11-13 May 2018.
Old Truman Brewery,
London.

Why Women Shouldn’t Fear Weight Training

By Jemma McKenzie-Brown

“But I don’t want to get bulky,” is the usual sentence I’m greeted with when I suggest that my female clients at Barry’s pick up a heavier set of dumbbells. This common misconception of a woman bicep curling a 6kg dumbbell and suddenly turning into Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has been in circulation for years.

I totally get how lifting weights can be intimidating. For years, your average ‘in shape’ women were most often found in the gym cardio section or breaking a mild sweat enthusiastically hopping on and off a step in an aerobics class. This is what we saw growing up; our mothers and their friends pulling on their all-in-one lycra and heading down to the leisure centre for a chin wag and a spot of light cardio.

And on the other side, our only window to the world of fitness were magazine photos of the fantastically muscular bodies of professional and competitive fitness models. Years of intense and specific training, precise diets and industry tricks are needed to create that winning look.

 ‘Wow that’s intense’. ‘They must lift weights to look like that’. ‘Weight lifting makes you look like that’. ‘I don’t want to look like her.’ This is the usual thought process after seeing those photos and, all of a sudden, we associate weights with Miss Muscles GB and avoid it like the plague.

The truth is, if you don’t want to dedicate your life to winning a fitness competition, don’t have 12 hours a day to train and the will power to cut everything but chicken and broccoli out of your diet, it ain’t gonna happen! Women do not produce enough testosterone in their bodies to ‘bulk’ and acquire the muscles that men can with intense weight training.

And who said anything about being intense? Weights can and should be easily be added to any training regime. Hollywood actresses, singers and models are all coming forward and saying they frequently incorporate weights into their fitness routines for toned arms, lifted bums and sculpted abs and, if it’s good enough for J-Lo, it’s good enough for me!


Here are just some of the benefits you can expect from adding weights to your workout:

  • Gain strength without bulking
  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis
  • Burning more calories post workout
  • Improved posture Fat burn!

At Barry’s, we get our clients to burn as many calories as we can in one hour by incorporating treadmill workouts with strength training on the floor, where we most frequently use dumbbells to hone and tone our clients’ bodies. 

To get you started, here’s a 4-move Barry’s Style circuit. You’ll need a pair of 4-6kg dumbbells. Complete the circuit 4 times, with 30 seconds rest between each round.

Move 1 – Bicep curls. 20 reps.

Holding one dumbbell in each hand either side of your body and keeping your elbows glued to your sides, raise the dumbbells up to your shoulders, hinging at the elbows. Palms should face you on the way up and remain facing up on the way down.

Move 2 – Tricep overhead extension. 20 reps.

Hold one dumbbell in both hands with straight arms overhead. Keeping your biceps close as you can to the sides of your head and elbows forward, slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until you can’t see it. Then slowly raise it back overhead to the starting position.

Move 3 – Front squats. 20 reps.

Hold one dumbbell in each hand in front of your face, palms facing you. Make sure your shoulders are back and down. Feet just past shoulder width, keeping your weight in your heels and chest up, lower your bum down towards to floor, as far as you can keeping those heels glued to the floor. Make sure your knees don’t go over your toes. Hold for a second at the bottom and slowly rise back to standing, squeezing your bum and core the whole way up!

Move 4 – Best over rows. 20 reps.

Hold one dumbbell in each hand, feet shoulder width apart. Keeping a slight bend in the knees, hinge your torso forward from the hips to an almost horizontal position, pushing your bum back behind and **important** keeping your back as flat as a pancake. Lower your arms down towards the floor, palms facing each other. Maintaining this position, pull your dumbbells up one either side of your chest, keeping your elbows narrow and skimming the sides of your body, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top and slowly return down towards the floor. 1 second up, 3 seconds down.

Jenna McKenzie Brown is a trainer at Barry's Bootcamp. Find them on our stellar fitness line-up.

Balance Festival Why Women Shouldn’t Fear Weight Training