Don’t Fear Strong

While most women know that we need to build strength for long term health, many of us still fear the “perceived” consequences of being strong. Based on my experience there is still a misconception that lifting weights will work against our weight loss efforts and eventually lead to bulky boyish bodies. While it is true that we can use weight training methodologies to increase size (hypertrophy), lifting something relatively heavy doesn’t necessarily mean we will become larger and it certainly doesn’t mean we will lose our femininity. There are multiple ways to program resistance training in order to reach different health and fitness goals.

Sara becomes stronger, leaner, and fitter by lifting heavier!
Sara Becomes Stronger, Leaner, and Fitter by Lifting Heavier

In fact, there are many studies, including one historical position paper by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA Journal, Volume 11, Number 4, 1989) which states, “A common misconception among female athletes is that weight training will cause them to become larger and heavier to their disadvantage. A substantial amount of data demonstrates the inaccuracy of this belief… Each of these studies demonstrated a reduction in fat weight and an increase in lean weight…” I would like to use my teammates, Masters of Sport Sara Nelson and Surya-Voinar Fowler, to illustrate that increased weight training helped them lose more than 60 combined pounds while turning them into two of the strongest women I know.

Surya (Before) Just Doing Cardio  |  Surya (After) Lifting Heavy
Surya (Before) Just Doing Cardio | Surya (After) Lifting Heavy

A typical training session for each of them usually consists of 8,000 – 10,000 lbs moved (24kg x 2 x 100 reps). Multiply that by 4-5 training sessions per week and you will find an immense amount of weight being lifted by each of them at this elite level. When considering the volume of their training and total pounds lifted throughout the past three years, one could easily assume that these ladies would be increasing their body mass by now, right? Wrong! Astonishingly, not only are they NOT getting bigger, they are getting leaner, stronger, and healthier than ever before (and keep in mind that neither of them are in their 20s so we can’t attribute this to the advantage of youth). According to Surya, “There’s nothing like the effects of a 10 minute set with a heavy kettlebell. All of your muscles get stretched while you sweat as if you’ve been running for an hour.”

Like Surya, Sara has used weight training at Ice Chamber to lose nearly thirty pounds over the past five years and the final ten of them she attributes to her specialization in advanced kettlebell lifting. “I have gone several pants sizes down since I started training this way,” Sara proudly states when people ask about her incredible weight loss story.

The amazing truth is that both women were able to develop the curves that they wanted while building the foundation necessary for some amazing feats of strength. By celebrating their femininity in conjunction with their athletic potential, they are dismantling the myth that absolute strength only comes in large masculine packages. In fact, they are setting a fantastic example for all of us girly-girls to follow!

Here are two videos that demonstrate the look and feel of being strong:

Surya Jerks Two 35 Pound Kettlebells 63 Times in 5 Minutes
(35 x 2 x 63 = 4410 Pounds Moved in 5 Minutes)


Sara Clean and Jerks One 62 Pound Kettlebell 32 Times in 4 Minutes
(62 x 32 x 2 = 3968 Pounds Moved in 4 Minutes)

If the idea of getting stronger by lifting something relatively heavy still frightens you, just remember that the benefits (fat loss, bone health, muscle tone, functional strength, etc.) far outweigh any silly fears about manly body-bulk. Don’t fear strong… GO FOR IT!

TaZ Shirota

October 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm

These girls are as hot as they come! I mean, who cares what my opinion on what qualifies as “hot”, but you gotta admit that they look pretty amazing.

These two demos were incredible to watch in person. It’s truly an inspiration to all of us.


October 28, 2010 at 6:06 pm

How in the world do they do this without KILLING their backs?? I’d love to do it, but I’m pretty sure my back would not like it….


October 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Jenny don’t fear for your back – if you start lifting GS (girevoy sport) you will develop your back muscles right along with the rest of your muscles as you develop technique – these woman did not start out lifting this heavy they had to build up to it. It is a skill and it take time under the bell to develop the strength, skill and stamina that they now have. You will start with a much lighter Kettlebell weight.


October 29, 2010 at 2:13 am

It’s my belief that women who “fear of getting big and bulky” are just that: Fearful. Fearful to try and make the commitment. It’s not easy to work that hard! If it were, everyone would do it! We all start somewhere, and the rewards along the way make the journey so worth it. Go for it ladies! Be strong and get stronger!

Valery fedorenko

October 29, 2010 at 10:42 am

Amazing! Results in number. Results in strength. Results in health. Results in appearance!

Robert Matias

October 29, 2010 at 11:16 am

The Ice Chamber Ladies are a result of hard work, excellent coaching, and consistency. The moment we care for our bodies, inside and out, like the gifts that they are, is the moment we will begin to scratch the surface of our God given potentials.

Thank you Ice Chamber Ladies for treating me like an old friend every time I visit. Your care for others translates into your coaching.

Great article Maya!


November 02, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Unreal. I can’t believe how strong she is. A true inspiration.

anne marie

November 17, 2010 at 5:56 am

great post! I am such a proponent of strength training!


December 05, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Amazing. I’ve been interested in kettle bell for a while now. I actually bought one and it only came with a picture page, no video instruction. I live in a town without kettle bell classes and am not sure where to purchace good, informative videos for this work out. Any suggestions?


February 02, 2011 at 8:35 am

I absolutely love kettlebell and nothing kicks my booty (literally) like a kettlebell class. These ladies are great examples of what strength training and specifically kettlebell training can do for you. I want to get to their level, thanks for the inspiration!!


May 06, 2011 at 5:19 am

First of all, I completely grew up on the assumption that lifting heavy would make bulk, not lean muscle. It has kept me away from lifting for years and years. Just recently I started hearing about how beneficial it is, and I grabbed some heavier weights and began. In two weeks, I noticed a difference–nothing to make my pants fit better yet, but just an overall toning that seems to be happening. I have been SO intimidated by kettle bell workouts, but this is inspiring. Thank you!


May 10, 2011 at 6:41 am

I’m a personal trainer. I don’t have a lot of experience with kettle balls yet. I’m interested and impressed by these girls. However, I also have concerns about the technique, especially spinal health and alignment. I know that one Master Trainer at our gym would not recommend the second video clean/press because of the alignment. Otherwise, impressive.


August 12, 2011 at 11:40 pm

hi my sister in law is a devotee at ic and raves about db training. i’d really like to push into serious kbing for the strength and confidence-building, but i’m worried about attempting anything other than one-arm swings or maybe presses without a coach to critique my form while i learn. so…do you know of any reputable kb coaches in seoul, korea? the most popular one i’ve found seems to train his pupils like this: (no wonder her wrist hurts!)
so…i’m not sure…

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