Do you even lift, Ladybro? How lifting weights taught me to love my body

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Being a bro is not about smiling, it's about looking hard. Like my biceps.
Being a bro is not about smiling, it’s about looking hard. Like my biceps.

“How much can you bench?”

This is the question I get almost unfailingly when I tell people I lift weights. I started lifting three months ago, when I hit a wall with my workout routine and was just generally feeling shitty about myself. In that time I’ve gotten a lot stronger but along the way something surprising happened: my relationship with my body totally changed even though my appearance stayed pretty much the same.

Ok, it’s not completely the same, because look at these guns. That’s right, if the lighting is just so and I flex really hard, you can see that I have something resembling a bicep. And on the topic of epic gains: I think you should know that I have moved up to bench pressing the heavier of the two empty bars available to me. I am, in a word, crushing it.

I didn’t expect to love lifting weights. When I was preparing for my first aerial silks performance I quickly realized I didn’t have the stamina to survive five minutes in the air. On the recommendation of a friend I booked an appointment with a personal trainer who has biceps the size of my head. At our first session he asked “OK, what are you currently doing for triceps?” and I stood there blinking at him in silence before asking where my triceps were.

Having located my triceps, we came up with a weight lifting routine to dovetail my silks training. I learned how to bench, squat, deadlift, and just generally manhandle lumps of iron. Admittedly small lumps of iron. I felt silly picking up the five pound dumbbells at my gym. Do you even lift, ladybro? And as I eyed around the room looking for people snickering at me I realized that no one cared. Most people at the gym are too busy with their own workout, or taking gym selfies, to care what I’m doing.

A manual of free gymnastic and dumb-bell exercises; for the school-room and the parlor (1864)
The girl in this this 1864 illustration knows where it’s at.

When I pick up a dumbbell I’m battling one of the greatest forces on earth: gravity. As I get stronger I get so excited about what my body can do that I’ve stopped agonizing over what it looks like. My thunder thighs are home to the biggest and strongest muscles in my body. Does my post-baby gut stick out a bit? Must be because of all these big damned muscles in the way. My relationship with food improved; I no longer see food as the enemy or something I must vanquish in an effort to make myself take up less space. Food is fuel for this incredible machine I will use to lift all the things.

I didn’t expect to end up here, but I’m so glad I did. I make fun of brotastic gym culture, but I also understand it now. Squeezing out one more rep or adding 5 more pounds to a lift is so immensely and immediately satisfying. My body is capable of so much more than just looking pretty, and I love all the stuff I can do more easily now that I’m stronger. Pull ups? Check. Push ups? Check. Opening my own jars? Oh hell yeah.

Want to try it yourself? Here are some good places to start:

  • NerdFitness.com: I love this site because it is extremely positive towards women who want to lift, and quickly dispenses with garbage ideas like “lifting heavy will make you bulky.” It also has one of the least-awful exercise forums on the ‘net.
  • Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe: If you want to get your nerd on, this book has a practical approach to the science of lifting and plenty of diagrams. The website also has some great resources.
  • Jefit Exercise Database: This is the most comprehensive exercise database I’ve found, and is great for finding things that work with the equipment you’ve got (or don’t got).

Finding a personal trainer
Some people feel more comfortable having someone show them the ropes. Many gyms offer personal training, but make sure you check out the trainer’s credentials before signing up for an appointment. A trainer should support you in reaching your goals, not make you feel stupid, weak, or bully you in any way. The two largest professional associations, ACE and IDEA both offer databases of certified trainers in your area.

Do we have any other weight lifting Homies in the house? What have you gained from lifting? How much can you bench?

Comments on Do you even lift, Ladybro? How lifting weights taught me to love my body

  1. Don’t forget to check out stumptuous.com! Miss Krista is a true heroine for ladyfolks who love to lift heavy things. She is smart and funny and irreverent.

    Good for you for crushing it and loving your body. Wooo!

  2. I want to get into lifting again (I try it off and on) since it’s supposed to be good and my muscles seem to have disappeared over the years, but one thing that discourages me (and ultimately leads to me quitting) is that I don’t see results when I do try it. Unlike most people, I have never experienced the fun exercise endorphins people talk about – I always just feel miserable after any kind of work out at any level of intensity or speed. So I have to motivate myself by thinking about the end result. How long does it typically take before one can expect results from lifting?

    • It’s really different for everyone, depending on where you start from, what else you’re doing health/fitnesswise, what your goals are, etc. For me it took about 6 weeks to really notice changes. That’s why I try to break down my workout goals into mini-goals. Even if I can’t go up in weight yet, I can try to squeeze out one more rep or add another set.

      I also find it helps to switch up exercises and come back to something later. Sometimes I just need a break to get over a mental hurdle.

      I also had luck using GymPact to get my butt into the gym. It’s a program that fines you $5 if you don’t go (and rewards you with like 50 cents if you do). It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I found that $5 fine VERY motivating. Now that working out has become a habit I don’t need it any more.

  3. One of the more gratifying times in my exercise life was when my husband gave ME the jar to open. AND I OPENED IT LIKE A F’IN CHAMP.

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