There’s an invisible barrier between the cardio and weight lifting areas at the gym. It’s common to see women flocking to the cardio machines – the stairmasters, the ellipticals, the treadmills, or the bikes. If you migrate over to the weight section, then you’ll likely find fewer women. 

Research, published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that 80% of women do not participate in regular weight training. So what’s causing the hesitancy? Some women might avoid the weights for fear of bulking up. Others might avoid the area because of intimidation and the idea that it is too difficult. 

Resistance training is essential to overall health, as it boosts your metabolism, builds lean mass, improves heart health, decreases body fat, and promotes flexibility. It can even boost your self-esteem and improve your mental health. Recently, 21Ninety spoke with Amber Diggs, owner and principal event stylist at Glamberous Girl Party, about the benefits of weightlifting and how she built confidence to lift weights.

21NINETY: Can you share a little bit about your weight-lifting journey? 

Amber Diggs: After some major life changes, I was looking to reclaim my body and become a healthier version of myself. After my marriage, I was a single mom and 20 pounds heavier. Becoming a mother and getting older, definitely impacted my body. However, I could no longer blame being a new mom for not being in my best shape because my daughter was now five years old! I had my daily habits and lack of physical activity to thank. 

My initial goal was to just lose weight. After numerous conversations with close friends who have been on their weight lifting journey for years, I was convinced to give it a try. I downloaded the OWNU app and got to work! It’s one of the best decisions that I could have made for myself, and I am now 10 months into my strength training journey. 

21N: Before you began resistance training, what kept you away from weights? 

AD: There were a number of things that kept me away from weight lifting. First, my hair! As a Black woman who wears my hair straight and natural, I did not want to sweat. I know that sounds insane, but it’s my truth! 

Secondly, I didn’t know what I should do when I got to the gym. I didn’t want to waste time doing ineffective workouts. Next, I didn’t know how to work the machines. The sheer thought of adjusting the machines and figuring out how they worked made me anxious! 

21N: Was there ever a fear of bulking up or getting too muscular? 

AD: Absolutely! This was my number one fear. However, this fear was a result of not being properly educated. Women have lower levels of testosterone than men, and testosterone is required to develop bulky muscles. In addition, building muscle mass is not something that happens overnight and requires heavy lifting. The average person is not doing the work required to “bulk up.” Furthermore, everyone has a different opinion regarding what looks “too muscular.” I said to myself, worst case scenario, I could always stop and go back to the way I looked before (which I still was unhappy with). So, I had nothing to lose! 

21N: Did you ever experience any intimidation to lift weights at the gym? 

AD: Due to my lack of experience, I did experience intimidation. I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing, but the truth is I didn’t know what I was doing! So either I was going to stay stuck in that fear or I was going to figure it out. 

Everyone starts somewhere. Surprisingly, at my gym, the number of women lifting weights is comparable to the number of men. The women span various age ranges too! I found this to be super encouraging. 

21N: What have you learned since you began weightlifting about how it benefits your overall health? 

AD: When I first started lifting weights, I was more concerned about the aesthetic benefits. Increasing muscle mass decreases fat and minimizes future weight gain. 

What has helped me to remain consistent in my weight lifting journey are the additional long-term benefits. My daughter is an only child, and I want to be as healthy as I possibly can be for her. Strength training has the added benefits of preventing injury, as well as improving posture and alignment. My hope is that by being consistent with my strength training program, I will be able to maintain my independence later in life and not be a burden on my daughter. 

21N: What would you say to encourage women to lift weights more? 

AD: Let go of all of the preconceived notions about lifting weights. Do it your way – whatever that looks like. Before I lift weights, I spray perfume, apply lip gloss, and put on my cute workout clothes, stylish sneakers, and jewelry! Embrace the journey. The only thing stopping you, is you. Your body will thank you. 

This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.