One of the biggest misconceptions about women and fat loss has to be the myth that women should not lift heavy.
When we tell our clients to do certain lifts or challenge themselves with a heavier weight we are sometimes met with an incredulous look of, “I don’t want to do that because it’ll make me bulkier”
This could not be further from the truth.
One of the leanest girls I know is also one of the STRONGEST girls I know.
Her name is Neghar Foononi and in this blog post she’s going to show you why it’s IMPERATIVE to lift heavier, especially if you’re looking for that long and lean physique.
If transforming your body is your top priority then this is one of those articles you must read before doing your next workout.
Why Women Must Lift Heavy For Fat Loss
By: Neghar Foononi, RKC
As a fitness and lifestyle coach, I constantly get asked questions about how to achieve an optimal physique. It doesn’t matter if I’m at the nail salon or at a BBQ with friends, inevitably, people want to know…what’s the best way to change my body?
Well, first things first, I always preface my response with this:
There is no such thing as an optimal physique. There’s you, your body, and how you treat it—that’s all.
I then follow-up with the equally important statement that the best way to change your body is the way that you’ll embrace with both consistency and enjoyment. There is no best way, really, but there is the best way for YOU.
Within these conversations, women divulge what they want for their bodies: leaner legs, a firmer butt, arms like Madonna, or visible abs. Others detail various training goals such as completing an unassisted pull-up or a bodyweight deadlift. Often, as we begin to dig deeper, they reveal intentions that are more intrinsic and introspective in nature, such as looking to develop a healthier relationship with food, or boost their confidence through living a fit lifestyle.
Ultimately, every woman I speak to wants the same thing: to flourish. They want to look better and feel better, but they desperately want to do it without strict dieting and spending hours in the gym. They want to live a life in which fitness adds to their life rather than subtracts from it.
What these women regularly describe to me is what I call the Lean & Lovely lady: A fit, feminine, athletic body that’s actually as strong as it looks; a healthy relationship with food—one lacking in food-related guilt; a mindset of gratitude and compassion, and an overall empowered and vibrant life.
It just so happens, that I know a helluva lot about how to live a Lean & Lovely lifestyle.
In fact, I’ve spent the last several years helping women all over the world not only transform their bodies, but their lifestyles and their mindsets as well. And do you want to know the main ingredient in my Lean & Lovely recipe?
It all starts with strength.
I’m not just talking physical strength, but strength of mind, and character as well. It’s all encompassing, from the inside out. When I began my fitness journey, it consisted only of running and yoga—two things that are actually quite beneficial when added to a well-rounded strength training program. But I wasn’t focusing on strength at all. I was focused completely on what my body looked like, not how it performed.
When my mindset began to shift, and I began to prioritize strength, I noticed a few very significant and relevant things:
1-The stronger I became, the easier it was to lose fat and maintain a lean physique.
2-External strength can fuel internal strength.
3-Strength makes everything easier.
Speaking purely scientifically, lifting weights promotes the growth of lean mass (muscle), which is an integral part of any fat loss journey. Put simply, muscle helps cultivate a healthier metabolism because the more muscle your body has, the more calories it will burn at rest. In addition to increasing metabolism, lifting weights promotes natural growth hormone production, which in turn helps reduce insulin sensitivity.
Plus, lifting weights-if done in a certain way-can give you the most bang for your buck, allowing you to build strength and lose fat simultaneously. This is why I love introducing women to kettlebells: they allow for versatile, dynamic, total body, fat burning, strength building workouts—all with one tool!
Unfortunately, I’ll often encounter women who don’t like my advice. They don’t want to get strong because they’re that lifting weights will make them “bulk up.”
They can easily be deterred from the idea for fear of being “manly” or “too muscular” so let me go ahead and allay your fears: lifting weights won’t turn you into She-Hulk overnight (although I adore She-Hulk for being the Super Heroine champion of self-love and body acceptance).
You’ll build muscle through strength training, of course, but you won’t pack it on in absurd amounts and it won’t happen instantly.
Simply put, women do not have the testosterone necessary to support that kind of muscle growth. Plus, it takes years and years of hypertrophy focused training to achieve the kind of muscle growth that you see on body builders.
Instead, by lifting weights the Lean & Lovely way, you’ll build a lean, feminine, athletic physique—all while increasing metabolism.
I didn’t experience a serious transformation in terms of fat loss until I started prioritizing strength, and especially once I began utilizing kettlebells. The boost in strength and metabolism helped me turn my body into a confident, empowered, fat-burning machine.
Which leads me to the second thing I noticed once I started lifting weights regularly—the intrinsic strength. Lifting weights helps boost confidence like nothing else I have ever seen. I’ve helped timid, overweight, stay-at-home moms go on to crush feats of strength and then start their own personal training businesses.
I’ve seen beginners afraid of lifting a kettlebell move on to chasing a double bodyweight deadlift while breaking out of their comfort zones.
Physical strength contributes to strength of character, which in turn boosts confidence—and there’s just no downside to that.
Strength of body is empowering, and it’s what allows you to cultivate a Lean & Lovely lifestyle, not just a Lean & Lovely body.
Now, this type of transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but when it does, it’s truly enlightening.
I first recognized how valuable strength was to me as a woman, when I bought a twin sized bed for my son. As a single mom, many tasks fell solely to me, which I had pretty much gotten accustomed to.
However, when I purchased the bed, I didn’t really think through the entire process: somehow this bed had to be moved from my car into my home. I’m sure I could have asked someone for help, but being the stubborn girl that I am, I chose to do it all on my own.
It was difficult. It was exhausting. It was, above all, empowering.
I carried that bed, awkward shape and all, from my car, up and down stairs, and into my apartment—all by myself. It’s moments like those when you realize how much strength matters.
Which leads me to my last point: Being strong makes everything else easier, whether it’s carrying heavy bags of groceries, draping a sleeping child over your shoulder, or hoisting a suitcase into an overhead bin. When you’re strong, every day tasks become less cumbersome, and it’s from that strength that your spirit truly blossoms.
With all the information out there, and the multitude of machines and weights at the gym, it can be difficult to know where to get started and whether you’re on the right path. How do you even begin to embark on a journey of strength such as this?
Well, this is why I absolutely love teaching people about kettlebells, and how utilizing them can help you build strength, lose fat, and increase confidence—all in just 30 minutes a day. It’s essentially your all-in-one strength, cardio, and mobility tool.
To develop a Lean & Lovely physique, long bouts of cardio aren’t going to be necessary. Spending an hour on an elliptical machine won’t produce a body that looks strong. It won’t help you build muscle, thereby improving your metabolism and developing an athletic, sculpted physique.
It won’t help you lean out your abs or perk up your butt. And in some extreme cases, cardio can actually do more harm than good. You won’t do cardio in the traditional sense, but you will get very sweaty.
Other types of fat burning activity such as metabolic resistance, complexes, and finishers (or what I call “quickies”) are going to be much more effective in terms of developing a lean, strong, athletic physique. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on cardio.
In fact, I often enjoy certain types of cardio, such as long walks or bike rides along the beach in Santa Monica. Rather, I’m simply stating that strength is going to be your #1 focus.
If you love going for long runs or taking Zumba classes—hell, go for it! Just don’t do it for physique purposes or to build a Lean & Lovely physique.
Do it because it brings you joy as form of moving meditation, and you just want to incorporate more activity. Just be sure not to replace lifting weights or performing metabolic resistance circuits with cardio.
As my friend Jen Sinkler is famous for saying, when asked what she did for cardio, you’ll “lift weights faster.”
This is where Metabolic Resistance Training and kettlebells comes into play. A typical MRT session lasts between 15-30 minutes, and you’ll always finish up feeling like a goddess.
Because MRT will help you gain strength while placing intense metabolic demand on your body. You’ll essentially be lifting weights (or performing bodyweight movements) for either reps, or time, with very short breaks in between.
Typically MRT exercises are multi-joint, compound or combination movements and are grouped into circuits of 3-5 exercises. The concept behind this type of training is that you will achieve greater metabolic disturbance, using the entire body to achieve favorable body composition, increase work capacity and in most cases, improve strength levels.
By doing MRT with kettlebells, you ensure that you’re engaging your entire body with every single movement, and you have a greater arsenal of dynamic movements to choose from, like swings and snatches.
(It’s important to note that MRT is only effective if you have a strong grasp of all of the movement patterns incorporated in the circuit. Because you are moving quickly, with load, and taking such short breaks, your body has to be able to perform the exercises efficiently without risk of injury.)
Metabolic resistance training, and kettlebells in particular, form the foundation of my Lean & Lovely methods, and these methods have helped women all over the world lose insane amounts of fat, while completely transforming their lives. If you’re ready to get started on that path, give this MRT circuit a try.
Above all, remember that creating a strong body contributes to a strong mind, and vice versa.
To live a truly empowered life, fitness has to radiate from the inside out.
Just gotta say again that Neghar is one of the most knowledgable women I know when it comes to building an awesome female physique using kettlebells.
If you’re ready to get into your best body and avoiding all of the frustrations of no getting any progress at the gym, check out her system she’s developed based The NEW rules of lifting for women and permanent fat loss called Lean and Lovely™
One of the most mis-understood exercises that almost everyone uses in their Transformation Program is the Mountain Climber.
While it’s an incredibly effective way to work your abs and strengthen your core – I usually see 90% of people getting it totally WRONG.
I just did a video on the BEST way to use do the Mountain Climber to tone and hyper-target your abs.
I use a specific 3 Step Activation sequence that ensures you get the maximum effect to sculpt those abs.
Follow the sequence every time you do a stability based ab exercise and you’ll be on your way to a tighter core in no time.