Why Women Should Add Weightlifting to Their Workouts

weightlifting for women

Radan Sturm Gives the Inside Scoop and Why He Founded LIFTONIC To Change the Way We Weight Train


“I don’t want to lift weights. They make me bulky.”

We’ve all heard this. I used to think this way when I was younger. I don’t know where this myth came from but it’s there. Even though it has been debunked by a lot of research. And boy am I glad. Because even back then, I knew that if I wanted to gain muscle and have the shape I hoped to achieve, there was no way of getting it without lifting weights. Tone, defined arms and a lifted, shapely butt would only happen through weight lifting.

There is a steady stream of boutique fitness studios popping up all over Manhattan and quickly spreading to other areas. These studios aim to turn a type of workout into an experience in a group setting. Cycling has transitioned from the outdoors or on a gym stationary bike into a studio with pulsing music and choreographed lights. It has transformed into a meditative experience that claims to change your body AND your soul. Running has converted from an individual sport into a collective experience in a boutique setting. Rowing, which has long been considered a serious athletic workout in the form of a team sport, has flourished into a group indoor full-body workout. The list goes on and on…

There was one element missing in the thriving group fitness scene. Until Radan Sturm founded his new studio in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. His goal was to fill in this gap. Lucky for me, Radan developed the LIFTONIC method and transformed weight lifting. I couldn’t wait to check it out! Now I can say there is nothing like it.

Radan is a 15-year vet in the fitness/training industry. He founded LIFTONIC with one simple goal in mind: to teach weight training exercises in a contemporary, improved, and cutting-edge way. To create a routine that’s fun, uplifting, and more important than anything, effective.

Weight Lifting

I got the inside scoop on how weight lifting can change a woman’s body and transform the way we work out. Here is my interview with Radan.

Why did you decide to open LIFTONIC? I’ve never seen a weight training class offered in the style of a boutique studio, even in Manhattan which has all types of studios?

For exactly that reason. I saw people use weights in the weight room, but no one had made it interesting. Everything else was already turned into an experience, rowing, running, swimming, cycling, etc. Weight lifting has old-school connotations. I am trying to change that.

Can you explain more about the concept, method, and principles?

LIFTONIC is about increasing the weight every time you come. This is the only way to achieve results and get stronger. Usually in other types of classes, the format is the same and people’s muscles adapt. This causes little change given that people plateau.

The principle behind it involves trying to get people to concentrate on what they are doing and be present in the workout. There are too many forms of exercises that many people do just to get in and get it done. It’s a rush, instead of a process, which is what I’m trying to create.  I wanted to create a studio where people enjoy the experience of working out.

Part of the experience is giving people their own personal space. Here, everyone has their own workout bench and set of dumbbells.

I believe that plateauing is very easy for people that have been active all their lives, what do you recommend to this group?

Changing their workout every 6 weeks. At LIFTONIC we do the same exercise pattern for 4 to 6 weeks before changing the routine. This gives people time to get stronger, and then we mix it up so people don’t plateau. There has to be a balance of progressing and changing.

What does resistance based methods of movement do for a woman’s body?

It makes women lean, firm, and prevents fluctuating weight. It builds muscle and muscle tones the body and creates a better body shape. Cardiovascular training such as spin classes, running, and bootcamps may increase your fitness level and help you lose weight, but only a resistance based method actually builds and tones muscle, burns fat, improves posture, and helps you maintain results.

For me one of the most common misconceptions related to weight training for women, is that lifting weights, especially on the heavy side, bulks you up. What are your thoughts on this?

This is the number one misconception and is entirely false. Genetically, it’s impossible for women to bulk up. The majority of women can lift really heavy weights without bulking. Instead, what happens with weight lifting is that the more muscle that is put on, the more fat is burned. As a result, your metabolism increases and that’s what makes you lean. Women will still look small and be small because they will ultimately have less fat.

What are other misconceptions in the fitness world for women, especially in the strength training realm?

Weight training has connotations with being manly and unfeminine.

Side note: That connotation is debunked at LIFTONIC. We don’t just lift heavy. There’s work on balance by using the bench while working the glutes. We work in the plank pose while also doing rows to target the arms. So, balance and posture is constantly worked on which is key for women.)

I’m trying to get definition and know that diet is very important – probably key. If I love to eat, how can I approach this in an easier way?

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. Diet is 75 – 80% of being healthy. There are lots of strategies to achieve this, counting calories, no carbs, no sugars… all different strategies to achieve the same goal. You have to find the one that works for you and your body. If there is no clean diet, some muscle will be built, although not as much, and it will build under the fat. But, the fat will remain.

Many women are looking to get a bigger derrière, is this possible with specific exercises or is size something you are born with?

Only with using weights can it grow. All of the other forms of exercise, running, spinning don’t make the muscles grow like weights do. This comes back to the idea of shape building, which is behind LIFTONIC. Here you build a better shape instead of just getting thin.

If a person attends LIFTONIC a minimum of three times a week, and tries to eat clean five times a week, what are the results they can expect?

They can expect to drop inches around the mid-section and arms while toning muscle for a lean body shape. Definitely more toned shoulders and arms, especially under the arms. We work the glutes a lot too, so they can expect a toned and firm butt.

Weightlifting for Women


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Refine Your Body

High Intensity Interval Training

Class Review: Refine Method

High Intensity Interval Training

117 W 72nd St

Additional NYC Locations: West Village & Upper East Side

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New Client Special: $34 buy one, get one free; $99 for 4 classes

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Refine Method

A More Refined You

With so many boutique fitness studios poppin’ up all over the city, it takes a lot for one to differentiate itself from the rest. Enter: Refine Method. New York’s Smartest Workout. I heard the story and couldn’t wait to try it.


The Refine Method was founded by former New York City Ballet dancer Brynn Putnam. Supposedly, it is the opposite of the barre method. I disagree with this statement, given that the class cannot be compared to barre. It is simply a different workout. People compare it to barre since the founder is a former ballet dancer and the barre method has close associations with former dancers. This method is in line with other interval training workouts that typically have a bootcamp vibe, Kore at the West Village, The Fhitting Room, Exceed Physical Culture, etc. However, there are two things that differentiate this class from the rest- it focuses highly on customizing each workout for the individual and it places a high emphasis on proper form and alignment. Again, maybe it has something to do with the founder being a former ballerina?

The Story

The story goes that when Brynn retired from her professional ballet career; she had to find a new way to keep her body fit. While looking for her first gym ever, she started questioning all the myths surrounding fitness and was disillusioned with the slow progress made with typical workouts. Brynn went in search for the right workout. She traveled the country learning from top athletes, trainers, coaches, and scientists and the result was her own method, the Refine Method. The workout is geared towards achieving fast results. “By ‘refining’ the piles of information out there and giving only the best to our clients, we hope to produce a ‘refined’ body – lean, proportional and fit” (Brynn Putnam).

The Equipment

The Refine fitness space is 1 room with minimal equipment. All along the walls, it has its custom built MIT-designed Pulley System which allows for a ton of exercise variety. It also has suspension straps, battle ropes, kettlebells, medicine balls, plyometric boxes, and slide boards. No dumbbells in sight.

Class Review: Refine Method Photo: Andrew Holz for Refine Method

The Class

The method is a full-body; high intensity interval training that has continuous movement with the only rest periods coming from transitions to new exercises. “We focus on training and strengthening by intensifying natural movements your body is designed to do in daily life, activating these muscles in the way they’re meant to be used” (Brynn Putnam).

The class starts with your typical warm-up: cat-cow pose, lunge twists, squats, jumping jacks, and holding the plank pose for 3 minutes. Again, the plank is the most typical and essential warm-up position for a variety of workout methods.

The Circuit

Every class includes a circuit consisting of 6 one minute exercises. The circuit is completed 3 times.

Circuit Sample:

  • Squat with kettlebell: As you come up from the squat, you pull the kettlebell up to below the chin, elbows wide, balancing on 1 foot while you lunge forward with the other foot.
  • Pushups
  • Bicep curls and tricep kickbacks using the Pulley System
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Lunges on one foot and then the other while raising kettlebell above the head
  • On your knees, raising medicine ball on the diagonal
The Signature Cardio Burst

A cardio burst is a short, intense bout of cardiovascular activity. At Refine, we go all out for 20 seconds alternating two heart elevating movements and we rest for 10 seconds. This is repeated 5 times.

Cardio Burst Samples:

Alternating waves with battle ropes: we stand facing the anchor point with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. We grab one end of the rope in each hand with palms facing in. Raise one arm to shoulder level and then quickly lower back down to start raising the other arm to shoulder level at the same time. We continue alternating as rapidly as possible without losing form.

Sliding side to side on the slide board. Wearing lycra booties, we skate to elevate our heart rate. We stick our seat out which turns the exercise into a skating squat workout! You get your cardio fix by incorporating a hockey exercise in your workout.

Class Review: Refine MethodPhoto: Andrew Holz for Refine Method

Class is Refined for You

I strongly believe that proper form, position, and alignment come first. Technique trumps endless repetitions or heavy weightlifting.Click To Tweet

I think Brynn’s New York City Ballet background and her extensive research on a results-driven workout made position and alignment a priority. And believe me the classes hold up this ideal. Out of all the interval training type classes I’ve been to, Refine is the only place where my form is corrected and perfected over and over. This in turn changes the way I work out. I take a more mindful approach to all exercises. Therefore, I see faster results.

The deep focus on form and alignment makes a huge difference in a class where you can do a lot of things wrong. Body parts that shouldn’t be strained, for example the knees and lower back, can easily get strained.  Another interval based class with a bootcamp feel that shares similar exercises, circuit repetitions, and minimal equipment is The Fhitting Room. However, this class can have up to 24 people, so there is a lack of personal attention. You can perform many movements wrong and never get corrected. To be fair, The Fhitting Room usually has two instructors per class so it’s better than most studios. At Refine, there are 12 to 14 stations, hence 12 to 14 people per class. The personalization you receive includes the encouragement to lift heavier and/or ways to make an exercise more difficult for your level. This way, you are guaranteed results.

In all the Refine Method classes I’ve been to, I’ve received multiple corrections on exercises that I’ve done multiple times at other studios and thought I had nailed down. The best moments in class is when my technique really gets looked at. I carry this with me not only in other fitness classes but in how I walk and move in my everyday life.

Top 10 corrections I’ve received at Refine that can help anyone:

  1. When doing pushups, lift the hips a little more than you would think. When the teacher adjusted the position for me, the pushups felt strange (a different sensation). This means I’ve been doing them with a little sag in my hips (which is why I felt it in my lower!) all this time.
  2. The same correction above applies to the plank! It takes time and effort to discover the ideal hip point, which is why corrections are imperative!
  3. In side plank, pull shoulder blades together and feel the heart open.
  4. When doing step back lunges, avoid tucking the toes of the foot that steps back. The toes un-tucked require more leg stability and balance. This means we put more effort and develop strength.
  5. When sprinting in place, use the arms and move them quickly. This engages the body as a whole. Sprinting usually means that you need to go all out for a short amount of time. Engaging the arms enhances the movement.
  6. In kettlebell swings, bend knees less and swing the bell using only the seat and core muscles. Do not engage the knees or thighs. Engage the stomach, so the lower back doesn’t feel it. Lift the bell only as high as the chest.
  7. During double kettlebell swings, step feet together to avoid pressure on the knees.
  8. When using a plyometric box to do step-up lunges, use the leg that is stepping up on the box more than the opposite leg. The easy way to make sure all of the weight is on the working leg, is to lean forward 45 degrees while stepping up.
  9. When using the plyometric box to work the seat muscles by sitting on it and standing up holding a kettlebell, sit and stand up using just one leg, while extending the other and have it not touch the ground. This focuses the effort and engages the seat muscles even more.
  10. When doing bicep curls on the pulley system, keep elbows steady and behind your rib cage. This focuses the strength on the biceps.

The Space

The Upper West Side studio is the perfect size. It is modern, clean, and has all the essentials you need to shower and get ready for work in the morning. As previously mentioned, you receive a lot of personal attention given that there are 14 stations inside the studio. The space has two shower rooms. Showers are a must for every studio in Manhattan and I immediately discard studios that don’t have them. The majority of New Yorkers go to morning classes before work, which makes shower availability non-negotiable. Additionally, some people have plans after evening classes and therefore also need showers. The space is perfect for a boutique studio in Manhattan.

Refine Method- The Sweat Glow


The Class: Personalized bootcamp vibe. It’s like having a personal trainer!

The Music: Top forty

The Teacher: Motivational, personally invested in your form, and technique focused

The Space: State of the art equipment, as well as unique equipment such as the MIT-designed Pulley System and slide boards.

The Amenities: Everything you need but in a small scale.

The Level: The class is personalized and is good for anyone, whether you are a seasoned gym-goer, a yoga guru, or brand new to the fitness world. It’s hard and you will sweat. The constant movement requires a lot of energy.exercise tips

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Revival of the Fittest


Class Review: Revolve Fitness

Revival of the Fittest. This slogan is featured on the wall of the cycling room at Revolve Fitness in Union Square. It seems fitting given the fact that I am barely surviving by the end of the spin class. The instructor sets the pace and the resistance. It takes a lot to follow it by the book without breaks. To follow the beat of the music is always a challenge for me; and I am waiting for the moment in which I will feel fit enough to survive any spin class. Given the choice of working on my strength or cardio, I always go for strength. Cardio is hard. It takes a lot of concentration, endurance, and energy. BUT, I know it needs to be part of my workout. And it helps me get better at the strength portion too.

Revolve Fitness

A little bit about Revolve

Revolve is a cycling studio that features one room with AC Performance Sport bikes with MPower Echelon consoles. The room does not feel cramped, like it can feel in other spin studios since the setup is spread out. The studio itself features all the necessary amenities, such as self-locking lockers, showers, towels, and a water re-fill station. Revolve’s classes are RPM based rides, which means the resistance you, or the instructor, chooses dictates each hill. There is no choreography. Cycling shoes are available to rent for $2.00 which is standard for most studios.

Another THEME Spin Class in the City

It can be said that there are a lot of similarities between all the new, or slightly new spin studios in the city. They all take place in a dark room. They all try to impart a club-like feel while you are racing to the top and cycling “one…two…one…two” to the beat of the pulsing music. Another similar quality that has emerged is the famous theme classes, which have extended to other fitness classes such as Yoga. I’ve never taken a music theme spin class that I like. How did this become popular? Maybe it has to do with the fact that in New York, studios are always after the unattainable quality of uniqueness. Mmmh, aren’t we all? However, while this may be fun once in a while, I believe a large majority of spinners just want the latest, hippest music that will energize them. The class I took was the Body Ride class with Nicky Kouveras which featured Summer Hits 80s/90s music. Some of the music was inspiring, although the majority wasn’t. However, it really comes down to personal preference.

Survival of the Fittest

Although I have my misgivings when it comes to the music, I have no misgivings about the class, the pace, or the instructor.  “Survival of the fittest” fits in my life in NYC in the biggest sense. Lately, as I run from my apartment to work, from work to a workout class, and from a workout class to Trader Joe’s or home to make dinner, I feel like the only way to survive is to be fit. Fit in an emotional, physical, and spiritual sense. The people with most ambition, with more dreams hauling their ass, and with more “power” whether from money, status, or job, can make it. It is grueling and expensive to live here and my only outlet on days like today is my oasis in the form of my workout zone. It was only fitting that Nicky would start the class saying “relax your shoulders, your off work.” As I grabbed on to that phrase and felt my shoulders relax, I found myself pedaling right to the beat with motivation and found myself thinking “I should say this to myself more often.”

Revolve’s Body Ride

This class is perfect for working on my fitness since it is pure cardio. It concentrates on resistance and makes it like if it you were biking on the road with real hills. I tend to like more choreography based classes, where I can “dance on the bike,” but this type of pure cycling has it’s place and I get to work on different areas of my workouts. It features a lot of 30 seconds or 45 seconds giving it all you’ve got before slowing down. The class features a lot of playing with resistance and short sprints. At the half way mark, there is an arm section with 3lb weights (more weight if wanted) and then we resume the pattern of resistance based hills.

No Choreography

Overall there is no choreography in the class, only a lot of up and downs. There are changes from low resistance and fast pace to moderate resistance and slower pace, to high resistance and slow pace. Nicky was very motivational and kept saying “you are almost there.” She counted the last 10 seconds of each hill, which was extremely helpful in motivating the class to finish strong. There is a lot of variety with resistance and that makes the class go quicker than others. Revival of the fittest indeed since I finished the class panting, sweating, and my legs felt like it was leg day at the gym.

Survival of the fittest continues playing in my head as I deal with the pace of the city and I know that I have to be emotionally fit to make it, and my safe zone in the form of fitness classes play a huge part in that.Click To Tweet


The Class:  Good format. Goes quickly.

The Music: Dislike the theme of the 80s/90s Summer Hits

The Teacher: Motivational and strong

The Space: Spacious

The Amenities: Everything you need

Good For: All Levels. You can adjust accordingly.

Revolve Fitness

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Never Coast


Class Review: FlyBarre

It’s January. This means coming out of a food coma and drinking haze. This year, I visited my family in Mexico and went on an incredible skiing trip to Vail, CO. Safe to say, I put my ClassPass membership on hold.

As I am sure it is for many women, one of my New Year’s resolutions was getting into the best shape of my life. I know…cliché. However, this means something different to me now, than it did a few years ago. Being in the best shape of my life doesn’t mean just looking thin, but being healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually, which ultimately also means being fit not “thin.” And it has a lot to do with being healthy from the inside out. For me, this means taking an active approach to fitness and never coasting, or in other words not just trying to get a workout in, but letting a specific class or gym time provide an other type of nourishment. Transforming my fitness time into my oasis.


Back Then

At this point of my life, exercise means something different to me than when I was in my early twenties and in my teenage years. Back then, I exercised only with the purpose to lose weight and because I needed to not because I wanted.

Now, it is something I want to be part of my life. Something that is part of what makes me me. I choose a particular class based on how my body and mind feels, which has made me be more in tune with my muscles, bones, thoughts, and feelings and what they are asking of me at that moment. Therefore I strive to never coast and I am mindfully participating in my fitness. That time becomes my oasis and the moment where I can lose myself, my problems, and my stress. Not to mention, that the days when I exercise I am happier and more confident.

Enter FlyBarre

One of my favorite classes, which is luckily on ClassPass, is FlyBarre. It is one of my favorite barre classes in the city and it was my first class coming back from too much eating, too much partying, and just letting go in a different way. My body and mind was screaming for a fun and energetic class that would work my muscles and get me back in the zone. FlyBarre is a high energy, athletic, and musical take on barre. The only thing missing is technique since it is not based on the real barre method stemming from Lotte Berk. It can be called a fitness class based on barre exercises. So the class is good for seasoned barre-goers that want a change. Isn’t that what is good about ClassPass? You tailor your schedule to your needs.

The first time I took FlyBarre was around three months ago and I immediately fell in love with it. I had been taking so many barre classes that some began to feel too easy. I mean, don’t get me wrong the thigh section is never easy, but the format, pace, and other exercises can sometimes feel a little too comfortable. At FlyBarre the pace is fast and motivating and the class always kicks my a**.

The Studio

As I enter the Flywheel studio at Lincoln Center where FlyBarre is housed, I immediately feel a rush of energy and sense of calmness at the same time. Maybe it’s something feng shui like with the way the space is set up. Maybe it’s the white color of the walls? Or the “You can do it” motivational quotes all over the space, such as the “Never Coast” slogan I encounter as I head down the stairs towards the studio.

Being used to a crowded studio with even more crowded changing areas, the Flywheel establishment is a game-changer. A large lounge area greets you and features free fruit and water bottles among couches. The barre studio is small and in the lower level but never feels cramped. The only thing missing is separate men and women locker rooms. There are four rooms with showers and a communal locker area. This creates long shower lines in the morning since people take their time in these rooms getting ready for work.

The Music

The whole class is based upon music and is in line with the beat and song duration. Working at New York City Ballet and the company’s connection to music, it is easy to see how important music is. For anyone that appreciates athleticism, I would highly encourage them to attend a NYCB performance. But, that is a different post.  As the founder of NYCB, George Balanchine says: “See the music, hear the dance.” In a different way, this can apply to FlyBarre, which to me feels like “See the music, hear the pulse.” As a person that misses dance class, FlyBarre provides a much needed outlet.

The Warm-Up

The class begins with an energetic warm-up involving shoulder rolls, breathing in and out with arms going up, flat-back down to stretch the hamstrings, and then a roll up. This is typical of a dance class and it always feels good on the body, especially in an 8:30 am class. Warm-up proceeds with lunges from side to side which is a good stretch AND a good butt teaser workout. To warm-up the oblique muscles, we keep the body stationary and move the waist side to side. This not only warms the muscles up but you can also feel waist definition.

Up next… the typical barre class plank warm up. The plank prepares the body for what comes next by instilling correct alignment and core engagement. The plank warm-up consists of leg lifts while doing push-ups and coming down to a forearm plank and jogging the knees while keeping the hips stable. Not just the hips, every other body part is stable. After this we continue working the core. We do Ab work on our backs with our feet up against the wall, using a resistance band and small 2lb weights while crunching and pulsing.

Yay for a toned BUTT!

My favorite part comes next, which is gluteal work. Yay for a toned BUTT! One of the reasons I love FlyBarre is because almost every time we do gluteal work on the mat as opposed to the barre. At the barre, I always feel my standing leg WAY more than my working leg. I find myself concentrating on engaging the core to prevent this rather than focusing on the glute muscle. On the mat, the non-working leg is relaxed, which makes you focus on the working leg.

We start on the mat on our side, with legs bent and start raising the working leg, then straightening the working leg and raising it, up and down. Then move the leg to the back diagonal which works another part of the glute and do leg raises there. We conclude with moving the leg so that it goes in front of you and then back.

ARMed & Dangerous

Let’s keep in mind that for the whole workout there is always the coordination of music. The beat matches the rhythm that the body is trying to create. Each pulse goes with the beat of the music and each leg lift matches the rhythm. This is clearly seen in the arm section. The dancer in me screams yay. My heartbeat is elevated and my arms move to the point of exhaustion. We use really light weights since we do a lot of repetitions. I usually start with 3lb weights and have to move to the 2lb weights. Also, a resistance band is used for a “rowing” type of exercise to seal the pain in the arms.

The Dreaded Thigh Work

Up next…the dreaded thigh work! A typical exercise is Flatback Chair: one hand on the bar, legs together, bent knees and high heels. Holding that position we start doing small ups and downs. Having high heels is challenging since it requires effort coming from the whole leg and it requires stabilization while the whole muscle group is engaged. It gets worse as we lift one leg up and put all of the weight on the standing leg only. The other leg bends and pulses up and down. Then the raised leg pulses up and down while the standing leg remains still and then the raised leg straightens and bends which works out a completely different muscle group.

Something that I love as I reflect back on these exercises is the fact that since the leg position constantly changes it encourages you to finish the exercise as opposed to tiring yourself out while nothing changes. For example, here the raised leg changes from bent and pulsing up and down, to straightening and bending. You actually feel a shift and the engaged part of the leg changing.

After this section, I already feel like I can’t go on, and before working the other leg we face the barre and with high heels pulse up and down, at first it feels like a nice break but after a while it kills. After working the other leg, we finish with Roundback Chair with a playground ball between our legs which is the exact position as Flatback but with the upper body in a c-curve. This section includes pulsing up and down, going all the way down, and squeezing the ball to target the inner thighs, by this time I have to take breaks and needless to say am extremely happy when it’s over! We finish the class with a series of ab work with the ball on our lower back which after the thigh work is not that hard. Then the cool down…

The class flies by because of the fast pace and because you are working out different sections of the body with different exercises to target different muscles. All to the beat of the music.


The Class:  Energetic, covers all muscle groups

The Music: Top forty

The Teacher: Motivational and energetic

The Space: Spacious

The Amenities: Everything you need

Good For: Intermediate to Advanced. You can adjust accordingly but should be aware of correct alignment and basic positions.


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