Here’s a short video I shot today:
Deadlifts aren’t just for bros, they’re for girls too. All of weight training is for girls as well as men.
The video shows my friend Michele doing a deadlift set of 9 reps, with 135 pounds (61 kg) – that’s two heavy plates plus the bar. That’s also 1.1 times her body weight.
Michele is 52 years old, and weighs 122 pounds at 5’6.5″, giving her a body mass index (BMI) of 19.4. (Where normal BMI is 18 to 24.9, less being underweight, more overweight.) According to the CDC, that puts her BMI well within the 10th percentile for women who are younger (age 20-49) than she is, and would have done so even before the age of obesity. See chart below. Within her age group, 70% of women have a BMI > 25, that is, overweight or obese. The point is, she’s in very good shape.
She lifted weights earlier in life, stopped for many years, but took it up again about four years ago. Before that, she did standard aerobic exercise, like some jogging and cycling. She says she feels and looks a lot better now that she’s lifting.
Michele says that she isn’t looking for muscle gains anymore, at least in the sense that most of us lifters seek gains. She just wants to stay in shape, have a healthy heart, keep the fat off, maintain strong bones, and avoid muscle loss with age, and knows that weightlifting is the best way to do this.
She also eats a low-carb paleo diet, though she says she sometimes cheats a bit on the carbs. Before she started eating this way, again about four years ago, she ate the standard low-fat way, with little meat and plenty of added sugar in her diet. Pasta was a mainstay for dinner, cornflakes for breakfast. She says she often had hypoglycemia, and her heart would race uncontrollably after dinner, to the point where she wondered whether she would have a heart attack. This happened every night.
All of those distressing symptoms disappeared when she changed how she ate.
Michele does intermittent fasting a couple times a week, but usually of not more than 14 hours at a time.
She also said she used to have severe leg cramps at night, and supplementing with magnesium citrate stopped it immediately.
Since going paleo and taking up weightlifting, her doctor told her that her lipid profile gave her “zero percent chance of a heart attack”. And heart disease runs in her family, so she’s concerned about lowering her heart disease risk.
She emphasizes that she got very quick results.
So, for the ladies, this is how you stay in shape.
Michele lifts about once every four or five days for about 45 minutes at a time; on her off-gym days, she walks or does other low-intensity exercise. She says that she really needs the recovery time, as she hits the weights hard. She does the major compound exercises: squats, pulldowns, bench press, shoulder press, and rows, in addition to deadlifts. All lifts are done to failure.
She’s one of the very few women in my gym who does a major weightlifting program; some of the others may be seen from time to time with a small weight or two in their hands, but their main focus is on the cardio machines.
Strength training and a low-carbohydrate diet is the way to go, not cardio and low-fat, as documented in my book, Muscle Up.
If middle-aged, or any aged, women want to look like the average, by all means do what everyone else is doing: eat lots of processed food and make sure your exercise of choice isn’t too intense. If you want to have a low BMI, a nice figure, and to feel well, then I would suggest that what Michele does is the way to go.
Michele describes herself as an ordinary woman, and thinks that if she can lift weights, anyone can. She self-describes as “feminine” and wants to look that way in the gym.
Some bro in the gym once told her that he’d never see a woman lifting with such conviction as her, and he asked her why she did it. She replied that she never wants to use a walker, and she wants to see her grandchildren grow up.