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Why the 5lb dumbbell likely isn’t enough

I see it all the time, maybe you’re guilty of it too? Women in the gym and at fitness classes using 3lb and 5lb weights. There was a time years ago when reaching for the 5lb weights was my default too. Sweating through a class or thinking you are doing the work that will get you the results you they desire. I mean you’re sweaty, your arms are burning..it’s gotta be working…right!?!?!?

It’s made me stop and think about why women seem to default to light weights and I think it’s a combination of a few factors.

1. People don’t want to hurt themselves. They want to choose a weight that is safe, that they know they can do. Fair – I totally agree with this and I don’t ever want any of my clients injuring themselves from lifting weights that are too heavy for them.

2. Media has done a good job of marketing cute fit girls holding light weights. The secret I want to let you know here is that these fitness models are not achieving those physiques with 3lb dumbbells. The marketing mavens of the world believe that women should be seen being slim, delicate and dainty (because of outdated ideas and a male dominated industry), and I guess holding a big ol’ 30# dumbbell doesn’t really fit into that image.

3. There is a general lack of knowledge/education – You don’t know what you don’t know. If you go to the gym and see others grabbing 5lbs, you’ll probably grab it too. If you see models in fitness magazines doing exercises with light dumbbells that’s what you’ll grab too. Of all the things you need to learn and do in a day, researching weight-lifting and how to actually get the results you desire may not rank up there (no worries…that’s why I’m here :)

Below are 6 reasons why you should be reaching for more than 5lbs with your next workout.

1.If you want progress – Sticking with the same routine, the same weights and in your same comfort zone will only get you exactly what you currently have. If you are looking for something different, (different physique, improved health, stronger body, improvement in your chosen sport) you will need to push yourself outside of your current comfort zone. Continuing to do 20 reps of 5lb bicep curls likely won’t get you there.

2. Your weight-training program demands it – If you are only doing exercises that require light weights (i.e. using smaller muscles that aren’t capable of lifting more weight), then I would suggest you review the training program you are following. If you aren’t following a program, then there’s a good place to start. There are many programs available out there that will walk you through proper progressions, form, and workouts that will bring you closer to your goals. If you need help getting started in the gym with weights, check out Women & Weights.

3. You are stronger than you think you are. Flat out. Women are especially guilty of underestimating themselves. I see it all the time with clients. Larger weights are intimidating, I get it. New things often are. But you won’t know your true strength unless you try and see if you are capable of more. That doesn’t mean you have to jump into the deep end with heavy weights and risk injuring yourself, but each week see if you can try the next weight up. If you normally grab 5lbs, try 8 next week. If that feels ok, great! Next week try 10’s. As long as you can maintain good form and regular breathing, keep working your way up and see what your body can actually do. You may surprise yourself that you are quickly able to climb up to 20 or 30 lbs (or maybe more!)

4. You have more important things to do – We live busy lives! We all have 101 things to accomplish in a day. Kudos to you if you have made time in your schedule to focus on your health, that’s so awesome and half the battle! Now that you are at the gym, make the most of it. Challenge your body, make your muscles work, get the benefits that you came for. If you are going to carve out time in your busy day to hit the gym, make it worth your while!

5. You’ll be better at other things – Lifting weights and challenging your body will inevitably spill over into other areas of your life. If you are a runner, you will notice runs are smoother, faster, maybe you will have less aches & pain. Hiking on the weekend with friends will be more enjoyable. Playing around with your kids, weekend bike rides, heck even things like taking in the groceries from the car will be easier. You’ll have less aches & pain and feel stronger and healthier, enabling you spend more time doing what you love!

6. Because your self-confidence will fly – Realizing the strength that we have is so empowering. When you test and truly see just how strong you are, your self-confidence will spike, I guarantee it.

If you are interested in learning more about lifting weights and need a little guidance to get going, check my newest program Women & Weights. I have laid out everything you need to get you into the gym and lifting weights that will transform your body and your life. The program contains 12 weeks of training, a form & exercise guidebook walking you through proper form and a training nutrition guide.

Marisa is BCRPA personal trainer and a fun-fitness-fanatic living the active dream in beautiful Vancouver, BC. She hikes, swims, runs, bikes, bootcamps & yoga's as much as possible, outdoors when possible, and believes everything is possible. Find her on the web at www.motivatedmovementpt.com and on Facebook and Instagram.