How to Drop a Dress Size by Lifting Heavy Weights

Before taking the helm at Byrdie UK, I worked at Women’s Health magazine. I’m also a qualified personal trainer, so I know a thing or two about exercise. The one thing I find most frustrating is when I head to the free weights section of my local gym and there isn’t a woman in sight. They’re all pounding it out on the treadmills upstairs, which is exactly where I used to be before I realised the sweaty, testosterone-filled weights room isn’t as daunting as I had first thought, and that it is exactly where I need to be if I want to make long-lasting changes.

Since lifting weights on a regular basis (for about 18 months), I have dropped a dress size and kept it off, even if I don’t get down to the gym for a couple of weeks every so often (life can get in the way!). Whereas when I was a cardio-holic, if I missed a couple of runs, I would just pile the pounds back on which had me yo-yoing between dress sizes and confidence levels for years. Keep scrolling to find out all you need to know about weightlifting, plus the exercises you need to do.




There are a couple of things worth knowing: Don’t assume all the guys in the free weights section know what they are doing because they don’t—some have great form and some have terrible form. Also, they’re far more interested in what they are doing than what you are doing. Promise. Most important, though, you won’t bulk up by lifting heavy. Women don’t have enough of the male hormone testosterone for this to happen. Sure, some of us can gain muscle more easily, but then you just scale back on the amount of weight lifting sessions you do. Get it right and weight lifting can strip fat and build lean muscle.

So what exercises should you be doing? There are some key moves that every woman should incorporate into her routine: squats, lunges, deadlift (traditional and Romanian), bent over row, chest press and shoulder press. These are known as compound exercises, and they require you to utilise more than one joint for each move, which means you’re working more muscles. That makes them seriously efficient muscle builders and calorie burners.

To get results you need a plan: Each time you go to the gym you want to improve in some small way—whether by doing an extra rep on an exercise (just one exercise!) or lifting a heavier weight than you did the last time. This is known as progressive overload and as long as you are progressively overloading your body over time then you will see results. I follow Mike Matthews's Thinner, Leaner Stronger (£6), it’s an e-book with a downloadable PDF that includes a yearlong (!) workout plan for you to follow. I then record every weight and rep using the app Strong (free), so I can keep track.

You need to lift heavy. We’re talking a weight that you can lift for 6–8 reps, and that last rep should feel really, really tough—that means you’re doing it right. You then rest (usually for 2–3 minutes), and do another set of 6–8 reps. Rest again and repeat.

So what results can you expect? Well, by building lean muscle over time, you’ll find that your body is more efficient at burning calories throughout the day. If you measure your body—waist, hips and thighs—with a tape measure on day one, you’ll soon notice the inches drop off. Unless you want to build a Kardashian-esque butt, in which case you may want to add a couple of inches, which is totally possible (you just need to focus on the glute building exercises like squats and lunges).

When you’re in the gym don’t be afraid to start light at first while you’re learning the moves and nailing that form. Gradually you can add the weight; once you have the form sorted, don’t hesitate to push yourself out of your comfort zone. You’re stronger than you think, I can guarantee it.

The team at Lomax in Chelsea is here to show you how to do seven compound moves. Keep scrolling to see how to do these five exercises in your gym.

Top tip: Always breathe in before the exertion (the hardest part of the exercise) and breathe out during. Controlled breathing when lifting heavier weights is essential. Just like in yoga, the correct breathing can really help!