Boo to Wimpy Weights

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.


An in-depth, 4-week reverse dieting course for women who feel like their metabolism has slowed down, think they might have hormonal imbalance and can’t lose weight no matter what they do.

Ready for another exercise science lesson? Oh, I bet you are!


Remember my post about the SAID Principle? If not, it stands for specific adaptation to imposed demands, and it essentially means that the body will specifically adapt to the type of demand (i.e. training) placed on it. I used Lance Armstrong’s experience in the 2006 New York City Marathon as an example in my post.

Related to the SAID Principle is The Principle of Overload:

The Principle of Overload involves providing the appropriate training stimulus to elicit optimum physical, physiological, and performance adaptions. A tissue will adapt when it is asked, on a regular basis, to do more; the tissue needs the overload or it will not adapt. [Source: NASM textbook]

According to this principle, for your muscles to adapt and get stronger, they need to be challenged with a load that is heavier than what they’re used to. So, if you’re lifting 5-pound dumbbells at the gym week after week, you’re not making any gains. Without imposing new demands on your muscles, you can’t significantly strengthen them. Basically, when you’re not challenging them, your muscles get “used to” a workout and become more efficient, which means you build less muscle and burn fewer calories. And, honestly, you’re kind of wasting your time. I mean, isn’t the point of strength training to get stronger and not just stay the same? 

The next time you’re at the gym, try choosing a heavier weight to lift. How much heavier, you ask? Pick one that you can lift for 10-12 reps before losing good form. Your muscles should feel fatigued for the last few reps of each set.

Additionally, according to The Principle of Overload, you can also challenge your muscles by switching things up with your workout, such as the number of reps and sets you do, how fast you lift and lower the weight, how long you rest between sets, how often you strength train, and the order that you do the exercises.

Moral of the story: lift heavier weights and switch up your workouts to get strong and toned!


This afternoon’s lunch was a huge salad topped with Avocado Salsa, Romano cheese, chopped walnuts, truffle oil, and balsamic vinegar. The combination of these ingredients was so incredibly filing!

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A couple of hours later, I had a serious craving for a hot cup of coffee, which, naturally, paired well with a Maple Scone. I spread a thick layer of peanut butter on it for some staying power.

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CrossFit is about an hour away, so, just now, I snacked on a mug-o-banana with sunflower butter to fuel my workout and hold me over until dinnertime.

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Enjoy the evening, friends! I’m off to New York City in the morning!



  1. I could never understand why girls go into the weight section and then “lift” the 5lb. dumbbells week after week. It’s such a waste of your time, especially if you’re trying to burn more calories. Lovin’ these exercise science lessons 😉

    1. @Stephanie @ Ultra Ambitious:

      I always wondered the same thing in my heavier lifting days. Now, *I’m* the girl you might see in the gym week after week lifting the 5 lbs weights. It is not because I’m misinformed or afraid of bulking, it is because I have back problems and actually had to have surgery for a herniated disc a few months ago. I have lots of restrictions on my activities, but I’m actually quite proud of myself for getting back in the gym even though I was insecure about just working out with light weights (I thought people would judge me). I know there are lots of misconceptions about women & bulking, but just remember when you see these women at the gym – some of us are injured/recovering and just doing the best we can! 🙂

  2. I completely agree with the idea that just lifting 5 lb weights won’t do much as you get used to it, but what about things like barre classes that incorporate 2-3 lb weights but with lots of repetitions? I feel like those types of workouts seriously get me sore.

    1. @Jenny: I was thinking the exact same thing and wondering if i should up from 3’s to 4’s and 4’s to 5’s… I’m just not sure I could do the whole sequence with the additional weight at this point. Because isn’t the barre concept that you use light weight (or your own resistance) with high reps until the muscle is exhausted?

  3. I lift with hand weights and would like to use heavier weights, though I’m concerned about adding too much bulk to my upper body and arms. Thoughts or advice on how to add more weight without looking like The Hulk?

  4. I agree! I actually added more weight last night then I usually do and it made a big difference! Granted, I was super sore afterwards, I figure after a while I’ll just keep getting stronger! I’m really glad you posted this, because now I’ll be more motivated to lift those heavier weights! You also got me nice and hungry with that mug of bananas and nut butter! I think I’m going to snack on that before I hit my spin class and strength training class! Have fun in NYC! It’s pretty cold here but I guess it’s just as cold as in Boston!

  5. Love this. So many people are afraid to lift heavy and it kills me! I want to ask them when the last time they saw a woman version of Hulk Hogan walking around was b/c honestly it just doesn’t happen (frequently). I think it’s just another version of an excuse…

  6. Have fun in NYC in the a.m. I am sure you’ll have a blast. Lifting heavy is great. Women always think they’ll bulk up. But what is a 2 year old or a 4 year old in a crowded parking lot in mom’s arms: heavy weight. And no, I haven’t’ turned into Hulk Hogan nor do any of us 🙂

  7. I’m studying abroad in London right now and just joined a gym. I’m used to being intimidated by the super huge-muscled guys in American gyms, but men here aren’t that big. I was a little shocked to have to share the 15lbs weight with a bunch of guys today.
    Moral of the story ”” Euro men need to lift heavier weights, too.

  8. I figured out that heavier weights were more effective about four months ago when I started doing the New Rules of Lifting for Women program, and I am so excited about the results! I should try varying how fast/slow I lift, though. Thanks for the tips!

  9. mmm the maple scone looks delicious! Anything with carbs and maple involved sound great to me 🙂 Have fun in NYC! We head back sunday and I cannot wait because my pup Pete is waiting for us 🙂 Hope you have fun!

  10. I’m one of those girls who have heard a thousand times that lifting heavier weights won’t make women bulk up, but it’s also an idea I still struggle with! I use 10 pound weights with a greater number of repetitions, but I would really like to finally give the heavier weights a try. Looking forward to your NYC adventures!

  11. I think it’s rude to write a post titled “boo to wimpy weights” and then say people are wasting their time. Your fitness is not someone else’s fitness. You weren’t always in the shape you are in today.

  12. I read your blog religiously and finally tried chia seeds with rice milk and bananas. I loved it! Thanks for being such an inspiration. It is a pleasure to read your posts.

  13. I used to be one of those girls lifting 5 lb weights. It’s no wonder I hated weights so much back then – it was boring! It’s so much more fun to challenge myself with heavier weights now. Not to mention I’m seeing much better results! 😀

  14. Someday I’ll get beyond the wimpy weights! When it comes to almost all of my other muscle groups, I can lift an okay amount for a girl, but my biceps and triceps are lacking. Doing reps with 10# weights is a challenge, so hopefully that improves as the days go on.

  15. The minute I started lifting heavier (to me that is) weights, I started loving weight training! It’s no wonder I never used to see results when I was only opting for the 5lb dumbbells!

  16. I love reading your tips on lifting because I am absolutely *clueless* when it comes to things like this. Keep on writing about it and I’ll keep on reading. 😀

    Love your banana and butter snackage! 😀

  17. That’s one of the things I love about Body Pump — being able to gradually increase weight over the different tracks and releases. I’ve more than doubled my original weights, and I can see a huge difference. Plus, I feel pretty badass when I’m lifting more than the dudes next to me.

  18. I lift 10-20 pounds depending on how I feel, I dont have huge arm strength just yet I’ve been working on it though!Its one of my new years resolutions to get stronger! Once I can do 12 reps too easily with a weight I move onto something a little heavier.

    5 pound weights are very useful when you are just starting out though, and also for workouts with lots of reps. I use 5lbs when I do Jillian’s 30 Day Shred DVD and my shoulders are SORE afterward! When I worked out in London we did this 1 hour cardio dance class and held onto 1-2lb weights the whole time- seemingly tiny weights but by the end of waving your arms around for 60 minutes my arms were BURNING!

  19. Woohoo! As I walked down the stairs in pain this morning I was regretting increasing all my weights in Body Pump last night…. But I guess I did the right thing!

  20. It’s not all about muscle strength all the time. Lifter lighter weights with high reps is a serious workout that should’nt be ignored. This builds muscle endurance, which is just as important as muscle strength. Also, once you have built up a nice base of muscle strength, you don’t need to hit it hard and heavy all the time, like Oxygen magazine would like you to believe! Lifting lighter weights is definitely not a “waste of time” If you think it is, I dare you to try Physique 57!

  21. Thanks for the exercise science lesson. I always love to learn more about how the body works. I am always trying to lift heavier and all of that. 🙂

  22. I do agree that it’s good to push yourself if you find that your workouts are getting easy, however, no one should be out there trying to lift “heavy” if they haven’t lifted before, IMO. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad to focus on having good form, to start out using lighter weights, and to slowly increase what you’re lifting. I just think the post title is misleading. I inferred that you think no one should ever use the smaller weights. I had a personal trainer a couple of years ago and she had me starting out with ONLY 5-8lb weights. I feel like you were trying to say it’s okay to increase what you’re lifting if it’s getting too easy…but at first it didn’t seem that way.

    I also (based on another comment I saw) think people should not worry so much about what the other people in the gym are lifting…everyone is at a different fitness level. Using 5-8lb dumbbells might not be heavy for them, but if (for instance) that’s all I can do properly, I’d prefer not to be judged for it.

    1. @Di: Sorry, I should have clarified. The point of my post was to say if you’re doing the same workout over and over again and not seeing results, it’s time for you to step it up with the weights. If you’ve never lifted weights before, of course, you shouldn’t mosey up to the 50-pound dumbbells and attempt an Overhead Press. You’ll probably hurt yourself! If you’re a beginner, you should start slow (and/or meet with a trainer) and work your way up to heavier weights overtime.

      I totally agree with you about proper form– it’s so important– as well as not worrying about what other people are doing. I’m always lifting less than my peers at CrossFit, but I’m more concerned with making sure I have proper form than trying to lift some crazy-heavy weight. I do, however, think it’s important to constantly challenge yourself if you want to gain strength and see changes in your body.

      1. @Tina: That makes a whole lot more sense and it’s what I was hoping you were getting at after reading the entire post. It really just is a misleading title. 🙂 It’s definitely important to keep challenging yourself if you want to see changes…I can’t argue that! Thanks for clarifying.

  23. Eating a banana and peanut butter in a mug right now! Thanks so much for this simple and delicious snack idea!!

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