I’ve been lifting seriously for about a year now. I’ve lifted for longer than that (mostly to be strong enough to get through the physical parts of fire school). I am not an expert at all, but perhaps a list of my observations and confessions of an amateur female lifter will be useful for other women out there either thinking about getting started or towards the beginning of a (hopefully) long lifting career. Most advice on lifting and corresponding nutrition is exclusively geared towards men. I’ve made the mistake of trying to lift and eat as if I were a man, and it doesn’t work as well. We women are different, and in a lot of ways more complicated to train athletically than men (thanks, universe…). Consider this just one opinion and one perspective on lifting as a woman and how she compares to the men she lifts with.

(P.S. I am not the image for this post; I do not and will not post physique because I do not like having my image on the internet. I am a competitive master’s swimmer, but not a competitive power lifter or bodybuilder.)

We get newbie gains too.

First, something positive. Once I really started on a good lifting plan, my newbie gains were great. High-volume, moderate-to-heavy weight training works well for me. For example, I took my deadlift from 95 lb. starting to 230 lb. (conventional, more about this later) in less than 6 months.

When I say moderate, I don’t mean “just the bar”. Put some weight on there! A typical deadlift set for me is 3 “wave sets” (as given to me by a trainer), done in 10-8-6-4 repetitions at 3 different weights. I go up by 10 lbs. between each wave set. When I first got started, I was doing this workout at 95/105/115 lb. After 6 months, I’m doing it at 135/145/155 lb., which is much lower than my current PR of 230 lb.

Progress on some lifts will be frustratingly slow compared to men.

Women generally have far more lower body strength than upper body strength, especially in the chest. My bench press after 6 months of hard training with a similar type of workout to the wave sets I’ve described above has moved my bench PR from 105 lb. to….115 lb. Meanwhile, one man I lift with went from 190 lb. to 255 lb. in the same time using the same type of workout.

We’re not men. Don’t get too discouraged when your husband quickly gets to the point where he’s benching more than you deadlift. It’s normal. Focus on you and your improvements.

Your form will be different than the men in the gym or on Youtube

I’ll repeat this often throughout the article. Women are not men. Men are not women. Women have wider hips than men do, and that skeletal difference will affect your lifting form. My squat stance is naturally wider than a man’s would be, because I have hips. Forcing yourself to look like the guys in Youtube videos is a great way to make your knees very angry, and potentially injure yourself. I got help from a trainer in person to work on my form, and I recommend this for any woman starting out. If you are watching form videos, try to find female lifters who demonstrate it so you can see what the lifts look like on a woman’s body.

I started out sumo deadlifting for the same reason as my squat stance being wide–hips. Over time, I’ve learned (and gained the lower back strength) to do conventional deadlifts, but my stance is again different than the men in the gym where I lift. I start out 6″ from the bar as opposed to the usually recommended 12″. My feet turn out just slightly, because that’s what my hips and knees want them to do. Letting your body tell you what minor adjustments you need is ok.

Your weight will fluctuate more than a man’s

This one is an unpleasant truth, but also one to bring some realism into your mind. We are not men, ladies. Our hormones fluctuate throughout the month (even if you’re on a form of contraceptives), and that has all sorts of effects. Weight fluctuation is one of the more annoying ones, and it’s almost always due to water retention. Depending on the time of the month, I’m more sensitive to salt intake and retain more water in general. That can make my weight fluctuate 3 lbs over the course of a couple days. If you’re trying to cut fat, don’t assume that a fluctuation this mild means you’re failing. You don’t need to take any drastic measures with this level of fluctuation. Track your cycles and learn your own body.

Tracking my weight daily shows a typical monthly oscillation, even if the trend overall is downward. I personally don’t think it’s a good idea for women to try to cut fat as fast as a man; our hormones will kick in and sabotage us if we’re losing weight too fast. Our bodies were meant to carry children, so we’re more sensitive to physical stress (which includes drastic calorie deficits).

Your macro needs will be different than a man’s

Breads and carbs have gotten an undeservedly bad reputation in the lifting community. I’ve tried many different levels of carb intake, from practically 0 (carnivore-adjacent) to almost exclusively carb (when I was a competitive swimmer in high school). I’ve found that I need a higher carb intake than the men I know to keep energy and strength up. I typically take in 150-200 g. carbs to 100 g. protein and about 50 g. fat. (Disclaimer, I also do heavy cardio, so my carb needs are also higher because of that.)

That said, being on a high-protein, low-carb diet wrecked my metabolism. I wasn’t cutting fat and my energy levels were in the garbage. Letting good quality complex carbs back into my life fueled huge improvements in the gym and the pool. Don’t let influencers (who are mostly talking to men) talk you out of trying a higher carb intake to see what works for you.

Regarding fat, I’m still finding the ideal for myself. My body does like to hang onto fat, so I keep the intake lower than the men I lift with (as a percentage of total calories), but I aim to stay above 35g and under 50g.

If your energy levels are low or your fat loss is stalling, try a re-feed day.

It seems counterintuitive, but I take a re-feed day each week, aiming for 500+ calories over my usual intake. It kickstarts my metabolism from a depleted state and allows me to maintain a deficit well for the remaining 6 days. I’ve tried to be in a simple deficit, and that stops working after a while, but the re-feed cycle has worked very well for me. If you’re trying to cut fat and progress has stalled, give this a try.


As I continue my own lifting progress, I’ll write an additional list as observations arise. As I noted in the introduction, this entire article represents one woman’s observations and experiences. There are as many opinions as people on the internet, and everyone wants to tell their readers that their way is the only correct one. I’m not going to do that here, because I don’t believe that. Instead, I’m only giving notes on things that worked for me, and some that didn’t.