LIES in the gym

January 8th, 2009  |  Published in Starting weight training  |  102 Comments


The great objection to women exercising—namely, the fear of becoming muscular—is quite without foundation. It cannot be too often repeated that woman is not simply a weaker man: she is physically an entirely different being … In women the muscles simply become firm, close-knit, and well-rounded, and show under the layer of fatty tissue intervening between muscle and skin only in soft, hardly discernible masses, just sufficiently to give a delicate moulding to the form.
Eugen Sandow, Sydney Mail, October 22, 1902.

You don’t have to go far in the average gym to find someone willing to give you bad information. People are full of ideas and advice about women and weights. The other day I heard the most ludicrous thing yet: that cardio work was bad for you because it built muscle that pushed the fat out farther. Yep, I guess that’s why marathon runners are all so obese—duh. Some of the worst offenders are fitness magazines and personal trainers. This is somewhat distressing, considering that people look to such sources for help and information. The other day, reading a fitness magazine, I learned that yoga will firm my breasts (it won’t, unless they meant to write “plastic surgeon” instead of “yoga”), and that over 90% of all long term exercisers exercise in the morning (oops, I guess all the evening regulars at the gym are just fooling themselves).

Anyway I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common myths floating around like the alligator in the sewer stories. The difference is, of course, that there really ARE alligators in the sewer. And snakes that pop out of your toilet, heh heh.

LIE: Weight training will make you huge and masculine.

Probably the worst lie ever. People look at women bodybuilders and say, “Ohmigawd, they’re huge and if I lift anything heavy I’ll look like that too.” Nope. In general, women are not able to build monstrous muscle mass in the same manner as men, due to a number of physiological factors. It’s a rare woman that can become a competitive bodybuilder, and to get that big she has to combine genetics, extensive long-term training, strict diet, and supplementation (legal or otherwise).

If you enjoy watching bodybuilding, have a look at the tested (natural, i.e. steroid free) shows versus the untested (anything goes) shows. You will notice a great difference in the builds of the women onstage. A natural female bodybuilder is lean, almost wiry, and certainly not the mythical monsters whom exercising women fear resembling (have a look at my reader letters page to see some examples). Also, women bodybuilders do not normally have the low levels of bodyfat that they do while in competition. Low bodyfat makes muscles stand out, and it changes the contours of the face, making jawlines and cheekbones prominent, which contributes to a rather unnatural look. Bodybuilders about to go on stage for a competition look quite odd, actually, due to dehydration, extremely low bodyfat, and deep tans. During the offseason, competitors’ bodyfat is higher, and in clothing, most wouldn’t stand out as unusual in any way.

The average woman (that’s you) cannot achieve a masculine monster look simply through strength training. You’re not going to wake up after a workout and be huge. You don’t believe me? OK, then, try to get huge. Just try. And see how far you get. If you don’t believe me, check out what happened in my before and after photos. I’ve had people tell me that they think my legs are “too big” (too big for what?) but the old gams were a whole lot bigger before I started training.

LIE: Men train, women tone.

To be serious about strength training, eliminate the T-word-“tone”-from your vocabulary. Lifting a tiny weight for a hundred reps is a waste of time and energy, plus it never really stresses your muscles enough to make them much stronger. As the good Sgt. Robo says, “More isn’t better, better is better.” In fact, according to one study in which men and women trained the same muscle group 3 days a week for 20 weeks, “the women made significantly greater relative increases than men in strength.” (MacDougall et al, McMaster University)

Women and men have exactly the same skeletal muscle composition. It would not be possible to tell biological sex from muscle tissue alone. But more importantly, there is no such thing as “toning”. There is muscle mass and strength gain, and fat loss, and that’s it. In purely technical terms, “tone” refers to the ability of the central nervous system to provide passive muscular resistance to being stretched. What you probably think of as “toned” muscles are merely muscles which are not hidden by a lot of bodyfat. In other words, there is no reason why you should waste your time on the stupid little weights when you could be getting tough and strong.

LIE: There is a difference between toning, sculpting, and firming.

Please don’t write me asking how you can tone but not sculpt, or firm but not tone, or whatever. There is no such thing (see the next lie). There is only building muscle mass and losing bodyfat, nothing else.

LIE: Muscles grow different ways depending on how you work them.

This school of thought says that if you lift heavy, you’ll get huge, and if you lift light weights with high reps, you’ll just “tone”. AAACK! The T-word again! Muscles only know how to grow one way, and just how big they get depends on gender and genetics.

Okay, this isn’t exactly the whole picture. A helpful reader emailed me recently, encouraging me to clarify this point. We have several different types of muscle fibres which respond to different types of training. BUT nevertheless you won’t be able to get freaky big unless you try very, very hard and you have one-in-a-zillion genetics. And ultrahigh rep training is a complete waste of your time.

LIE: You can change the shape of your muscles.

You hear a lot from nimrods at the gym about which exercise is better for reshaping your muscles, or for building big peaks on your biceps, etc. Sorry, but the shape of your muscles is genetic. Muscles are attached to bones and joints in a way that is specific to each person’s body. As an example of this, look at the bump of people’s outer thigh muscles above the knee. You will notice that some people’s quads make a bump almost right at the knee, while other people have their quad bump higher up, sometimes quite high above the knee. This is merely an individual variation in muscle attachments. So, no matter what exercises you do, you’re not going to change where your muscles attach, and you’re not going to change their individual shape. You can, however, make them bigger and stronger.

LIE: Women shouldn’t work their leg and butt muscles, otherwise they’ll get too big.

Once again we have the fallacy of the “big muscles”. Have a look at women bodybuilders’ butts and you’ll see this isn’t the case. The truth is this: by building muscle, we can speed up our metabolism, resulting in more effective fuel (calorie) consumption. In other words, more muscle means less fat in the long run. And where do we find the largest group of muscles in a woman’s body? Why, her legs and butt, of course! Neglecting these means neglecting the best area for building calorie-burning muscle. In addition, women tend to have much better lower-body than upper-body strength, so it’s very satisfying to work the lower body and see some great results!

LIE: Women should stick to machines and stay away from free weights.

This is another heinous myth. In fact the opposite is true for a variety of reasons. Have a look at the article called “Don’t Fear the Free Weights.”

LIE: If you build muscle, it will just push the fat out more and make you look bulky.

Sorry to burst the bubble girls, but you’re not going to wind up like the Incredible Hulk, ripping through your shirt with the massive expansion of your muscles. The amount that muscle contributes to visible size is negligible compared to the bodyfat.

hall of shame

I hear so much bullshit about women and working out that I’ve decided to compile it into an archive of stupidity. If you have some to add, please do.

The following idiocies were contributed by reader Jenn Wilson:

  • “Women shouldn’t squat past the point where their knees and shins make a 90-degree angle; their lower bodies are weaker than men’s and their knees can’t handle it.” (This came from a woman, believe it or not… she meant well, but it was obvious she’d never lifted a non-vinyl-covered weight in her life. Wanting to get back to my set, I smiled and responded with, “You must read a lot of fitness magazines.” She chirped “Yup!” and proceeded to list Shape, Fitness, …)
  • “Trap muscles on a woman are unsightly.” (I nearly punched this guy.)
  • “Women shouldn’t deadlift or squat, because it makes their waists too big, and that’s unfeminine.” (Nearly punched him too.)
  • “Women shouldn’t look like little frogs.” (From my grandma, bless her soul.)

Reader Becky Duncan writes: ‘I’m sorry to report I have heard each and every one of these:

  • “That’s pretty good… for a girl.”
  • “You’re not supposed to be able to do that…you’re a girl.”
  • “Do you need a spot?” (when I rack up my warm up)
  • “Here… let me get those for you.” (when stripping/loading a rack)
  • “I bet your breasts are really hard.” (oh yea…fat just hardens like cement)

Oh, and God forbid my pecs ever get sore because guys just find that to be funny for some reason…’

Reader Kim Brueggeman writes: “I hate it when you offer a inexperienced male lifter a few pointers and they assume you don’t know the first thing about lifting weights, even when your biceps are bulging from a great set, yet he will run to the steroid freak who ignores his plea for help.”

A reader identified only by her email address as “Xzena” writes: “My favourite is when girls who are overweight tell me, “Well, I don’t want to lift weights until I lose weight first.”

An unidentified reader writes: ‘I’m at the point where guys at the gym who know me, know I can hold my own. But I once had an older man tell me I was going to hurt my baby maker. Another man told me I wasn’t ugly enough to be a weightlifter. (Like the ugly gene makes you strong?!) My mom always supports me in powerlifting meets, but just when I’m getting pumped and ready to go she says, “Just don’t go too heavy, you don’t want to hurt yourself”
My #1 biggest pet peeve of all times is when someone (who always means well) asks “How much do you lift?” What do you mean!!! Well, partial deads 405lbs, or tibia raises 15lbs. Or along the same lines is when they find out I lift they always ask me to flex. First thing, No! Second, flex what, forearm, bicep, calf, what!!!! These same people don’t ask men these questions! Thanks, for letting me vent!’

Reader Marge writes: ‘When you wrote about the warnings women get from guys who think we’re too delicate, I was reminded of my 4 or 5 years in construction work. I was in my late twenties, started installing fire sprinkler systems in 1980. The guys were so-o-o worried (some for their jobs, some sincerely; it was really hard work.), but one union official really stuck in my mind.
In a very “I have it on the best authority” voice, he said to me, “Do you know why women have quit this trade?” He continued, “In the vast majority, their ovaries dropped!” I must have given him some kind of “huh?”. He nodded vehemently and repeated. “The vast majority of women who have taken up this trade have quit because their ovaries dropped!” I’m thinking, “Where? On the floor? Will I have to carry them with me, truss them up, or what?” And I’m also thinking, there are only two women in this trade in the whole state, and I’m one of them, and I know the other one, and she never mentioned a thing about her ovaries, so what the hell is a majority? Never did find out. Never dropped ‘em, either. ;o) I did screw up my knees, but that’s a separate issue, and the guys in the trades did the same.’

Reader Krissi Shea writes:
‘I heard a great one in gym the other day while I was on the hamstring curl machine. A guy said, “You should only do those curls with your legs together really tightly. Otherwise, your muscles will develop wider and make you look wider.” ooooookkkkkkkay……’

Reader Chellie Young writes: “Here’s one for your list…my wellmeaning grandma told me that if I lifted heavy weights it would make me sterile. No kidding. :)”

Reader Dan Roche writes: “A high school basketball coach I worked with refused to let his women’s team work out with weights, for fear that ANY weight work would compress the spine and make his players shorter, and therefore less basketball-ready. I’m not sure if this is funny, offensive, or simply ignorant.”

Reader Louise Newman writes: “I’ll take ignorance for 100 please, Alex. And how about the guy that says to me, ‘You dont want to squat you will be sore the next day.’ Or how about the people (yes both sexes) that say, ‘A woman with muscle is unattractive.’ GIVE ME A BREAK. Was she talking about my 5’6″ 130lb 12% bodyfat
body??? GIVE ME A BREAK AGAIN !!!!!
And, ‘A woman could never be able to bench her weight.’ I say… probably not if she is NOT weight training.
‘Women, perhaps because of conditioning, dont push as hard as men.’ CROCK CROCK CROCK

In the 1st issue of Muscle and Fitness HERS mag there was an article. I won’t say which one or who the “professional” is. It’s there. You can look it up. But what was said, and I quote: ‘Women, perhaps because of conditioning, dont push as hard as men.’ I know for a fact this is NOT true of most women I know. I mean for heavens sake. I work many times harder than the guys watching and checking me out at the gym. And lets not forget how hard it is to PUSH a baby out…

This one isn’t really about lies in the gym, but I thought it was a cute story anyway. Speedskater Carol Dailey told this anecdote:

“Three older ladies in my gym (50’s maybe?) have been watching me work out for the last two years. A few months ago, fed up with making no gains on
our gym’s one set to failure protocol, they started asking me some questions and finally got up the nerve to ask me to set up a program for them.
Needless to say, I was happy to do so and we have great fun training together. They have since progressed to asking my advice on nutrition and
are really doing well. Well, one of ‘my girls’ went to her doc, who noticed a ‘mass’ in the center of her body, just under her breasts (at the lower tip of her sternum) and he sent her for a CAT scan. Needless to say, we were all upset and nervous waiting for the results.

As it turns out, the ‘mass’ was the first row of her abs, which are visible to her for the first time in her life!

Can you believe it! We all laughed with her pretty hard once the relief set in…”

Reader Karen Sanford writes: A very dear and very ignorant male friend remarked to me, “Women don’t get as muscular as men because they don’t work out as hard. If they did, they would be just as big and muscular.” My husband butted in and said, “If that were true, she would be as big as Arnold by now!”

Reader Elizabeth Harris writes, “I’ve heard, ‘You’re over 40, you’ll never be able to lose weight!'”

Reader Jan writes, “A woman on another online forum said never go higher than 40 lbs for squats or you develope a “bubble butt”???? [Krista’s response: Why is 40 lbs the magic number? Is there some receptor in the glute muscles that knows to develop a huge ass when the poundage hits 41?]

Reader Graham writes, “I am a member on a couple of martial arts forums, and this myth was quoted: ‘women shouldn’t do “proper” pushups,
as it puts strain on the womb and causes gynae problems.’ My thoughts on that are that the people who believe that don’t know much about the
musculo-skeletal system. If there is a problem with women experiencing gynae probs during exercise, they are more likely to do with unstable cores and
pitiful pelvic floors. Those problems would show up first during jogging or high impact aerobics, and by the time they were affected by pushups, their
womb would already be by their knees!”

Reader Alisa writes, “Had to share this paragraph from a recent NY Times article:

At health clubs, pear-shaped people in their 40’s and 50’s obsessively lift
weights, trying for those defined muscles that, even in youth, come only to those with a certain genetic predisposition. But by middle age, the overweight tend to stay that way, and the body has a harder time increasing muscle mass. So even the greatest personal trainer will not produce rippling abs.

Obviously the writer has never seen the photos of the women on your site who began lifting in their 40s and 50s. Hmf.”

Reader Crystal writes, “I was doing a set of bicep curls, maxing out at 35lbs per arm, but really struggling and a guy came up to me after I’d moved on to another exercise and he said to me, ‘You might not want to lift so heavy because you’re a girl and you don’t want huge muscles.’ PARDON? I was like, actually I WANT big muscles but thanks for noticing. He offered to ‘buy me a drink’ at the protein drink bar but I laughed at his pimple faced skinny ass and walked out.”

Reader JJ writes, “Some guy came up to me while I was squatting (warming up with just the bar) and informed me: ‘You should use the pad behind your neck, if you don’t, your traps will get big. And big traps are ugly on women.’ Uhhhhh… yeah… so much wrong with that statment.”

Reader Christopher Hudson writes: For the hall of shame: “‘Women weren’t designed to be built (muscular), or God would have made them that way.’ This was overheard in the gym during (football) camp, by one of my less than open minded coworkers. Although it is true that women cannot achieve Arnold results without juicing, I dont see many dudes who can either.”

Reader Kate writes, “I have a hall of shame moment for you: A guy I work with told me that you should never work opposing muscle groups on the same day (i.e., biceps and triceps). When I responded that my trainer has me do that with great results, he said “Well, he’s just doing that so you will tone, as opposed to GAIN MUSCLE.” I thought about punching him and asking him how “toned” my arms were. :)”

Reader Maggie Novak writes:

A woman at my gym asked me, “I see you lifting really hard and really heavy all the time. How do you keep from getting too big?” I wish there was something I was doing to keep from getting ‘too big’, because then I could stop doing it and get bigger!

A client of mine, as we were walking past the elliptical machines: “Those women are on those machines all the time. Why do they still have cellulite on the backs of their legs?” (she’d just started working with me, so I forgave her the silly question and explained that the two had next to nothing to do with each other)

Some old man in the gym to a younger woman who was doing dumbbell shoulder presses with 15 lb weights and excellent form: “You know they have lighter weights over there” and points around the corner. (Though strangely enough he ignored the woman next to her — me — who was pressing 40s.) After she glared evilly at him for a few seconds, I felt the need to try to break the tension, so I told her, “yeah, you wouldn’t want to get too big.” She started laughing, he walked away, and a good time was had by all who deserved to.

(Not really about people being particularly dumb, I just found this really funny.) I was doing dumbbell wrist curls (of all possible things) when a guy comes up and asks me, “Can I take one of your thighs home with me?” He only wanted one of them apparently, and he wasn’t trying to be lewd or insulting, just asking in a normal conversational tone. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I just said, “No, I need them… but you can have half of one…”

Reader Shelly writes:

(1) After doing two months of intensive swimming training for a triathlon I was told how female swimmers are so ugly because they always look like men, and the friend who told me this stopped swimming after two weeks because she didn’t like looking so “boyish”.

(2) My sister mentioned she wanted an exercise program she could do on her own pace and not have to talk to other people. I suggested she try free weights. She said she lifted weights once (yes, once, as in one time), and didn’t like how big her arms felt after. Apparently our family’s shoulders are too broad and look unattractive when showing muscle (my husband begs to differ). One of the best compliments he ever gave me was that he loved being married to a strong woman.

(3) I really liked the way my legs looked after I added lunges to my routine. I pointed them out to my mom, who said my legs were too big to wear a skirt anymore and I should probably cut down on those exercises. (Don’t worry, I corrected her swiftly.)


  1. Kyla says:

    February 11th, 2009at 7:22 pm(#)

    Hi there, just read through these and laughed. Wanted to share a funny comment I got at the gym one day.

    I was doing barbell bicep curls and standing in a spot that didn’t leave much room for anyone to walk by me at the weight rack. An older gentleman, who was also a regular, stood there waiting for me to finish my set so he could grab some weights. I finished and moved out of the way and apologized for monopolizing the area. He smiled and said his mom always told him not to get in the way of a woman curling her biceps!

    Btw, I enjoy your site immensely and have learned a lot. I’m up to three chin-ups in a row now and last weekend did my first sets of push-jerks (50 lbs).

  2. Jackie says:

    February 12th, 2009at 1:23 pm(#)

    I compete in powerlifting, quite successfully as it happens. Upon informing my uncle of my latest conquest he politely told me that I would wear my joints out by the time I was 50, I’m 46. This comes from a man who needs replacement knee joints but is morbidly obese and needs to lose 70 pounds before they will even consider him. He has been “losing” this 70 pounds for the last 3 years.

    Love your site, whenever I start feeling like too much of a freak I settle down to read the latest articles and I don’t care anymore if people think I am a freak!!!

  3. chris says:

    February 16th, 2009at 3:09 pm(#)

    My partner is a former powerlifter and whenever I mention it to other guys, i always get some form of “is she really butch…why would she do that…etc” comment.

    However my favourite is when we’re in the gym together and I ask her for a spot on BP and guys stop to make sure that she can handle it. She’s a) probably stronger than most of the guys who are so worried and b) a far better spotter.

  4. FitnessStrengthTraining says:

    February 21st, 2009at 7:16 pm(#)

    This article gave me a lot of laughs, especially the one from Crystal who laughed at “his pimple faced skinny ass” – My wife and I are in our 50s and she can curl more than many men at the gym. That had to be so funny!!!! thanks

  5. Claire says:

    February 24th, 2009at 10:24 am(#)

    Most men can’t get freakishly huge either. I believe I read a study somewhere that put the numbers of both men and women able to naturally develop what we think of as freakish muscles naturally below 10% (I think) for both genders, although less for women. Perhaps you’ve seen this one, Krista? Anyway, it cracks me up when guys assume that they will become bodybuilders overnight when they start lifting, and that if they don’t want to look like that they should take precautions. As if such a thing happens without intensive training and planning! I’ve worked out for a long time and seen the same people at my gym for years, and they get more ripped (and somewhat bigger) but none have gone from 98-lb. weaklings to 300-lb. Mr. Universe champions.

    Thanks for deconstructing the toned myth. I keep telling people there’s no such thing as toned.

  6. Tracey says:

    February 26th, 2009at 5:03 pm(#)

    Hi Krista,
    First off,I love your site! I’m addicted,reading every article I can.
    I’m a 28 year old female who has kept off a 60lb weight loss for over 5 years now. I’m just now starting to getting into weight lifting. My New Years Resolution was to not be intimated in the weight room at my gym. My question is,I’m 19% body fat and not sure if I should be looking to build muscle (eat more) or maintain..(lower calories to drop body fat)..or can I gain strength and drop body fat. Seems like a lot of confusion out there. I’m not looking to compete in a Figure Competing,just get in better shape and look better naked:)
    Wondering what kind of routine would be best for me. I see that compound exercises are the way to go and interval cardio,like tabatas.I have 3 hrs to work out realistically a week. Usually Monday/Wed/Friday. Can you help me out? Maybe a little guidance?
    Thanks so much,

  7. Mistress Krista says:

    February 27th, 2009at 6:25 am(#)

    Hi Tracey, you can get stronger while dropping body fat. Eat at a slight deficit — calories about 12 x bodyweight (in lbs) daily, follow these habits; try a workout program like the one in “Strength Without Size” on this site, or something like Day 1 heavy, Day 2 light/high-rep/intervals/Tabata etc. (So Monday Day 1, Wed Day 2, Fri Day 1, next Monday Day 2, and so on.) On the off days do as much “non exercise exercise” as you can: walking, climbing stairs, etc.

  8. Tracey says:

    February 27th, 2009at 1:22 pm(#)

    Thanks for the response Krista! I appreciate the info on the calorie estimate. Everywhere I read seems they suggest most women eat at least 1800-2000 for some reason?? Seems like a one size fits all. I pretty much figured my maintenance is 1600. So by your calculations I should stay between 1500..seems doable. I’ll check out those work outs you mentioned. Where should I fit cardio much?

  9. Mistress Krista says:

    February 27th, 2009at 5:53 pm(#)

    There is no one-size-fits all for anything, so as soon as you see that, run away. 2000 is way too much for someone who’s 120 lbs, but maybe too little or just right for someone who’s 200, 16 years old, and active. Caloric intake is based on sex, age, activity level, and bodyweight. See here:

    Cardio on day 2 — do maybe 20-30 min circuit training or whatever you like that’s a bit more high intensity-high rep (e.g. sets of pushups, burpees, jumping squats, kb swings, etc.) and then 10 min or so of intervals.

  10. Ruth says:

    February 28th, 2009at 4:09 pm(#)

    Hello Krista, sorry that I write here under this article, I hope you see this response: I searched for your email-adress here on the site but I couldn’t find it, that’s why.
    I have two questions:
    1) where are all the other news and blog entries from the old site? I couldn’t find them.
    2) once you posted a link to a video about girls and women doing weight training (in school or camp or so), which was very motivating (it had a girl with bleeding knee :) ). Could you send me this link once again please? I can’t find it anymore!
    Besides I enjoy, as always and forever, your site and infos. You’re a great woman!
    Wishes from Germany!

  11. Mistress Krista says:

    February 28th, 2009at 5:13 pm(#)

    Sorry, I cleared the archive of old stuff when I transfered over into the new content management system. It wouldn’t import properly so most of the old stuff went bye-bye.

  12. Rose says:

    March 1st, 2009at 6:20 am(#)

    Thanks so much for all the time and effort you put into the site and all the free advice.

    I cant believe how many women overlook weight training. i look like your standard ectomorph like something that would blow away in a strong breeze but discovered to my horror a few months ago that despite being of “normal” body weight and an avid runner i was 32% bodyfat! obese!

    I’ve worked really hard with the weights and now down to 23%. Finding it really tough to make strength increases (only just about made it past the vinyl dumbbell stage despite keeping the reps low – 8-10) but the fat loss speaks for itself.

  13. Kristin says:

    March 10th, 2009at 3:35 pm(#)

    I feel lucky to have found gyms where my hard training has garnered respect rather than attempts at re-education or blow hard “tips”. My one run in with a trainer was when he STOPPED me in the middle of an anaerobic interval workout and tried to tell me that I should basically sag my hips at the bottom of a burpee for “full extension of the abs”. This made me profusely angry because (1) he totally slowed my roll and (2) it was all wrong. I just nodded and moved on.

  14. Denise DeGrazia says:

    March 11th, 2009at 4:20 pm(#)

    Hello Krista,

    The Exercise Idiocy never ends with the media. This morning as I was doing clean and presses with my kettlebells alternating with 24kg swings and real pullups I saw this on TV:
    Again with the BS about certain types of exercise (mostly dance) “elongating muscles” for a long lean look. AAARGGG!! Would someone please take a sledgehammer (preferable a really heavy one) to that canard. Please, please, pretty please!! Makes me want to hurl!
    We need a “Mythbusters” for exercises. I nominate you.
    Thank you for this site. Really.

    Just as an aside ,a researcher friend of mine has been doing DEXA scans of many many college athletes and college students. One of the studies involved comparing dancers to some other group. He told me that the average body fat % for these dancers was pretty high in spite of the fact that they were not overweight and didn’t look particularly fat. Anecdotal but makes yah wonder about all that muscle elongation crapola.

  15. Mistress Krista says:

    March 11th, 2009at 4:26 pm(#)

    Another fun fact — sumo wrestlers have very low levels of visceral fat. You’d think with the giant bellies they’d look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man inside, but it’s all subcutaneous, indicating a relatively high level of fitness and health.

  16. Shawn Jackson says:

    March 19th, 2009at 8:06 pm(#)

    Hello, Mistress Krista,

    I’ve been checking out your site for a while now, and it really has me motivated to begin my journey to adjusting my weight and getting my bodyfat under control. I’ve been procrastinating for too long, and everything you have listed here is greatly motivating and informative. I’m on week 2 of actual exercise, and I still go home dead tired, but feeling great at the same time!

    I also get a kick out of the ‘dumb guy’ comments you have listed here. As a man, it’s pretty shameful to read these. Are guys really that ignorant and/or afraid of women building their bodies? I for one love to see anyone taking the time to make themselves stronger and healthier. I certainly hope they wise up fast, otherwise these ladies will leave shoe marks on their backs as they push ahead!

  17. Lori says:

    March 26th, 2009at 11:04 pm(#)

    I work out a the gym on my campus, and I LOVE the free wieghts… cardio is best done outside, in the sun shine, in my opinion, so I stay away from the little treads with the gym bunny girls…I’m not a very big woman, mayb 5′ 5″ and this is my all time most DESPISED question at the gym.

    ” Are you almost finished/using/going to be done with that?”

    Now, if it freaking looked like I was going to be done with “that” any time soon(that usually being the squat rack/bar/bench)I could understand this. However, as it is usually delivered by the biggest, most oiled, steroid-popping-est douche bag in a 25 mile radius, it’s really irriating- they appear to either assume that they can bully me into giving it up, or that as I am a woman, I don’t need it as much, or use it as long. No one ever asks this of the bulging gym monkey who has been doing over-head presses in the squat rack (why do people do that? WHY????). I actually went over to grab a bottle of water, left my work out book on a bench, and came back to find that a guy was jacking my clips. When I asked him why… I was informed he didn’t think I really needed them, because I wasn`t lifting as much.

    Lori smash.

  18. Mythbusters! The best of the web - weight training, strength, fitness, weights, losing fat, women's weight training, bodyweight, free weights, powerlifting, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, bodybuilding, olympic weightlifting says:

    April 3rd, 2009at 10:25 am(#)

    […] Lies in the gym from Stumptuous Any self respecting strength training website these days has the obligatory mythbusting article about why weight training is fine for women. It is sometimes difficult to make this argument convincingly without sounding pompous or patronising, especially if you are a musclely bloke yourself. Fortunately there is Stumptuous, one of the first and still the funniest of this particular type of mythbuster. As a completely normal-sized woman herself, she is able to put forward a forceful and convincing argument without sounding smug. […]

  19. Anna Caroline says:

    April 3rd, 2009at 2:49 pm(#)

    Dear Krista,

    First of all, I want to let you know you kick butt!!! I’ve been a fan of yours for years, so I had to say that. But that’s neither here nor there.

    I just wanted to let you know about this, because it MUST go to the hall of shame. Especially because this atrocious comment was made on (gasp) Oprah!!!

    In case you don’t feel like reading the whole nonsense, this is what made me furious:

    “Then, Gwyneth moves on to arm exercises that require little to no resistance. “Only 3-pound weights,” Tracy says. “No woman should lift more than 3 pounds.”

    Tracy Anderson is personal trainer to the stars — Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna for starters. I just think she’s a nimrod.

    Anyway, I thought I should share.


  20. Anna Caroline says:

    April 3rd, 2009at 3:09 pm(#)

    Uh, I just saw the proper link for the hall of shame submissions. My apologies!


  21. Rachel says:

    April 8th, 2009at 12:32 pm(#)

    I never really had anyone say anuthing rude to me…I think they take one look at me and know not to mess with
    I find that when i lift weights and put the effort in I get alot of stares from the men as if it turnes them on. And their are other men that just get intimidated from it.
    If you have huge muscles then you clearly must know everything and all the secrets that go with
    Woman can be just as strong as a man and our form is way better then the men;-)

  22. kaylee says:

    April 9th, 2009at 1:49 pm(#)

    Thank you for writing and publishing this section, and the entire website for that matter. I’m a graduate student in medical science and regularly hear many of these lies from scientists and other people who really should know better. Heck, I just heard one of them from a nurse last week. It’s nice to have a website to show my male AND female colleagues and friends the truth from someone who’s already done her homework.

    Your site also helps me to stay on track with eating right (food=fuel) and gives me motivation for getting my rump to the gym. Thanks for that. :-)

    In my perfect world no one feels uncomfortable entering a gym…. One day….

  23. moonlady says:

    April 14th, 2009at 7:18 pm(#)

    From “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, 2008 edition, one of the most recognized and famous pregnancy guides. This comes from p. 225 in an inset called “Biceps Curl”, which is one of several exercises recommended for pregnant women.

    “Start by selecting light weights (3- or 5-pound weights if you’re a beginner, and never lift more than 12-pound weights).”

    OK, I can see how this might make sense for a woman who’s never lifted before in her life. But now that I’m 4 months along am I supposed to just stop doing my 50 lb barbell curls (which amounts to 25 lbs per arm, or twice the authors’ recommended maximum) with no justification whatsoever?

    I tell you, I am not looking forward to walking around the gym when I’m more obviously pregnant. I might just laminate a note from my doctor saying that lifting weights is approved. Small favors: at least my OB seems positive about my weightlifting.

  24. Marla says:

    April 17th, 2009at 6:49 am(#)

    Fantastic post! and I love the insightful comments. The thing that strikes me the most is how often women are discouraged and threatened with the idea that they might get “big.” What is so wrong with big? It’s not my personal goal because I don’t have the total commitment and determination it would take to get there, but I wouldn’t mind it at all! The idea that a woman with muscles is unfeminine is ridiculous. I am female; therefore everything I do is “feminine.” Ipso facto.

    (and all this nonsense about ovaries and GYN problems: aren’t the men worried about their testicles dropping or something?)

  25. Kate says:

    April 17th, 2009at 11:59 am(#)

    Krista, really loving the site, so much useful info and I love your writing style.

    I just followed Anna’s link to the Gwyneth thing and I am horrified to find that I’ve been doing everything wrong! You mean I should put down this 28lb dumbbell I’ve been swinging around and pick up the tiny pink weights instead?! And I should step away from the power rack and the 130lb bar I was deadlifting (I know, small number, but it’ll get bigger!)?

    These are the people who perpetuate the ‘lifting heavy weights makes you bulky’ uber-myth and they should be rounded up and shipped off to Alaska where they can be hunted down by Sarah Palin…

    On lies in the gym, like Rachel, I’ve never had anyone say anything to me, but it does annoy me when I’m doing proper exercises like squats or deadlifts and some guy comes and stands right in front of me so I can’t watch my form in the mirror… oh, and he does something lame-ass like shrugging his shoulders whilst holding dumbbells… Next time that happens, they are getting an ass-whupping (or at least some very evil glaring)

  26. Ali says:

    April 24th, 2009at 3:30 pm(#)

    In reference to this: “Then, Gwyneth moves on to arm exercises that require little to no resistance. “Only 3-pound weights,” Tracy says. “No woman should lift more than 3 pounds.”

    Soooo… Does this mean no woman should ever lift her own child, unless they’re a preemie under 3 lbs.?

    I cannot believe people so casually spout such nonsense to the masses. It would be nice to have Krista on Oprah with a gym myth debunking show *Hint hint*. Eh, but then I wouldn’t watch it because I have zero tolerance for that drivel.

  27. Mythbusters! The best of the web | Hard Sweat says:

    May 2nd, 2009at 2:46 pm(#)

    […] Lies in the gym from Stumptuous Any self respecting strength training website these days has the obligatory mythbusting article about why weight training is fine for women. It is sometimes difficult to make this argument convincingly without sounding pompous or patronising, especially if you are a musclely bloke yourself. Fortunately there is Stumptuous, one of the first and still the funniest of this particular type of mythbuster. As a completely normal-sized woman herself, she is able to put forward a forceful and convincing argument without sounding smug. […]

  28. Ian says:

    May 14th, 2009at 9:03 am(#)

    Ha Ha! That was a great article. I think some women get scared they are going to get crazy huge, but like you said, that takes a whole lot of work. Also I have a friend that happens to be a woman that workouts a lot. I have often gotten advise from her on different techniques and etc. Almost everything you say seems to be right along the same ideas from her.

  29. Judith Young says:

    May 15th, 2009at 2:30 pm(#)

    I was told to stop doing crunches with weights, as it would make my waist bigger!

    When I asked a gym instructor how to overcome my problem with not getting past 60lb biceps curls, he promptly said didn’t I mean 6lb because women can’t lift 60lb?

    Great article :)

  30. Leela says:

    May 18th, 2009at 3:58 pm(#)

    LOVE this post, and this site overall.

    On the subject of “elongating muscles”, I really would like to know more about this. I have always gotten great benefits from doing yoga along with everything else I do (crossfit, dance, and before that, other kinds of strength and cardio stuff), in part because strength training and running make me feel too tight unless I do yoga, and because it provides a great cushion against the kinds of stupid injuries that dance can cause. There is definitely a *feeling* of lengthening. And in yoga, dance, and other forms that emphasize alignment and originating movements from deep within the body, “lengthening” is a very important concept.

    However, I have no idea if any real lengthening is happening, and it would be very interesting to hear what exercise physiology people have to say about it (I’m not educated in that area). I will share two observations here:

    1) When I began doing yoga, I actually did become a little taller. But this was, I’m sure, due to improved posture.

    2) I took a workshop with a very highly-regarded Egyptian dance instructor, of the old school. Meaning, absolutely NO warmup before launching us into two very complex choreographies. Now, as I said above, I have no idea what the science is on lengthening of muscles, but I can tell you that I have seen footage of this dancer as a young performer, and she was very lithe. Now, twenty years later, her muscles look like baseballs. So there must be something to the idea that if you never stretch, your muscles will get very tight, and maybe also look it. Yeah?

  31. Mistress Krista says:

    May 18th, 2009at 8:31 pm(#)

    Anatomically there is no “lengthening” in the way that people commonly understand it. Muscles attach via tendinous attachments to bone. This does not change. People vary in the length and site of their attachments, which is what produces individual differences in appearance and strength. Very slight differences in attachment sites can produce enormous differences in leverage.

    Muscles only contract. That is all they know how to do. When they “lengthen” what is actually occurring is that stretch receptors in the muscle are permitting it. Stretch receptors reflexively kick in when the body perceives that the joint is approaching its end range. This is a protective mechanism that prevents the joint from enduring forces that might damage it. When the joint is allowed to relax, and the stretched position is held for longer than around 10 seconds, the stretch receptors relax a bit too, and permit more movement. I’m told that anesthetized people are totally floppy, because the stretch receptors don’t fire.

    The sensation of lengthening is due to enhanced mobility within the joint. As the joint moves repeatedly, it lubricates with synovial fluid, which helps improve range of motion. It also tells the stretch receptors that it’s OK to go to this range. It’s true that if you don’t do movements that improve mobility, you will probably experience an adaptive tightening of the muscles — for example, this happens to the front of the shoulders and hips in desk workers. But again, the muscles don’t “shorten” or “lengthen” in the ways that people commonly understand it to occur.

  32. Adria says:

    May 21st, 2009at 9:52 am(#)

    Hi Krista! I’ve been slowly increasing weights over the past year (up to 22.5 on dumbbells, 85 on rows, and working my way up from an injury to more than 55 on dead lifts) and I’m loving heavier and heavier weights.

    I’m curious about something you posted to an earlier commenter.
    You posted this link:

    In this article, Dr. Berardi states “4. Ensure that your carbohydrate intake comes from fruits and vegetables. Exception: workout and post-workout drinks and meals.”

    Does this mean no carbs coming from whole grains at all? I love my whole grain wheat bread, and I’ve been experimenting with ancient grains as well (quinoa especially)…Does that mean he doesn’t want you to get carbs from grain sources at all?

    Do you agree?

  33. Mistress Krista says:

    May 21st, 2009at 12:42 pm(#)

    No, it doesn’t mean no whole grain carbs — it means timing them appropriately. Because whole grains are carbohydrate-dense, they are best eaten in the “workout window” of approx. 1-2 hours before and after training.

  34. Tue, June 2nd – CrossFit Ireland - Great People. Great Fitness. says:

    June 1st, 2009at 5:29 pm(#)

    […] Lies in the Gym – […]

  35. Lea says:

    June 25th, 2009at 9:44 am(#)

    I have been doing the workout from The New Rules of Lifting for Women and I ran across this site last week and read you and your readers’ comments on bad advice at the gym. I actually got my own comment last night.

    I was doing wide grip lat pulldowns at 85 pounds and this (not in shape at all) dude next to me interupts me to say my weight was too high. He recommended I do 15 lbs (!?!?!) for 25 reps so I wouldn’t get bulky. I think I could pull down 15 lbs with my pinky.

  36. sheila says:

    July 24th, 2009at 2:01 am(#)

    you should again run female gym workshop at bang! so I can take it!

  37. maria says:

    August 19th, 2009at 1:15 pm(#)

    thank god I found this web site! I practice judo in Argentina, I just started a year ago and now im starting to lift some weight at the gym too…you wouldn’t believe the amount of stupid comments i have to hear each time I tell someone what i do!
    Besides, it was really hard for me to found a gym instructor who took me seriously (I wouldn´t do it on my own for now as im just starting), they always tend to make me do the kind of “women excercise” you talk about in this article (many reps with no weight).
    So thanks! this has just become my fav web site :D

  38. erik says:

    August 27th, 2009at 6:30 am(#)

    What’s up with the NY Times? I’ve seen several articles in the past few years that, if read by the average american, will actually deter any form of movement to aid in weight loss! “See, I told you, exercise isn’t all that great for you! Now move, your blocking the TV”!

  39. Jamie says:

    September 9th, 2009at 8:26 am(#)

    My girlfriend and I were just getting into weight lifting last year and decided we needed a cheaper alternative to the gym’s protein shake vending machine, so we headed to the local GNC.

    We were browsing a wall full of Muscle Milk when this hyper salesman bounces over to us and says eagerly, “So, are you ladies shopping for your men?!”

    We haven’t been back.

  40. Mistress Krista says:

    September 10th, 2009at 6:48 am(#)

    Jamie: Ha ha ha! Awesomely brutal story.

  41. Ana says:

    September 13th, 2009at 5:47 pm(#)

    Ahaha, brilliant!
    Yes, women do lift heavy weights. Deal with it.

    I guess I appear even stranger to guys, since I’m not only a girl, but a very small one – 150 cm and ~50 kg. I guess it’s also a matter of culture. Here’s what I mean:

    I’m Romanian, but have lived in Iceland for almost 3 years. I started strength training in Iceland and I go to kettlebells group training sessions, where there are as many girls as guys. No guy ever made any idiotic comment about me lifting weights, some of them have even been encouraging and appreciative.

    So I take an Easter vacation this spring and go visit my family in Romania, I don’t want to pause my training, so I find a local gym that’s not too small and has some decent free weights. Pay my dues and all that.
    First session, I do some handstand pushups (after politely asking for permission to put my socks on the wall), some deadlifts, pushups with weight plate, pistols, rows, chinups, inclined chest presses, the works. I hear the guys muttering, but I’m too focused on my stuff. To be honest, I do have pretty developed muscles, but that’s genetic. While taking a break, I notice half the gym staring at me like monkeys and going “whoa, dude, look at her pecs/bicepses/whatever, harr harr” and other intelligent comments on the same note.

    Which made me wake up at 5:30 in the morning just so I can be at the gym right when they open and hopefully suffer only a few such morons.

  42. Trishy says:

    September 16th, 2009at 11:25 am(#)

    I use a university gym, so I guess it’s a little more common to see women working out hard, since there are a lot of female athletes in the university. It also helps that there are two gyms, one focused on weight lifting and the other mainly devoted to cardio equipment. I guess I’m lucky, because I generally only hear admiring comments. The other day I was finishing up a workout that includes Kipping pull-ups and heavy squats (just under 2X body weight — almost there!), and a biiiig strong guy approaches me as I was leaving and tells me how impressed he was with my workout, since he doesn’t usually see women doing pull-ups or heavy squats. Which is true, it is unusual to see the women at my gym doing those particular exercises. I have heard similar comments when I was doing one-armed push-ups, it seems to make the guys smile :) Maybe it also helps that most of the people at my gym are young, college and grad students mostly.

  43. orip says:

    September 16th, 2009at 12:41 pm(#)

    Love these, thanks Krista.

  44. Fro says:

    September 23rd, 2009at 10:42 am(#)

    Your site is awesome.

    I’d have to say my favorite part of lifting weights (besides the actual weightlifting, that is) comes when guys try to use the machine behind you without checking the weights. Because, clearly, since you’re a girl and they’re a guy, they can assume the amount of weight you were lifting will be easy as pie for them.

    Well, you know what they say about assuming.

  45. Luis says:

    November 6th, 2009at 5:39 pm(#)

    I definately respect any woman who values the effectiveness of strength training. The other day at my local gym i saw a 50 some year old trainer training her student and boy did that make me feel “less of a man” in a funny way though.

    I’m 24 but i don’t think i have what it takes to keep up with that lady. Most of my workouts are super-sets and intervals since i can get a quick full body workout in about 40-45 minutes.

    Oh and i have a question if you don’t mind. Are any of you fans of body weight exercises such as pull-ups, spiderman push-ups, grasshopper push-ups, body weight squats, etc? I’m a huge fan of body weight exercises since i can often do these exercises at home.

  46. Shelly says:

    November 24th, 2009at 6:15 pm(#)

    Oh, the things people have said…

    The one that pissed me off the most was when a whole group of my “feminist” friends agreed that swimmers bodies are ugly, because women shouldn’t have that strong triangle shape.

    On the other hand, I can name five people off the top of my head who said they lifted weights for a bit (in one case this meant one session) and stopped because they didn’t like how manly it made them look.

    I don’t lift a lot, but I lift well, and when I bench press I only put ten pounds on each side of the bar, one guy looked at me at the gym and said, why even bother. I told him if he used the proper form I use he wouldn’t be able to lift nearly as much as he usually does nor for as long, and another male trainer in the gym agreed with me!

  47. Karin says:

    December 18th, 2009at 5:31 am(#)

    Hi Mistress Krista

    I’ve came across your website some time ago, before I started lifting. At that stage I was doing machine, since “they are better adapted for woman” and “allowed me to use smaller weights”. I actually believed it!!

    Well, two years later, with very limited results, my husband and I had serious help from an excellent personal trainer, who only believe in training with free weights. According to him it’s the only way to go and he actually treats me the same way he does my husband, by really pushing me and adding heavier weights all the time. I just love it!

    I can already see results after just two months and am feeling very confident about myself. My bodyfat is still high, but I know it will decrease as I get stronger.

    The best part of it is that weight training has encouraged my husband to train with me and we workout together and he encourages me whenever I get fatigued, which helps me to do a few reps more.

    Great site, thanks.


  48. CptG says:

    December 27th, 2009at 3:17 pm(#)

    This is such a great post!

    A lot of women need to hear this information to get rid of all the crap, myths and lies that are associated with working out.

    As a trainer who predominately trains women, I hear so many ridiculous things.

    When I ask them where they heard it form they usually say somewhere on the net, or one of those celebrity magazines… *sigh*

  49. Stefanie says:

    January 1st, 2010at 6:13 pm(#)

    Ok. I’ve been a gym member for six months, honestly I stick with the machines because I have yet to find someone to teach me the proper free weight lifting technique and I’m not a lifter, so I don’t want to do it alone.

    I was on the treadmill just WALKING, with the incline 3x higher than the big guy next to me, now i’m new at this so I was shocked when the guy told me I shouldn’t have the incline that high cause my calf muscles would get huge.?!!?! I couldn’t help myself, I looked down and said hmm they are pretty big, maybe I should go home and get pregnant.

    Anyways just wanted to share. And see if there are any tips to get me started with free weight lifting and fat lose.

    Thanks! Love the site so far.

  50. Sarah says:

    January 14th, 2010at 1:03 am(#)

    Thanks for this post–it’s irritating that you see this kinda nonsense everywhere, even in my “large, liberal” (ugh) university in a decent-sized East Coast city.

    Today I was doing my bench presses, and it’s the first day of class so it’s crowded with all the New Year’s people. I have no idea what the standard is, but I have worked up to 100 lbs: it’s challenging for me, I’m proud of it.

    So I have 2 x 25 plates (with dinky 2.5s) on a bar, and what else do I hear, loudly, mid-set, than “I don’t understand why all these bitches clog up the weight room! LOOK! 12 reps at 75lbs!”

    Wanted to deck him with the bar to ascertain its weight.

    He had a British accent–do they lift with 25lb bars there? They use the English system, right?

    GRR!! Thanks for this article. I really needed to see it; love the site.

  51. pat says:

    January 16th, 2010at 8:03 am(#)

    Just found this site and just finished this article….I can’t stop laughing because it is all so true. I had always “exercised” but had never done free weights until two years ago. I am 57 years old and only 5’3″ and what a difference working with weights has made. Love the muscle and yeah, I get remarks from well intentioned males BUT I also get a lot of encouraging remarks and compliments. That is pretty cool at my age. I will never go back to being without muscles.

  52. Isabel says:

    March 3rd, 2010at 3:29 pm(#)

    Just read through this article, and it’s hilarious. I’ve seen so many of these stereotypes at my gym.

    One of my best moments was in a class in college, where I mentioned to my friend that I’d had an awful charlie horse the night before (drink water! or wake up screaming in agony…at least that’s how it works for me) and was now limping.

    Some random girl in the class told me that it was because I wasn’t stretching enough. I said I do stretch, just not excessively, and I hadn’t drank enough water the night before, which was the problem (never had a charlie horse after not stretching “enough” always happens after dehydration and free weights).

    She insisted then (and on other occasions when I was talking to my friend) that doing the elliptical trainer most days and doing “weights” once a week was the best way for a woman to work out.

    Apparently her doctor who had been in sport’s medicine at some point (because obviously that means he couldn’t possibly be wrong or believe any dumb myths about women in the gym) had said so, and she took an anatomy class and was a “physical biology” major (wtf that has to do with it). Having stronger muscles couldn’t possibly be a good way to raise your metabolism or lose weight. Because she said so.

    When I contested that I had better results doing free weights with cardio days in the minority, and that women who do elliptical at my gym are building next to no muscle, she of course demanded I say where I heard such a thing etc, etc.

    Fortunately she dropped the class soon (ha, inferior workout and bad at math, I win) and stopped interrupting my conversations with my friend.

    My boyfriend not only loves that I do weights, and loves the effect of them on my ass, but he also loves when he sees me at the gym and not only am I the only woman doing free weights, my deadlifts are heavier than most guys’ (except the big, scary bodybuilder types…but their biceps are the size of my thighs, so…yeah). He also likes to ask men who do free weights if they like deadlifts and squats, and then brag about his girlfriend doing them (and enjoying them). Since he’s the only man who really gets to have any say in how I look (and that’s usually minimal unless it’s his birthday) I’m content to ignore dumb men at the gym who think I’ll get big and bulky unless I start doing smaller weights.

  53. Christine says:

    March 10th, 2010at 5:19 pm(#)

    Hi Krista,
    I’ve been reading your site, amazing, woman! Finally a “women’s” guide to fitness that isn’t wussy! I’m glad I’m not the only one out there who likes to work hard.

    Thanks for keeping this going, I love it.

  54. Mark says:

    March 10th, 2010at 8:12 pm(#)

    I just wanted to say this site is awesome, the best site I’ve seen for training (though exrx is pretty useful)

    You rock!

  55. Tiferet says:

    April 2nd, 2010at 11:21 am(#)

    At 45 I’m just getting back into working out again, but I have one to share. When I was 21, my first husband complained about my workouts because he thought I should have a fat belly for him to lay his head on, LOL!

    (I actually think he disliked the fact that I got more attention.)

  56. Workout 13 APR 2010 « Landstuhl Strength Conditioning & Combatives Facility says:

    April 12th, 2010at 3:09 pm(#)

    […] Train Differently Than Males? by Joe DeFranco Training for the Female Athlete By Joe DeFranco Lies in The Gym by Mistress Krista (I enjoyed the comments as much as the article) and finally the Sex, Appearance, and Training by […]

  57. Macoelmeco says:

    May 20th, 2010at 11:19 pm(#)

    Is sad this article made me laugh, because it shows how everyone has an opinion, they talk but don´t prove anything. I am from Peru and lived in the states for some time. I actually miss seeing women training for real… here is very rare to see a woman (or man hahah) do heavy deadlifts or russian twists hehehe… theres no sports or physical culture, they exercise to look good only. (BTW I am a guy).
    Cool article!!

  58. Personal Trainer CT says:

    June 25th, 2010at 12:22 pm(#)

    What a great post! So glad I came across this! I’m a personal trainer in CT (and a male) and work with a lot of men and women everyday, and for some, these common misconceptions are cemented to their brains! Since they won’t take my word for it, I’ve directed them here! Thanks so much for the backup and great insight! Feel free to check out our website for inspiration anytime! you’re always welcome! Thanks again!

  59. Pig says:

    July 6th, 2010at 9:32 pm(#)

    You are awesome! It’s so hard sometimes to explain these things to girls because they’re bombarded with terrible information from everywhere.

    One myth I would add that I’m not sure you mentioned is “spot reduction” – exercising muscles on just a certain part of the body due to a mistaken belief that it will cause localized fat loss, with the only result being muscle imbalance.

    The frustrating thing is that it’s so simple – a woman should train just like a man. But getting someone to believe this is not easy.

  60. Benchmark Friday! July 23 | CrossFit UpCountry Maui says:

    July 23rd, 2010at 12:48 am(#)

    […] Check this out! A good read about the myths of women and weightlifting. Lies in the gym […]

  61. JohnAtl says:

    August 6th, 2010at 11:16 am(#)

    If you want to be treated equally and with respect try a CrossFit gym or trainer.
    Men and women in our group range in age from 20 to nearly 50, and have greatly varying abilities.
    It’s all about bettering yourself, and ‘better’ is relative. For example, deadlifts range from 35# to over 300#. We all support and encourage each other, no matter the weight used, or if a movement is scaled down.
    It is truly a unique culture, and the most supportive environment I’ve ever been in.

  62. Simma says:

    August 6th, 2010at 4:42 pm(#)

    The quality of CrossFit gyms and trainers varies hugely, as the certification and affiliation requirements are pretty minimal. One should take the same amount of care choosing a CrossFit trainer/gym as with any other kind.

  63. Exercise routine?? says:

    August 13th, 2010at 8:02 am(#)

    […] of my favorite articles ever, from LIES in the gym :: No fat chicks :: I recommend her to anyone working out, but especially women. […]

  64. Strength Training says:

    August 31st, 2010at 11:56 am(#)

    So far you had 63 comments on your post. Mine comment is 64th. I liked your post which was quite interest and I enjoyed reading it with lots of laugh. I think all woman should believe in one fact and that is work hard. As far as I concern woman’s willing power is more stronger as compare to man’s. So keep try lady.

  65. Caitlin says:

    September 15th, 2010at 6:14 pm(#)


    I was working out at the campus gym today, finished, and went to the locker room to grab my stuff.

    When I got there, there was a line (as there almost always is) of women/girls (what are you, exactly, in undergrad?) standing in front of the mirror, frowning, grimacing, and pointing out to friends in generally disparaging tones the various parts of their bodies that they felt needed improvement.

    In the midst of all this, I walked up to the mirror, turned sideways and admired the curve of my ass after today’s sets of squats and presses (I had just upped my weight) and said “hey, not bad”.

    The room went silent.

    How sad is it that a comment of “Oh my god, I’m such a fat pig” draws absolutely no attention, but mild self-approbation is met with criticism and disdain?

    We can do better than this, ladies.

  66. Poul Nielsen says:

    October 1st, 2010at 5:50 pm(#)

    Love the quote from Eugen Sandow. I completely agree that there still are many weight training myths that need to be dispelled, especially for women.

  67. Women and Weights - says:

    October 3rd, 2010at 9:41 pm(#)

    […] I was gathering examples for this post, I came across this post on It’s an interesting read to dispel a lot of the myths about women and […]

  68. Autumn says:

    October 7th, 2010at 3:31 pm(#)

    I just started learning Olympic Lifting and love it! I’m 40 and can’t imagine not lifting. I was warming up on a platform one day when I had a guy ask me if I was using it (duh!). When I told him yes, he said, “But I want to do deadlifts.” I said, “But I want to do heavy single power cleans.” He was mad and walked away, but he watched me the entire time. I hate people like that.

  69. Mistress Krista says:

    October 8th, 2010at 2:15 am(#)

    @Autumn: Hey, at least he wanted to deadlift, rather than the dude who hogs the bar in the power cage doing biceps curls.

  70. Mike says:

    November 22nd, 2010at 12:54 pm(#)

    “… I nearly punched him…”

    Does lifting weights make woman more aggressive? ;)

  71. Jen Miller says:

    November 30th, 2010at 3:37 pm(#)

    I just discovered this website today and LOVE it! =)

    Adding to dumb things said at the gym – A couple of months ago I had a guy at the gym tell me that I’m the only girl he’s ever seen at the gym deadlifting and cleaning – I wasn’t cleaning anything that day, let alone doing them both at the same time, in one movement. I don’t know where he learned to deadlift…

    I wanted to share a couple of positives though, in the midst of some very aggravating (and funny!) stories. One, like some other women have mentioned, my husband loves that I lift heavy weights and despise machines. He teaches me everything he knows and refers me to any articles he finds that teach on how to improve form. Second, I had a man probably about 15 years older than me recently approach me at the gym and ask ME to teach him to deadlift! I found it especially amusing considering the fact that I was surrounded by (male) gym rats, most of whom have biceps the size of my thighs and thighs the size of my calves.

  72. Ariana says:

    December 2nd, 2010at 4:04 pm(#)

    My trainer friend who works at a globogym and can’t put his arms at his side because of his huge biceps, told me that “stretching is bad cause it breaks down your muscles.” Yeah, that’s why people who do yoga are so unsightly!

  73. Kelly W says:

    December 6th, 2010at 2:27 pm(#)

    I have to admit, I’m one of those women who is afraid of getting too muscular (blame a certain ballet mistress in Carlisle, PA). I’ve even turned down a free work-out session with my personal-trainer boyfriend, in fear of bulking up.

    This past year my aunt, age 46, has started competing as an amateur bodybuilder, and has never looked better! I was skeptical at first, but I have to say it was great to be around someone who’s excited about muscles… especially someone I’m close to.

  74. ryan says:

    January 10th, 2011at 9:18 pm(#)


    I was really enjoying reading this website, it has some great and informative writings on it.

    But now…….. i’m just finding it a little sexiest, from a guys point of view.

    I’m a man, but that doesn’t instantly mean that when i go to the gym i do so purely to be rude & disrespectful to women or belittle them, nor do i go to perve on them while they work out.

    Funny enough, when i go to the gym i do so to work out – for myself, nobody else.

    I had a group of ladies perving on my bum at the gym a few weeks back which was making me uncomfortable…… but the last thing i would do is label all women at the gym ‘perverts’, because it was only a select few.

    what your dealing with are a select few ‘idiots’ – please don’t label all guys and men this way.

  75. « epicrisis says:

    January 18th, 2011at 3:26 pm(#)

    […] this website surfing and liked it.  Of particular interest is “The Gym Will Bite You, Be Afraid” which goes over some of the silly nonsense you hear from people about women training (a […]

  76. Paul says:

    March 26th, 2011at 7:19 am(#)

    The lies of the gym are not reserved for the women. It appears to me that most “gym wisdom” is purveyed by those trying to rationalize how all the time and money they have invested into trying to attain a better body was well spent. The biggest surprise is how much the average person can do wrong, and still end up with significant improvements.

    As far as myths go, here is one I’ve heard and read: If you take prednisone (a corticosteroid used to treat autoimmune inflammatory diseases, NOT a muscle-buidling anabolic) it “locks” the fat into your cells and prevents muscle growth.

    However, despite over a decade on prednisone, I’ve managed to lose 30 lbs and made impressive strides toward recovering lost muscle strength.

    Unfortunately, professional body-builder bodies and the dream of attaining them (especially for men) are largely what fund and fuel the weight training world. I wish the emphasis could be shifted to the realistic expectations of what weight training can do for the average person: improve their overall quality of life, and coupled with aerobic activity, give them a healthy level of functional fitness, not a hyper-trophic body.

    Taking issue with SNL’s Fernando Lamas: It is better to feel good, than look good. (Looking better is just a welcome side effect!)

  77. Amanda says:

    March 28th, 2011at 7:27 pm(#)

    This is great! I haven’t had anyone make comments to me, but body language says it all! One time I was doing bench presses and I had just gotten done with my warm-up weight, so I unloaded the bar and started putting on more weight. While I was doing that I noticed a couple guys standing near me and watching me. When I unloaded the weight they started walking towards the bench like they thought I was done, then I put on more weight and they stopped, then turned around and walked away. Please! You really think I’m only going to do one set of the bench press! Where would that get me? Hahaha!

  78. Sable says:

    March 30th, 2011at 4:59 pm(#)

    My grandmother told me not to gain muscle, because when I lost it, it would all turn to fat (and didn’t believe me when I tried to explain that muscle and fat cells are completely different.) Also, my mother-in-law told me that running will make your uterus fall out and that all competitive female runners had been “tacked up.” *Sigh.

  79. Annie says:

    April 1st, 2011at 1:39 pm(#)

    While I was resting in between sets, a guy at the gym wanted to inform me that I was lifting too heavy (was doing seated dumbbell shoulder press w/30 lb dumbbells) and that I should go lighter and do more reps. Knowing that he was “that guy”, I told him that I was just following my trainer’s instructions. He then had to tell me that he was shocked that my trainer wanted me to get bulky.


  80. Women and Weights says:

    May 8th, 2011at 5:18 am(#)

    […] found this great post over on – Lies in the Gym. It discusses and debunks eight myths that women are commonly told when they start working out. It […]

  81. Sex, Lies and Videotape | lisavandore says:

    May 11th, 2011at 6:23 am(#)

    […] up is one of my favorite articles by Krista Scott-Dixon titled Lies in the Gym.  This is an article written for women…but guys, please keep reading so you can enlighten […]

  82. Interfit says:

    May 11th, 2011at 7:05 pm(#)

    I got a kick out of this article. I think a resonating point is this one: “LIE: Muscles grow different ways depending on how you work them.”

    The desire and ability to consistently work out with high intensity is far, far more important to success in Fitness and Nutrition than trying to figure out the science behind it. All you need are a few things, and anything is possible:


    A great example of this, is this woman who motivates my friends and I all the time for the gym (Im a guy btw):

  83. Crystal says:

    May 27th, 2011at 9:29 pm(#)

    I go to my local university gym all the time with my husband and we’re barely bothered when we work out but when we are it’s always priceless.

    Just heard this one yesterday from a fellow female gym goer who witnessed my bench press and squat routine the previous day.

    “Making her lift all the man weights and stuff, I saw you working her yesterday”, she said to my husband. I had the biggest grin on my face as I walked away.

  84. anon says:

    June 1st, 2011at 11:48 pm(#)

    I agree with a lot of what you said but,

    “LIE: Women shouldn’t work their leg and butt muscles, otherwise they’ll get too big.

    Once again we have the fallacy of the ‘big muscles’.”

    I don’t know about this being a lie(well, that they can’t get big…you should work them some of course). I played ice hockey from elementary school through high school and quite a few of the girls I played with(myself included) bemoaned the size of the leg and butt muscles(which we called “hockey butt”) we developed from extensive skating and exercises focused on building leg strength.

    That said, I think part of this and the general concerns about getting too bulky from lifting heavy weights, is dependent on individual perceptions of beauty and what one considers “too much”. I certainly don’t think I could ever look like Arnold or anything but there are women who are more muscular than I’d like to be(who don’t use steroids or anything of that sort). It doesn’t bother me that other women enjoy weightlifting more, and lift heavier weights, but I wish that some of them would not feel the need to criticize those of us who prefer to focus on cardio. Genetics and biology factor into this quite a bit and I know that for me personally I feel better and have an easier time maintaining my weight when I focus on cardio supplemented with moderate weight lifting instead of a weight lifting focused regimen.

    Also, with regards to toning, I’ve always understood the term to mean focusing on maintaining muscle as opposed to increasing muscle mass and strength, or losing fat again without necessarily the intent to increase muscle mass or strength. I definitely don’t think “men train, women tone” but I do think toning exists and it might be the preferred option for -some- people. You might not understand why someone wouldn’t want to get stronger/build more muscle mass but someone like me might not understand why someone else doesn’t want to get better at running distances :-p

  85. Carol Graham says:

    June 24th, 2011at 9:50 am(#)

    Great post! I truly enjoyed reading this post. Thankfully I workout in a personal training studio, so I don’t run into the situations that some have described. But I am training for my third powerlifting competition and I wonder sometimes how I am perceived by other women because althought I am not “Big” by any stretch, my arms and legs are a bit larger that the average female gym-goer.-Carol

  86. 19Jul11 « says:

    July 18th, 2011at 9:50 pm(#)

    […] Lies told to women. […]

  87. avenathus » Blog Archive » What For? says:

    August 14th, 2011at 9:47 am(#)

    […] faster each time, and just feel more badass. I now fully subscribe to the idea that women must lift weights. It’s cool because I have pretty muscular arms now–it’s always been easy for my […]

  88. Korie Hold says:

    November 12th, 2011at 8:34 am(#)

    I really like your list about fitness myths, and actually find it extremely informative! I can especially relate to the common myth that weight training will make women huge and masculine. For a while this notion that I would get huge manly muscles kept me from doing any type of strength training. One day I decided to try a strength training class at my gym, and almost immediately saw results that I liked. Strength training with weights has made a bigger difference in my body than cardio ever did. While I did not ever lose weight by strength training, it helped add curves where I wanted them, and tone my muscles. Thanks for posting this very useful list of myths!

  89. Charlotte says:

    November 21st, 2011at 2:18 pm(#)

    Thanks for these and for the site! I’d long been cautioned that as a 5’8″ woman with size 12 feet, I had to be very, very careful about lifting because I would “get big like a man.” However, I’ve been doing a combination of Body Pump classes and plain old barbell training on my own and I’ve had fantastic results in terms of losing fat. I’ve also noticed that weightlifting, without fail, makes me calmer and happier than any other form of exercise. It’s worth it for that alone. (And, it’s true, I might enjoy it just a teeeeensy bit when guys stare at me deadlifting.)

  90. Michael Thompson says:

    December 6th, 2011at 11:38 pm(#)

    I’m sorry Krista, but in the 18 years I have been working out and lifting heavy, I have never seen any woman that wasn’t on ‘roids develop too much muscle. I can’t tell you the number of out of shape, overweight, women (and men), saying they don’t want to get too big. Usually, the person who says this is naturally fat and is not that muscular at all, just big! Those big, undefined arms and legs are not muscle. I don’t care what kind of genetics you have, you are not gaining “10 pounds of muscle really easily”, unless you are like 13 years old! Ha! And one more thing: Why are bodybuilders the representatives of the fitness industry?! When women lift big, they look great… and feminine! And lastly, who said a fat butt was the same as a round, shapely one?!

  91. Andy Morgan says:

    December 28th, 2011at 7:49 pm(#)

    I love this! Well written!

  92. Janet Moore says:

    March 6th, 2012at 7:19 am(#)

    For all of those reasons stated above is why I built a home gym with bench, rack, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc. Now I can lift in peace!

  93. Matt says:

    March 14th, 2012at 8:18 pm(#)

    I’m emailing this article to all my female personal training clients. I hear all of this all the when I take on a new female client. Usually with lots of apprehension I get my ladies lifting within a few sessions and their husbands thanking me. Lifting for females firms up what they want to firm faster which = sexier feminine look. Thanks for the resource!

  94. Helen says:

    April 15th, 2012at 4:51 am(#)

    Tracy Anderson should be shot!!

  95. Robert says:

    May 2nd, 2012at 2:54 pm(#)

    Sprinter body vs Marathon runner body. Which would you have?

  96. Herman says:

    May 31st, 2012at 11:07 am(#)

    In the gym where I work we are faced with the same wrong assumption about women getting muscular by normal training. The only way to convince women is to tell them it will dramaticaly improve their figure.

  97. Dennis Blair Fort Collins Personal Trainer says:

    June 27th, 2012at 11:49 am(#)

    This blog is perfect! I’ve been trying to dispel these lies with my clients for YEARS!

  98. Sarah says:

    July 1st, 2012at 5:26 pm(#)

    Love this post! The other day my friend’s mum told me that if I didn’t lay off the Body Pump classes I’d look like a man. My response? ‘Do I look like one now?’ She said of course not, but it would soon ‘catch up with me’. What does that even MEAN?!

  99. Mike says:

    July 16th, 2012at 8:33 pm(#)

    Just saw this and it gave me a good laugh. Let me just say that I truly respect women who weight train and the most beautiful women at my gym can be found by the freeweights and not killing themselves on the cardio equipment. Keep it up everyone.

  100. Michelle says:

    August 16th, 2012at 2:06 pm(#)

    I know yoga and weight training didn’t firm my actual breasts… they are still bags of fat. but they sure did seem less flabby and hangy (I know gross right? Give me a break, they’re big and I’m almost 40). Anyway… I have to say they looked way ‘firmer’ for lack of a better word because they seemed ‘higher’ or ‘perkier’… could this be a result of working the chest muscles around the breasts? For alas after months at the gym they themselves I concur were still just bags of fat LOL However… they looked better…and not substantially smaller. Perhaps that’s what is meant when someone says (albeit incorrectly) ‘firm your boobs’. ?? Any explanation or comment? Just curious… just hired a personal trainer too.. I start in a few days. scared but gloriously excited.

  101. Oktavist says:

    September 15th, 2012at 8:52 am(#)

    And I thought that gym jerks were only in my gym…
    “Dude,I’m doing 6 exercises for my biceps,6 for my triceps.Gotta work’em hard and good”.Also,he was doing only 3 exercises for back.

    I have had my head ripped off by people telling me “Yo man,this is how to work your bicep to have a big peak”.

    Thank you for debunking these myths.I will surely send my gym jerks this.

  102. Alex Lamb says:

    September 17th, 2012at 3:02 pm(#)

    This list is great – and HOW true!!!! I can’t tell you how many times I get rude and incorrect comments at the gym! Either WEAK guys telling me to step up my workout (because they are intimidated and search for flaws in me even though I’m stronger than them and it shows) and STRONG guys who tell me I shouldn’t be lifting heavy or I’ll be manly and thats “gross”.

    I was also told the other day that the calluses on my hands are nasty and men want women with soft hands – Oh, I’m sorry, but they show that I workout hard as hell and MY MAN will appreciate them because he appreciates a strong woman.


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