The Final Verdict On Training’s Biggest Myth

Our no bull coach returns with the final verdict on whether you should lift heavy, along with a program that’ll turn that skinny-fat frame of yours into one that’s a whole lot closer to your favorite Figure Athlete’s physique.

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After my article, Seven Truths That’ll Set You Free, I received dozens of messages asking if girls really should lift heavy or not. Well, let’s set this thing straight once and for all.

First of all, let’s define what heavy really means. Science defines “heavy” as a load representing 85% or greater of a person’s one repetition maximum lift (1RM), or the most weight someone can lift from one to five reps.

I’d consider a weight that represents 65%-84% of a person’s 1RM to be a moderate load, and anything below 64% of a 1RM is considered light. Something else that needs to be recognized is that the greater the load, the greater the intensity.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been training a girl, and when she cranks out 14 good reps on a given exercise, she’ll gripe, “That weight was way too heavy.”

“Sorry sweetie, but if you can knock out 14 reps, the weight ain’t heavy.”

“Yeah, but I barely got the last rep.”

“Um, right. That’s because your muscles were very fatigued, and even the lightest load will eventually feel heavy if performed enough times.”

This is when she usually gives me the “I hate you” look.

It’s Not You; It’s Your Muscle Fibers

Almost every female I’ve worked with has been slow-twitch dominant. Slow-twitch, or Type I, muscle fibers are taxed the most through higher repetition and higher volume workouts using a light load. This is why females can often get some results from doing sets of 15-25 reps.

However, if you sprinkle in some actual heavy lifting, you can totally maximize your results.

Let’s say a girl performs a set of 20 reps with the 15-pound dumbbells. That was obviously an easy set, so she grabs the next heaviest weights, the 20-pounders. On that next set, she struggles to get just three brutal reps.

Sound familiar? Do small to moderate jumps in weight result in a 75% drop in reps? If so, you’re very slow-twitch dominant.

Fortunately, Christian Thibaudeau has explained the importance of compensatory hypertrophy — the process of developing a shift in fiber-type make up over time, sparked through heavy lifting. This can be a crucial component for a female looking to add some precious muscle.

Hold on, I can hear it now…

“But Wet Wolf, I can ‘muscle up’ very easily. I mean, my quads and glutes are really thick and muscular. In fact, I think I need to lose some muscle from my quads. They’re just too big.”

No. The password is… fat loss!

Your legs aren’t too muscular, they’re just carrying too much fat. Show me one single Figure Athlete who’s drug-free and under 10% bodyfat, who possesses legs that are too muscular. You can’t do it.

What Really Causes Muscle Growth?

Look, I believe that the way you train with weights can definitely affect muscle growth; but you know what really makes you grow? All those wonderful, delicious calories!

Eat enough of them and your wheels will have you believing that you’re “genetically cursed” forever, and if that wasn’t bad enough, you might get nicknamed “Quadzillette” by your jealous Body Pump classmates.

Let me say this though: Some females who are mesomorphic and fast-twitch dominant may not need to train with weights at the same intensity level as the girls who are natural ectomorphs with less than a year of total training under their belts.

The following training plan is a micro-cycle designed for the Figure Athlete — someone who wants to stay lean in the off-season, but still build muscle. It also works as a transitional program for the three to six weeks before beginning a contest prep program.

The young skinny-fat girl’s muscle-building workout will need to do the following:

• Recruit as many fast-twitch fibers as possible.

• Use a heavy enough load to recruit the Type IIA and IIB muscle fibers.

• Attempt to move the weight as fast as possible.

• Provide enough volume to stimulate growth.

The Heavy Lifting Solution for Muscle

Monday: Lower body and abs

A) Front squat 6×4
Load: Work up to a 4RM by the last set
Recovery: 120 seconds

B) One-leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift 3×8
Load: 10RM
Recovery: 90 seconds

C) Barbell reverse lunge 2×10
Load: 12RM
Recovery: 60 seconds between legs

D) Windmill 3×7
Load: 10RM
Recovery: 60 seconds between sides

Wednesday: Upper body

A) One-arm dumbbell row 6×4
Load: Work up to a 4RM by the last set
Recovery: 120 seconds

B) Incline barbell bench Press 6×4
Load: Work up to a 4RM by the last set
Recovery: 120 seconds

C) Shoulder horn 2×10
Load: 12RM
Recovery: 60 seconds between arms

If you don’t have access to an actual Shoulder Horn, this is a decent alternative.

1 | 2

D) Reverse incline E-Z bar curl 3×7
Load: 10RM
Recovery: 60 seconds

Reverse incline curl, shown using dumbbells

1 | 2 | 3

E) Dips with a flex band assistance 2×10
Load: 12RM
Recovery: 60 seconds

A flex band makes the exercise easier without compromising technique.

Friday: Total body

A1) Neutral-grip alternating dumbbell shoulder press 2×12
A2) Romanian deadlift 2×12
Recovery: 60 seconds between each exercise

B1) Neutral-grip chin-up with flex band assistance 2 x 12
B2) Barbell step-up with knee follow-through 2 x 12
Recovery: 60 seconds between each exercise

Barbell step-up with knee, midpoint.

C1) Seated medicine ball toss to side 3 x 12
C2) Straight-arm rear delt raise 3 x 12
Recovery: 60 seconds between each exercise

Medicine ball toss to side. Having a partner to return the ball would help.

Key Points

• Each week, reduce the 4RM by one repetition (Monday’s A exercise, Wednesday’s A and B exercises).

• After three weeks, change each exercise and try to increase the load.

• No single-joint (isolation) movements are allowed until the C exercises of Friday’s workout.

• Perform at least three easier warm-up sets before each movement.

Eating for Muscle

Wait a second… what about diet, you ask? There are some starting numbers I like to use. But remember, this is only a good starting point. Listen to your body, learn what works, and follow outcome-based decision making after your first week on this eating plan.


.8 x bodyweight.

Most girls who are in the off-season and need to build muscle are well over 20% bodyfat. I see no need to follow the typical “One gram per pound of bodyweight” school of thought. Since 20% of the body is non-functional mass, why account for it?


.25 x bodyweight on non-weight lifting days.

.50 x bodyweight when training upper body.

.75 x bodyweight when training lower body.

The only liquid meal should be post-workout, and it should contain up to half of the total carb intake for the day.


.25 x bodyweight on non-weight lifting days.

.20 x bodyweight on upper body days.

.15 x bodyweight on lower body days.

Include the fat sources with a protein source in your meals. A great meal example is grilled wild salmon on a salad.

Decision Rendered?

The jury has reached their verdict, and yes, females should lift heavy weights. At least, any females interested in building muscle, increasing their metabolism, and actually looking like they’ve seen the inside of a gym, should lift heavy.

All the “other” girls can corner the market in powder blue colored, vinyl-coated weights. It’ll leave more room in the free weight section for those who want actual results.

About the Author

The Wet Wolf specializes in physique transformation, contest prep, eating patterns, and sports performance training for clients in real life and online.


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