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!

Mayachela (Maya) Garcia, IC Kettlebell Team is an accomplished Kettlebell Sport athlete, the co-founder of Ice Chamber, a successful athletic training company in the San Francisco Bay Area, and mother to her nearly three year old son, Mateo. She is a Master of Sport in the 20kg Long Cycle and a Candidate for Master of Sport in the Biathlon, a 9x Gold medalist, and is the 1st American to win an Overall Best Lifter award in the International Union of Kettlebell Lifting... more »