Female-oriented weight class helps break down weightlifting stigmas


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Women & Weights is a female-focused fitness class offered by Recreation Services Monday and Wednesday nights.

Tucked away in an old fitness studio on the third floor of Beyer Hall, about 10 female students are gathered for Iowa State’s Women & Weights class, completing exercises that involve barbells, dumbbells and more.

Led by Cassandra Brower, a graduate of Iowa State’s kinesiology department, the Women & Weights group fitness class serves as an opportunity to teach female students about weightlifting and other strength-based practices.

Brower has instructed this class since ISU Recreation Services first offered it during the fall 2021 semester.

“The overall goal is [creating] a female-inclusive space where [participants] can learn technique and form and feel confident in their workout,” Brower said. “They just know that they can come to this class and they’re going to get a good workout. They’re going to be safe yet challenged.”

Women & Weights are welcome to individuals of all different levels. Anna Weber, a sophomore studying apparel, merchandising and design, did not have much prior experience with weightlifting, but she began consistently attending Women & Weights during the second or third week of the fall 2022 semester.

Brower shared that Weber is one of the five or six repeated participants of this class.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to weightlift, and learning in the gym is so intimidating,” Weber said. “I had never touched a barbell before, but I walked out of [my first class] and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I feel like I learned a lot in just 45 minutes.’”

According to Muriel Hyndman, the fitness coordinator for ISU Recreation Services, one of the main motives for creating Women & Weights was based around accommodating certain cultural or religious principles. In some backgrounds, women can only work out with other women, thus prompting the formation of a class where individuals can do so in a positive setting.

Another factor that led to the start of Women & Weights is the desire to simply cultivate a community in which women can feel comfortable while lifting.

“If you look at our gyms…typically it’s men that are in those [strength areas], in the squat racks and the weight machines…so it’s kind of an intimidating area for a female to walk into,” Hyndman said.

Sally Musselman, a junior majoring in psychology and another regular attendee of Women & Weights, began frequenting the class around the same time as Weber.

“I really liked the idea of [the class] being all girls,” Musselman said. “Sometimes being around men, it can be harder to lift…maybe a little self-consciousness is there for some women.”

Musselman has had experiences with other fitness classes at ISU and believes Women & Weights fosters a healthy environment for all people involved.

“I don’t see anyone looking nervous or feeling out of place or anything like that, which is really nice. Sometimes that happens with other fitness classes, and so it’s good to have a place where we can go be comfortable in the gym and get used to the weights and stuff,” Musselman said.

In instructing this class, Brower teaches her clients about the purpose behind each exercise. She describes Women & Weights as being “research-oriented,” placing important emphasis on concepts found in her area of studies, such as the five functional movements and three planes of motion.

Weber appreciates this attention to detail, feeling as though she has gained valuable knowledge through participating in this class.

“Now I can go to the gym and just be like, ‘I know what I’m doing,’” Weber said. “It’s empowering to be like, ‘Yeah, I can lift weight; I’m a strong woman.’”

Women & Weights meets from 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Students interested in participating can register for free by visiting the ISU Rec Services website.