“No Woman Should Lift More Than 3 Pounds”

Thats right folks, you read the title right! “No woman should lift more than 3 pounds.” This pearl of wisdom came out of the mouth of Gwyneth Paltrow’s trainer Tracey Anderson during an appearance on Oprah. (Ok before I get bombarded with questions about why I was watching Oprah I will include the usual excuses 1) I was flipping channels 2) someone else was watching it and I walked by)

The idea that women should stick to light weights and high reps isn’t a new one. Although there has been a recent radical shift in how women approach weight training many of the old ideas are still around. Every month I meet new trainers at my seminars Β and many of the women still think they should be lifting pink 2lbs dumbbells. I used to be shocked by how seemingly otherwise intelligent trainers could have this backward idea. How could these trainers be so rational in other areas and so off base on this. After I really thought about it I realized that this idea is not based in logic but rather in fear. What is the number one fear of women who pick up a weight?


Thats right, women don’t want to look like men. Well ladies have no fear because the truth is that its hard for most men to look like men and unless you are taking a trip to the pharmacy on the way to the gym you aren’t going to look like a man from lifting well.

If looking like a man is something women don’t want then what is it that they do want? Most of my clients and students will tell me they want to tone up, lose weight, feel great, get more energy, etc. Well the road to those things is paved with heavy weight. Yes, heavy weight. Not convinced? Ok, think about the three pound weight that trainer is recommending to you and the rest of the women out there and lets also think about things that weigh more than three pounds. Lets make a list, come on, it will be fun.

Things that weight more than 3 pounds

  1. Your kids! Thats right, your kids weigh more than 3 pounds. Oh, but wait. A celebrity fitness trainer said that women should never lift more than 3 pounds. I guess you better hire someone with a strong back to help you carry these little bundles of joy around all day.
  2. Your groceries! Oh wait, are you Vegan? Well all those veg will still add up to more than 3 pounds and if you have never broken the coveted 5 lbs threshold you will find it quite a challenge walking home from the grocery store.

Are you starting to get the idea? Life will routinely demands that you carry and move things that weigh more than 3 lbs. Being strong makes it easier to move through this world with style and grace. Do you want to struggle as you hold your kids or do you want to be a super mom carrying two kids, groceries, a stroller, kicking the front door open as you blast up stairs with everything and everyone in tow?

Reasons Women Should Lift Heavy Weights

  1. Weight lifting increases bone density. You can spend less time popping calcium supplements and more time with your hands on some weights having a fun workout.
  2. Muscle burns fat! If you want to burn fat you have to build some muscle.
  3. Life is easier when you are strong. At the end of the day you can have a body that collapses in a heap or one that can rise to the physical and mental challenges life places on it.
  4. Stronger core. Core, core, core, core and yes, core. Look at any gym marketing fitness classes to women and you will see this word used over and over again. Well ladies if you want a strong core there is a better way to get one than lying on the floor and pulling on your head. Lift something heavy over your head and squat! Thats right squat heavy and maintain that mid line and you will develop an incredible core.
  5. Its fun. Meeting and obstacle, struggling with it and overcoming it comes with a sense of accomplishment. The same can be said when we train with weights and hit a new record. As you get stronger you feel a sense of accomplishment and reward for your hard work.

Everyone should lift more than 3 lbs. Weight training should be a common practice for both men and women. Every day I open my Facebook and see photos of women with captions like “Strong is the new Skinny.” Strong may be the new skinny but is heavy really heavy? If you want to get strong, and want to look fit don’t fear the weights. Lifting heavy won’t make you look like a man. Lifting heavy will get you a butt so tight that you can crack a coconut off of it and a core that superman would envy.

16 Responses to ““No Woman Should Lift More Than 3 Pounds””
  1. Sara-Clare says:

    Reblogged this on Train For Life and commented:
    A great article for every woman to read. Life is easier when you’re stronger πŸ™‚

  2. You mean to tell me celebrity trainers aren’t the authority on fitness??? Who would have thought! πŸ˜‰

    Excellent post Shawn.

  3. Well said Shawn! I get this in my gym & fitness classes all the time. Part of it too is that some women think 3lbs is a lot of weight. I use the “do you have kids” line too, and it works. I once had one woman insist 1lb was too much for her. I was like “Hun, 1lb is a block of butter; are you telling me you can’t lift a block of butter?”
    Sadly it’s a bigger social problem than non-trainers would ever gues.
    Thanks for writing this!!

    • shawnmozen says:

      Thanks Terri I am glad you enjoyed it. I would take it even further. I see women posting pics on Facebook of them doing squats with a 12KG Kettlebell and you know what thats fine in a circuit and for many they have to build from there but don’t think THAT is a HEAVY squat. Its not! I routinely train side by side with women squatting over 200lbs. We need to redefine our standards. We set the bar so low for people that if you can pick up a pencil you are considered Elite!

  4. rackmack says:

    “lying on the floor and pulling on your head” this is my favourite description of ab crunches ever! great post Shawn. Gonna share it if you dont mind.

  5. cyndiesel says:

    Word! Thanks for continuing to motivate and spread information that is going to help people achieve their goals! πŸ™‚ I was shocked when I saw that Gwyneth Paltrow video – although it did have some humour value. I wish people would look more closely on how things are working (or not working) for them, and I don’t know…. maybe be open to trying something new?! The reality is I did not find what I was looking for in any of that high rep, low weight, don’t get “bulky” crap. When I started lifting heavy was when I improved my self esteem, developed a more positive, healthy relationship with my body image and started having much more fun with my training. Now I can kick ass as well as look bad ass! haha! All women need to read this.

    • shawnmozen says:

      Thanks for the post. I like how you put it, that you “didn’t find what you were looking for” with all of that other nonsense. People need to look at their goal and then see if what they are doing is actually moving them toward or away from it. I have seen people spinning their wheels in gyms around the world, training day in and day out and not getting anywhere because they aren’t willing to take a hard look at what and why they are doing what they are doing.

  6. Andryanna says:

    Hi there,

    I’d like to begin by saying that I don’t have a strong position on either form of exercise, lifting heavier weights or lighter, but I would like to briefly mention that prior to writing an article on a sound bite you heard while watching a re-run of Oprah, it might be a good idea to do a few minutes of research into the claim.

    As we all know, celebrities and I suppose now their trainers can say one thing and then it gets muddled up and turned around and before you know it, they’re on the chopping block for whatever the media wants to turn it into. If you had bothered to look more into Tracy Anderson’s method for exercising, you’d see that the types of weight-based exercise she teachers her clients, focus on very small muscle groups that traditional weight training (squats, bicep curls, etc.) and everyday lifestyle (picking up grocery bags, children, etc.) often do not utilize. So perhaps, a 3 pound weight would be enough for these dance-based exercises to make a difference. As well, most of her routines focus on weight-less training and using your own body as resistance (I would imagine that this constitutes as more than three pounds).

    I’m not an expert on fitness nor am I a physician, but I can tell you that Gwenyth Paltrow and Tracy Anderson are both lean and healthy looking as I’m sure are many women who do heavy weight training. I guess I’m just saying that exercising is better than not and more importantly, that relying on a sound bite to formulate an opinion on a type of exercise, is just as bad as the tabloids talking about the latest Kardashian sex tape scandal.

    • shawnmozen says:

      Hi Andryanna, thanks for your comment. That “sound bite” was part of a segment and if someone doesn’t want to be judged by that sound bite they shouldn’t present it. I have no doubt that many women who watched the same segment came away with the idea that they should not lift more than 3 lbs. I have this opinion as I have personally had to respond to questions form women who saw the segment and got this idea in their head.

      I stand by my comments regarding the segment and that this approach of encouraging women to use these sub maximal loads as begin a terrible idea. I have trained everyone from elderly women, to professional fighters and neither group needed 3 lbs weights to get to focus on “small muscle groups that traditional weight training often don’t utilize.” Sorry but that is simply nonsense that someone has fed to you. Unless someone is coming back from an injury and they are in rehab they do not need to work in the manner you describe. We can and do make use of supplemental training with light loads but that is part of an overall program supported by compound movements and appropriate weights. That is not what was presented in that segment or what is typically presented to women when they enter a gym.

      As for how a person looks being an indication of their actual health and fitness…..there are lots of “skinny fat” people walking around.

      • I think the fact that this piece of info is a sound bite that is precisely the problem. Years back I found the clip from the Oprah show, and Anderson was quite clear in saying [paraphrasing] ‘no more than 3lbs, BUT you have to do dozens of reps’, so its not 100% her fault this became a sound bite. She’s not a PR expert who would’ve predicted that.

        However, I work in a teeny gym in a rurual suburb of Halifax and I have heard *dozens* of women say this, and its been years since that show aired! Most women have no idea who the trainer is who said it, or even that it came from the Oprah show. I can only imagine how much you hear this in bigger cities and busier gyms! So the sound bite phenomenon is the problem – sometimes people hear just the bits they want to hear, eh.

        I have done one of Anderson’s videos, and I am both a trainer and a former ballet student. I see what she’s going for, but she misses the mark. Her info isn’t that good, her program design is all about (as she says in the intro) getting you “teeny-tiny little dancer’s arms” and I felt she didn’t explain enough, so a less-trained person watching the videos might not get the technique right.

        If you want a ballet-based workout with good exercises and good teaching, go for Tracy Mallet from the UK – she’s aces! I cross train with ballet to this day, and her stuff is awesome. *sigh* once a bun-head, always a bun-head, no matter how much I can bench, lol πŸ˜‰

  7. Sara-Clare says:

    Hi Andryanna,
    I respect what you are saying in regards to training bodyweight and smaller muscles. Anyone coming back from an injury must take care to fix those areas with isolated exercises. However, once injuries are healed a solid regime of bodyweight and mobility exercises must be coupled with heavier days of weight training. This will help build muscle and bone density that will help women especially combat things like osteoporosis.
    To put it simply, if you are never bringing your body out of your comfort zone when it comes to moving it, you are doing yourself a disservice. You should be seeking out to run faster, lift heavier and be more agile in your life. Training in the same way all the time, will always bring you the same results. Life is not about reaching a plateau but becoming more than you were yesterday.

  8. My take on little weights vs big weights is this: DO BOTH!

    As a former ballet dancer, I know the benefits of that “little muscles” kind of exercise, including Tracy Anderson’s methods. But that should not be the ONLY way women (or men) train their bodies. We humans are made up of little muscles and big muscles and we need to move and challenge them all. And THAT is why I love my barbell, kettlebells and heavy weights, and I still take the occasional ballet class. It drives me insane when people say “ABC” exercise method is the only way to go. Just move, everyone. Do it often. Do it lots of different ways. And enjoy it.

    • shawnmozen says:

      Hi Natalie! Yes of course use different weights and people should do bodyweight training. It should be the foundation before you learn to deal with the resistance offered by weights you must first learn to control your own body. The problem with the “typical” weight lifting approach that is fed to women is this low weight high rep training that isn’t augmented with anything else.

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