3 Women Share How Strength Training Elevated Their Confidence

Woman doing a deadlift

Getty Images / Branimir76

For some reason, the myth that women shouldn’t lift weights won’t go away. No matter how many scientists, strength coaches, and other experts debunk the rumors, many women continue to find themselves fearful of stepping into the gym and using any piece of equipment that isn't a form of cardio. It’s like we’re forever destined to pink dumbbells and the treadmill.  

The reality is, there are benefits for women who make strength training a part of their weekly routine, beyond physical fitness. There's a profound strength, both physically and mentally, that can come with strength training. That is, your confidence will skyrocket. Here are three women who found confidence in strength training and never looked back.

3 Women Who Found Confidence in Strength Training

  • Deanna: A twenty-something actively working to rebuild her relationship with food and fitness.
  • Vicki: A working mom and wife who was never interested in fitness until about five years ago when her employer began offering strength training classes.
  • Jamison: Born prematurely and with cerebral palsy, she's no stranger to weight lifting, but her love for it reignited when she set a goal to lose weight, get in shape, move cross country, and find a new job—all at the same time.

Beginning Strength Training

The best part about strength training is that it doesn't matter when you start. All that matters is that you keep going.

Fortunately, Jamison has utilized strength training on and off for the majority of her life as therapy for her condition. Cerebral palsy is a condition that makes it difficult to move or maintain balance. Research suggests regular strength training for those with cerebral palsy has positive functional effects on muscle strength, posture, balance, gait speed, and gross motor function.

Jamison can attest to the benefits of strength training as she reports having to learn to walk four times in her life, with the most recent being in 2015 after she slipped on ice leaving her in a wheelchair for nine months only to have two surgeries on her left leg.

"After the surgery, I was at my heaviest weight, I was almost 400 lbs. Two years ago I had gastric bypass surgery and lost 160 pounds so far. I was left with a lot of excess skin. I had heard from some other women I work with about a fitness class being offered that focused more on strength training. I was intrigued and figured I'd give it a try. My goal was to find a way to reduce as much of the excess skin as possible through strength training." Please note, exercise cannot reduce sagging skin, but instead can reduce the appearance by filling the space with muscle.

While Jamison's initial reasoning for strength training was to try and minimize excess skin, Deanna and Vicki had two very opposite ideas of what they wanted.

Deanna only recently began strength training, in the spring of 2022, "As my body shifts and approaches 30, I’ve been looking for ways to maintain overall health and physical fitness," she explains. "[Previously] exercise was something I used as punishment when I felt my eating behaviors were 'out of control'. Like most dieters, I chose mostly cardio exercises at the gym, and stayed away from heavy weights so I wouldn't 'get too bulky.'"

For Vicki, trying a new form of exercise was more about curiosity and interest in trying something new.

"My employer offers fitness classes and I've never tried them before. I figured it might be something like Richard Simmons or something I grew up with. I went to the class and it was great. The instructor had us doing things I'd never done before and I really enjoyed myself. I began going to the class three times per week."

She continues, "At that time I was in my forties and I had a history of yo-yo dieting and walking. I really wanted to try something new. Most recently, I started with a new instructor who gave me a whole new love for strength training. There are many days I don't want to be in the gym, but I do it because I know it's good for me mentally and physically, and it's something I selfishly do for myself."


There are many days I don't want to be in the gym, but I do it because I know it's good for me mentally and physically, and it's something I selfishly do for myself.

— Vicki

Preconceived Notions About Strength Training

It's not uncommon for women to have a fear of building muscle in a "bulky" manner. While the myth is just that—a myth—it's yet to leave the fitness space entirely. Despite countless studies demonstrating what really happens when females lift weights, there is often a nervousness around looking "bigger" because of strength training results.

For both Jamison and Vicki, there wasn't a preconceived notion around strength training. Deanna, however, found herself avoiding the weights so she wouldn't get bigger. It wasn't until she began working towards a healthier relationship with food that Deanna became open to lifting weights.

"After spending years reconstructing and healing my relationship with my body and food, I now have a healthier relationship with exercise. I'm now predominantly focused on weight lifting and training at the gym," she explains.

Impact of Strength Training

There's no question that strength training helps improve muscular strength, endurance, balance, stability, and movement. But after talking to Deanna, Vicki, and Jamison, it's clear there is an abundance of different reasons why strength training gives you more confidence.

"First, watching my body get gradually stronger with weight progressions has improved my confidence tremendously," notes Deanna. "Seeing my body's physical abilities advance while also having weekly wins makes me more grateful for my body and excited for what I can achieve."

The strength gains from weight lifting are exciting for Vicki. "When I'm able to lift a heavier weight, that makes me more excited. I started with little 5-pound weights, and now I'm able to do 15 to 20 pounds, sometimes 30 pounds, and it's just like wow, that's so amazing. I love it."

Jamison reports a different story. "Strength training in particular has helped with my ability to walk, climb stairs, sit and stand, and the strength to do so. As much as I complain about squats, there's a huge ROI there for sure."

"I'm finally at a place in my life of grace and acceptance," she continues. "We're so hard on ourselves as women, we pick on ourselves, even on other women. One of the things that's really beautiful is that there are other women who see me working out with my trainer or will have heard about it, and they'll come up to me and tell me how they're inspired to get in the gym and do it too. For me, I love to motivate people, and this time it's about taking care of myself, and it feels good to see others taking care of themselves too."

"If you really embrace it, the mind-body benefit you get is tenfold," Jamison concludes.


We're so hard on ourselves as women, we pick on ourselves, even on other women. One of the things that's really beautiful is that there are other women who see me working out with my trainer or will have heard about it, and they'll come up to me and tell me how they're inspired to get in the gym and do it too.

— Jamison

Not only does Vicki feel more confident due to getting stronger, but she's also found stress relief in strength training. "When I'm having a tough day, I always feel better after a workout. It's not just getting healthy physically, but also mentally, and that in itself makes you feel more confident and happier"

The community aspect of strength training is another mental health component. Finding social connection is important for mental health, as it's been connected to reduced risk of depression and anxiety. Most people don't expect to find friends at the gym, but that's often what happens.

"I found that it is a great way to connect with others in the wellness space, as people are typically encouraging of others when they meet their goals, move up in weight or finally achieve a proper form," explains Deanna.

Advice to Other Women

The consensus on this one was simple—all three women agree—just do it.

"As women, we tend to believe that if you put yourself out there or if you reach out to people, they're going to laugh at you or reject you," says Jamison. "The reality is that you may run into some negative Nancys, but the truth is that 90 percent of all those people have their own insecurities. And you'll find a bigger support system than not if you're just willing to give it a try."

When asked the same question, Vicki's response was a resounding, "oh, go for it!"

"Don't let stereotypes get in the way. You should be doing something because it's something that you want to do and will benefit you. I'm at a point in my life where I'm just like, let me try it because if I don't like it, I'll just move on to something else," she concludes.

A Word From Verywell

The internet and social media have a sneaky way of perpetuating false myths or rumors. It's your job to advocate for yourself and do your own due diligence so you don't miss out on something that could truly benefit your physical and mental health and well-being. If you're still not sure if strength training is right for you, talking to a strength coach, trainer, or healthcare provider can help you determine how and if you should get started.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should women do cardio or strength train?

    Studies suggest women benefit from incorporating both cardio and strength training in their physical fitness routine. Regular strength and cardio exercise improve body composition and reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. The American Heart Association recommends getting 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic training and two days per week of strength training.

  • Should females lift heavy weights?

    Women should lift what is challenging, or heavy, for them. When lifting weights, the point is to reach failure or almost failure. If you get to the final rep of your set and you could do more, you've not used a heavy enough weight. Your muscles should be fatigued, and if that means lifting heavy weights, then that's what you should do.

  • Is 30 minutes of strength training enough?

    Most weight-lifting sessions are 45-60 minutes. However, if you only have 30 minutes to lift weights, you can make significant gains in that timeframe. It's just a matter of making your workouts more efficient with shorter rest intervals and fewer sets or exercises.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine: Cerebral Palsy

  2. Merino-Andrés J, García de Mateos-López A, Damiano DL, Sánchez-Sierra A. Effect of muscle strength training in children and adolescents with spastic cerebral palsy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Rehabil. 2022 Jan;36(1):4-14. doi:10.1177/02692155211040199

  3. Vasudevan A, Ford E. Motivational Factors and Barriers Towards Initiating and Maintaining Strength Training in Women: a Systematic Review and Meta-synthesis. Prev Sci. 2022 May;23(4):674-695. doi:10.1007/s11121-021-01328-2

  4. Hurley KS, Flippin KJ, Blom LC, Bolin JE, Hoover DL, Judge LW. Practices, Perceived Benefits, and Barriers to Resistance Training Among Women Enrolled in College. Int J Exerc Sci. 2018 May 1;11(5):226-238.

  5. Gentil P, Steele J, Pereira MC, Castanheira RP, Paoli A, Bottaro M. Comparison of upper body strength gains between men and women after 10 weeks of resistance training. PeerJ. 2016 Feb 11;4:e1627. doi:10.7717/peerj.1627

  6. Weziak-Bialowolska D, Bialowolski P, Lee MT, Chen Y, VanderWeele TJ, McNeely E. Prospective Associations Between Social Connectedness and Mental Health. Evidence From a Longitudinal Survey and Health Insurance Claims Data. Int J Public Health. 2022 Jun 9;67:1604710. doi:10.3389/ijph.2022.1604710

By Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN, CSSD, CISSN
Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN is a sports and pediatric dietitian, the owner of Nutrition by Shoshana, and is the author of "Carb Cycling for Weight Loss." Shoshana received her B.S in dietetics and nutrition from Florida International University. She's been writing and creating content in the health, nutrition, and fitness space for over 15 years and is regularly featured in Oxygen Magazine, JennyCraig.com, and more.

Edited by
Lily Moe
Lily Moe for Verywell Fit

Lily Moe is a former fitness coach and current Editor for Verywell Fit. A wellness enthusiast, she can often be found in a hot yoga studio, trying a new recipe, or going for a long run in Central Park.

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