How to conquer the weights area in the gym

The free weights area can be an intimidating place for a woman. It can feel like you shouldn't be in there unless you can bicep curl 20kg and if you do go in there you can feel gawked at. The truth is the weights area should feel no different to anywhere else in the gym. I can remember on my gym tour the guide saying 'women don't usually come in this area' when we got to the free weights section so I can see unhelpful attitudes are still out there to put women off! So here are a few tips on how to overcome the fear of the free weights section...

1. Have a plan

Go into the weights area knowing what you're going to do. Stick with what you're comfortable with at first so you can go in there grab the weights you need and get on with it.

2. Power pose

If you haven't seen Amy Cuddy's TED talk on power posing I highly recommend it! I use it all the time to trick my mind into feeling confident. By standing in a dominant posture like the pic above Amy has seen that we change our behavior and feel more confident as well as looking like a bad ass! So between sets stand like wonder woman and you'll soon feel the part!

3. Know it's better for you

We know weight training is an excellent way of strengthening but also increasing your metabolic rate and shifting fat. Free weights are better than machines (as long as you have good form) as they demand you use your core to stabilise as well as going through a greater range of movement.

4. Follow the unwritten rules

There are a few points of etiquette with the weights area that you should follow:

  • Don't talk to people during a set

  • Try to find space away from another person's 'bubble' to workout

  • Tidy up after yourself

  • Don't workout by the dumbbells - you'll keep getting interrupted to move out of the way

  • Don't block the mirror! - whilst some are just love watching themselves workout most of the time it's for checking form so don't stand directly in someone's way

5. Embrace the staring

It's a fact that people will look at you in the gym, most of the time it doesn't come from a creepy place! I used to use a gym at a leisure centre in a small town and I couldn't believe how behind they were in terms of what they were doing (mainly machine weights). So when I went to the rack to squat heavy most people in the gym were watching. I'm pleased to say quite a lot of women in my current gym use the weights area so it's not such a novelty. If you see people looking they're probably just curious rather than you doing something wrong. In fact women have a lot less injuries than men in the gym as we pay more attention to form rather than lifting the heaviest weight no matter what.

6. Buddy up

If you're really anxious about crossing the invisible line into the weights section, going with a friend or a trainer can help get you started. Having a routine that you've done with a friend or trainer is a good platform to build on so you're comfortable in the weights section.


How amazing would it be to have the weights area dominated by women or at least be 50:50. If your gym is a bit 'old school' then be the trailblazer! I honestly don't believe men have a problem with us being in there and if they do that's their issue. Be confident, be knowledgeable and cross that invisible line!


  • Martuscello, JM, Nuzzo, JL, Ashley, CD, Campbell, BI, Orriola, JJ, and Mayer, JM (2013) Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises. J Strength Cond Res 27(6): 1684– 1698

  • Schwanbeck, S, Chilibeck, PD, and Binsted, G (2009) A comparison of free weight squat to smith machine squat using electromyography. J Strength Cond Res 23(9): 2588–2591

  • Shannon E. Gray & Caroline F. Finch (2015) Epidemiology of Hospital-Treated Injuries Sustained by Fitness Participants, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 86:1, 81-87

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