Empowering Women through Weightlifting

Part of my work as a graduate student involved studying the effects exercise has on mental health and specifically, in improving depression. The benefits of exercise is one thing I speak with my clients about regularly for their self-care. I also make it an essential part of my routine and I work with an experienced personal trainer who is an expert in women’s health. Nikki R. Veit, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, shares her expertise about the advantages of weightlifting for women and answers common questions about how to begin incorporating strength training. If you’ve ever wondered if weightlifting is for you, you’ll want to read on!


#girlswholift: The Weightlifting Movement

By, Nikki R. Veit


Most folks that frequent the gym know the numerous benefits of load bearing activities: it increases strength, boosts your metabolism, cuts down on fat storage, builds up your stamina, etc. Yet why are so many women reticent to lift weights at the gym? To confront this question head-on, I launched the small group training program, #girlswholift, right here at Lincoln Square Athletic Club (LSAC). My objective with this program is to educate and motivate females to lift weights.


Women are afflicted by misinformation in the fitness industry telling them never to weight lift because of a, b and c, which often sets them back in their goals. Why are women being told not to weight lift, and why are some trainers not teaching them how to? I’ve broken down a few key milestones that I’ve encountered with my female clients along their fitness journeys, hoping to break down the stigma against women weightlifting and instead inspire a movement of badass weight-yielding women!


“I don’t know where to start.”


Most women want to lift weights when they come to the gym, they just don’t know how to lift weights. They’re afraid of embarrassing themselves more than they’re afraid of the weight being too heavy. This is where I come in as their personal trainer, as well as the many group trainers at LSAC.

Regardless of my clients’ goals, whether they be weight, strength or mobility-related, I believe weight training should always be part of their program. More specifically, learning the proper squat, chest press, deadlift and overhead press variations for their body structure will ensure a more efficient route to achieving their goals. I’ve found that if I’m not teaching my female clients proper weightlifting form, chances are they’re not going to attempt it on their own. My female clients associate the weight room as being the “boy’s club” or “the dark side,” a part of the gym they do not wander. Not all weight lifting has to be power lifting and by showing my clients the cable machines, the dumbbell racks and the EZ bars, I’m able to expand their workout routines tenfold, offering them opportunities to weight train without the barbells.


“I don’t want to get bulky.”


Beyond coaching my clients on proper weightlifting form, I take time to educate them on the misconceptions and stereotypes that plague women in countless magazines, YouTube channels, Google searches and even advice from friends.


The apprehension I hear most often from my female clients is they’re afraid lifting weights will turn them into professional female wrestlers overnight. They’re nervous about getting the bodybuilder-physique with the boulder shoulders and massive quads, without taking into consideration the amount of calories, time and in some instances, anabolic steroids, it requires to transform their body into the next Dana Linn Bailey. Usually the words I hear when I ask about a female clients’ goals are “toned”, “tight”, “lean”, and believe it or not: all of these words are achieved by building muscle and losing fat. That is the principle behind every “fit” synonym: you must gain muscle, which will in turn make you lose fat, and the most efficient way to achieve this ratio is by lifting weights. And yet there are still so many misconceptions spread by word of mouth.


Take, for instance, this comment I received from a client last month: “I was reading this article and it told me not to bench press unless I could do a full push-up.” While there is some reasoning in this claim, it discounts the fact that a standard barbell weighs 45lb and all adult females weigh much more. I countered by stating, “Implementing the bench press into your weekly routine, and thereby isolating the primary muscle groups used during a push-up (chest, shoulders, triceps), will only progress your ability to complete a full, plank-position push-up.” Some women are naturals when it comes to push-ups, whereas some women can bench press 75lb before they can complete one push-up; I’ve met both clients. One doesn’t necessarily have to happen before the other, but training both movements will only progress your upper body strength.


Postponing weight training until you master all bodyweight exercises is only going to impede your ability to achieve your goals in a timely manner. And remember that bodyweight training is still an aspect of resistance training, just without the extra equipment. If your anxieties still arise about getting “too big,” I suggest reading up the grueling process bodybuilders go through to look that way. And remember that “toned” is just another way of saying “more muscle, less fat”.


“I feel like a badass!”


Once you’ve incorporated weight lifting into your weekly routines, you will start to feel stronger, fitter, energized, and most importantly, empowered. What once was “the dark side” of the gym will now become your home base because you will have gained the knowledge and confidence it takes to lift weights on your own.


If you’re ready to start lifting weights but personal training isn’t in your wheelhouse for whatever reason, I point you in the direction of the club’s group classes. BODYPUMP is an excellent avenue into weightlifting because you’ll have an instructor showing you all the moves and you don’t have to worry about feeling lost and anxious in the weight room. I bet you won’t even realize how many complex, power lifting movements you’re doing in one-hour’s time because the class is so invigorating!


When Wonder Woman came out, I can’t tell you how many of my female clients came to me saying, “I just saw Wonder Woman and my favorite scene was watching all those strong, badass Amazon women train!” This image of strong women invigorates them to become stronger, and badass women gravitate toward other badass women. You have the opportunity to embolden your own mind, body and spirit—let’s create a movement of strong, empowered women!


If you would like to contact Nikki or learn more about her program, she can be reached at: 914-329-9543 ©, fitlifenik@gmail.com