work for drinking protein shakes and discussing work out tips!

    Keep up the good work, this is an amazing website!

  20. Matt S says:

    June 7th, 2009at 9:22 pm(#)

    Great post!

    I just sort of stumbled onto this site…

    My girlfriend and I have been working on her application of free weights and the results have been incredible for her! When she asked me for training advice, my face lit up like a kid at Christmas :). Within a few months she is already squatting 40 lbs over her body weight!!

    I won’t reiterate what you have already stated so well, but free weights rock!

    Also, any woman looking for a great training program should head over to Precision Nutrition. They wrote a great routine with video demonstrations a couple months ago. Amanda Graydon does the demonstrations, I believe its the workout she used to get her contest body!

  21. Melanie says:

    July 23rd, 2009at 9:23 am(#)

    I dearly wish I could lock my sister in a room with you for just an hour. Every time I wax rhapsodic about weightlifting, she comes back with, “Oh, but I don’t want to look bulky.” I’ve tried to explain to her that we come from a people that bred women who could pull a plow in case they had to eat the ox during a bad winter — we’re genetically destined to be well-muscled — but she just won’t listen.

    So I shrug and grunt and go on lifting.

  22. Charles Dutcher says:

    July 30th, 2009at 5:25 am(#)

    I have been a fan of your website since I first heard about it about 8 years ago from MFW.

    I work as a personal trainer and volunteer weight training instructor at the local YMCAs, and I couldn’t agree more with the title of this article, and with your overall philosophies (rants and articles)

    As more of us age, having real, functional strength, stamina and balance are important but often overlooked in today’s superficial ideas of beauty and health. ‘I don’t want to bulk up’ is a phrase we hear too often. I am a short person (5’3) at 175 lbs, so some folks will think ‘OH NO! He’ll have me working out like a powerlifter!’. But showing someone how to get up off a chair without using their hands will help them understand why a squat may be an essential movement for daily life. No leg press will do this. Push-ups may not seem important or useful, but how would you pick yourself up off the ground if you slip and fall? You may not want to be a bodybuilder, but you may want to carry those groceries up stairs, or shovel your driveway without injuring yourself.

    I could go on, but I am sure all of this has been said many times before :-)

    I heartily recommend this website to any folks of all stripes who want to get into an exercise program, but are afraid of the chrome-n’-tone gyms.

  23. Carmen says:

    September 3rd, 2009at 8:32 pm(#)

    Iv been coming to your site for about six months now, and truly do enjoy it. Iv been going to a barbell gym for about 8 years now and i do love iron. I taught aerobics for thirteen years and finally got burnt out, and waas going no where, so i joined Wichita Falls Athletic club,and what a differance, i only thought i was strong. I squat, press, deadlift,run, take a Crossfit masters class(over 40), and am not even intimidated by the guys in the gym, young or old.I find most guys are happy to answer a question for you, spot for you , whatever you need. Im 49 and in the best shape ever and know i will be doing this for the rest of my life, it is good for my body and my soul.

  24. Define a Strong Woman « Weight For Deb says:

    October 27th, 2009at 5:45 pm(#)

    […] everyday life?  Krista Scott-Dixon, the beloved creator of, addressed this in Don’t Fear the Free Weights!: Real life isn’t tidy, or organized, or perfect. Real life movements don’t usually happen while […]

  25. Adam Hardgainer says:

    November 5th, 2009at 8:16 pm(#)

    This is to answer Mike’s question above regarding Whey. Whey is great, but the other form of protein found in milk is the one you want. That is Casein (kay-seen) – which forms about 80% of the protein in milk. A very good source of casein is cottage cheese – though I know lot of people don’t like it for some reason! Anyway, Mike, how this helps. Excellent advice regarding free weights. I use them (mostly) exclusively but sometimes find that machines are a faster option if I am in a rush.

  26. Chrissy :-) says:

    January 12th, 2010at 9:34 pm(#)

    Hi – I recently lost my job, and with one of my final paychecks I bought myself a two-year membership at 24 Hour Fitness thru Costco – $299, nonrenewable, not a bad deal. Only problem is – at least at the particular location I’ve started at – if I want any help at all, even someone to just show me the correct way to use a machine – I have to make an appointment with a personal trainer. I’m not really big on making appointments so I’ve decided to just get as much info as I can online and through videos, and create my own workout program. Your site – especially this article on free weights – is helping me a lot! Thank you very much!

  27. Reggie says:

    February 24th, 2010at 11:47 am(#)


    Great article! I’m an old dinousaur barbell/kettlebell man from way back. Some more machines to be added to your “machines that don’t suck list are”: reverse hyperextension machine, belt squat machine and glute-hamstring developer. Why? This equipment builds amazing strength in the posterior chain, which in turn assists in all squatting movements as well as lifts such as the snatch, clean and dead lift. This equipment is not common in the modern commercial gym, but is so in serious strength facilities south of our border. It seems most commercial gyms would rather purchase pretty equipment that serves no purpose in building solid functional strength. Pity. Stay strong and I thank you for your shoulder rehab video on youtube.


  28. Nutrition and Fitness information sources | Bryan & Marianne says:

    March 24th, 2010at 5:42 am(#)

    […] out she can train the same as guys and not turn into She-hulk.  She’s got an article called Don’t fear the free weights that’s pretty […]

  29. Brooke says:

    April 14th, 2010at 6:32 am(#)

    I would so buy that magazine to Suzanne!

  30. AJ Matthews says:

    June 3rd, 2010at 1:02 pm(#)

    I am so sick of hearing the “bulky” excuse too. Right after I finished my first power lifting meet, I was talking to my friend. She told me she could totally lift that much weight, but she doesn’t want to because she gets “huge” when she lifts weights. Really? Huge? It’s funny that women spend years trying to add just a few pounds of muscle and this girl just have to crank out a couple of curls to get gigantor, bulging muscles. Ugh.

  31. Things I ♥ Thursday 6-10-10 « 28 Cups of Tea says:

    June 10th, 2010at 9:26 pm(#)

    […] ♥Don’t fear the free weights! by my favorite, Stumptuous. Old article, old favorite of mine, and even though I’ve now long agreed with the reasons, I still love it, it’s a good read. […]

  32. Poul Nielsen says:

    October 26th, 2010at 7:25 pm(#)

    Thanks for writing this. All excellent points. I also would like to add that by exercising with free weights, you will raise your metabolism even more due to the extra muscle building effect of free weight exercises.

  33. Melissa Rose says:

    March 8th, 2011at 12:34 pm(#)

    This is great information. I love doing free weights. I have doing them for years. But after recently having my third child, I have found that my lower quads (near my knees) are looking bad. They seem wrinkly and out of shape. I’m doing squats and lunges and what not. But I am wondering if the leg extension might be my best bet for targeting that area? I used to have a lot more muscle in my legs from much heavier lifting. Do I need to lift heavy again to get my legs looking good again?

    Thanks for any advice.

  34. Mistress Krista says:

    March 9th, 2011at 5:25 am(#)

    @Melissa: You cannot change the amount of fat in a specific area with exercise — you cannot change how much fat or skin is on your quads by doing leg extensions. You need to get adequate exercise (at least 5 hours/week) and control your diet to make body changes. And to some degree, aging catches up with all of us. :) Skin becomes less elastic as we age, and gravity’s pull eventually wins.

  35. Rosanne says:

    June 21st, 2011at 10:23 am(#)

    I’ve been doing dumbbell bicep curls and cable pushdowns as part of my routine for a long time, gradually increasing the weights to a challenging level. Worked out yesterday and today I have a large bruise on my right forearm (brachioradialis?). Could it be from either these exercises? Should I reduce weights/reps until it heals? It’s so frustrating to feel great about a workout but wonder if it’s causing injury!

  36. Mistress Krista says:

    June 22nd, 2011at 7:52 pm(#)

    @Rosanne: That is unusual… Just how much weight ARE you using? Generally I prefer folks to keep the isolation work lighter and save the heavy resistance for the complex exercises, in which weight can be well distributed over multiple joints. If you’re looking for arm development, consider underhand pull ups (or band-assisted pull ups) and close-grip pushups instead.

  37. Jessica says:

    March 25th, 2012at 6:42 pm(#)

    Thanks for the insights, Krista! I started with soup cans :)

  38. Noreen says:

    May 28th, 2012at 5:54 am(#)


    Yesterday reached 20Kg squat for the first time. Why do I feel apprehensive? can I go further?

    I started a weight training programme with my partner a few weeks ago. He wants me to be sqautting and benchpressing 60Kgs (my ideal body weight . I am 71kgs at the mo, following a strict calorie diet.)

    I am just abit worried about hurting myself, looking like an idiot and being the only girl (5,2″) amoungst big men asking when they will finish their set.


  39. Mistress Krista says:

    May 29th, 2012at 2:07 am(#)

    @Noreen: It is normal to feel apprehensive. If you don’t feel at least a little apprehensive with a weight on your back you are probably foolish. :)

    There is no rush. Enjoy squatting 20 kg for now. Don’t let anyone rush or pressure you. When you feel ready (and you will), add a tiny bit of weight. Go at your own pace. Take your time. Practice a lot and perfect your technique, which will improve your confidence. You have the rest of your life to get this.

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