Digital Packs

Digital Packs Banner Digital Packs Banner


Why we (still) love Zoe Smith

19th Commonwealth Games - Day 3: WeightliftingIn the London 2012 Olympics, 18-year-old Olympic athlete Zoe Smith set a British women’s record in weightlifting. Though she left the Games without a medal, watching the young, petite woman hoist a bar carrying weights twice her size was a sight to behold.

While accomplishing such feats left both spectators and supporters of Team GB impressed, there were a few who showed their disapproval via social media. After the release of a BBC documentary featuring the women’s Olympic weightlifting team’s journey to the Games, Smith and her teammates received a tidal wave of criticism on Twitter.

The tweetstorm included comments from males and females alike (though men were in the majority) criticizing the women’s weightlifting team’s bodies with many posting remarks along of the lines of: ‘they look like blokes, and are probably lesbian’.

Smith hit back, returning the harsh words with a thoughtfully written post on her blog. ‘The obvious choice of slander when talking about female weightlifting is ‘how unfeminine, girls shouldn’t be strong or have muscles, this is wrong’. And maybe they’re right… in the Victorian era. To think people still think like this is laughable, we’re in 2012!’

Smith wrote. ‘…this may sound like a sweeping generalisation, but most of the people that do think like this seem to be chauvinistic, pigheaded blokes who feel emasculated by the fact that we, three small, fairly feminine girls, are stronger than them. Simple as that.’

But the reality is, women trying to get in shape often steer clear of weightlifting for fear of becoming large and burly, and appearing masculine. But one look at the petite Smith (along with a list of fit celebrities like Halle Barry, Jessica Biel, Eva Longoria and even Marilyn Monroe who did weights behind closed doors so as to not taint her damsel-y image) will tell you that these fears are unfounded.  Weight training makes women shapely, strong, toned and lean – we don’t have enough testosterone in our bodies to develop big bloke’s muscles.

In fact, Smith has inspired many women to begin weightlifting – just look at the rise of CrossFit in the UK, in which weight training using iron as well as your own body weights is done with the men and both genders do similar workouts – women who do it regularly look amazing.

Need more reason to start?

Higher metabolism + more fat loss According to a study by Penn State researchers, weightlifting will have you losing 40 per cent more fat. Although all groups in the study lost 21 pounds, the group partaking in both aerobic exercise and weight training lost six more pounds than those who were just dieting, or doing aerobic exercise.  That’s because weight training increases your resting metabolism.  Even when you’re not exercising and just sat at your desk, your body uses 35 calories to maintain a pound of muscle each day and only two calories to sustain a pound of fat. By adding 2-4 pounds of muscle to your body you could burn 100 extra calories a day, even when you do nothing.

Stronger bones = lower risk of osteoporosis in later life According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology 16 weeks of resistance training resulted in the increase of hip-bone density.

Less anxiety = better mood Resistance training increases the production of serotonin, a brain hormone that makes us feel good. A study from the University of South Carolina has shown that a twice weekly programme of resistance training can result in a 60 per cent decrease in anxiety levels, significantly decreased irritability and improved mood within six weeks.

4 WAYS TO ADD SOME WEIGHT TO YOUR LIFE Want give it a shot? For the seasoned liftie and the newbie strength trainer, Healthista has a few suggestions on what’s hot right now:

1.  Walk n’ tone Build up your strength with Joanna Hall’s new book, Walkactive Programme. It features a walking-centric exercise regimen aimed to build strength, muscle and tone in the core, upper body, hamstrings and quadriceps. You can also check out her Walkfirm courses available around the country and learn how to build muscle and tone while walking – even sans ankle and hand weights. Visit for more information.

2.  Wear your weights This is the kind of weight on your shoulders – and general upper body – that you want.  Weighted vests can help you build muscle while you walk. Just like ankle or wrist weights, wear the vest when you go on your walk, or run, or even on your workout. Check out the Adidas Weight Vest for £129.99 at

3.  Tone by TV Sometimes you only need yourself, a DVD player and a television for a workout that will have you sweating and feeling sore – and super-fit. With Ramona Braganza’s 3-2-1 Training Method you’ll be doing pushups, planks, squats and lunges circuit style for an hour-long workout. You can also give Shaun T’s Insanity workout a try. Huge in the States, the program uses the ‘max interval training’ method for six-day a week 30-60 minute workouts, making for an effective workout where you’ll definitely feel the burn.  Tony Horton’s P90xis also a great workout routine, designed to change your body in 90 days. It combines yoga, muscle building and martial arts moves, push-ups, pull-ups and karate that strengthen your muscles fast.

In a word: HARD  Look to CrossFit for a very intense workout regimen consisting of: army style training, weight lifting, gymnastics, rowing, throwing, tyre pushing and rope climbing that will build up your strength – and fast. CrossFit classes place an emphasis on learning techniques, and you can have the workouts scaled to your level.

Here are some links to whet your appetite 

Strength Training London:

Maximum Fit:


British Weightlifting:



Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

More Healthista Content