Women’s Strength

This article documents the learning processes and teaching methods needed to teach women about staying strong.

Project Process for IronWomen Program, Learner’s Experience in Design course taught by Stacie Rohrbach— Carnegie Mellon School of Design, Spring 2016

Where do ladies start learning how to weight-lift, and why should they even bother?


Women are typically not as familiar with how to properly lift weights, and a lot of them might not even want to. Some obsess over wanting to diet, wanting to lose weight, wanting to “eat right and be healthy” and who spend hours on an elliptical. Our society stresses these skewed norms and perspectives in our overly filtered and photoshopped world.

The hours working out wrongly or only in one way are wasted when people don’t change things up sometimes. Different muscle groups within the body are don’t get attention when you do the same thing, and that means that often, people plateau. Women are often deterred from trying anything different, or are scared to pick up some free weights or approach a racked bar. Unless in a group or trained by a personal coach or trainer, women are often intimidated to try new exercises a the gym (with other people watching and judging them), or they are scared they will hurt themselves by lifting heavy weights (because they don’t know how to). Another huge thing to tackle is the stereotype that lifting weights will make women look masculine, buff, or “big”; and what they really want to be is “toned”.

Strong women come in all shapes and sizes, and being healthy does too. It is important to teach women the proper forms and applications of weight lifting, in order to improve overall health, strength, personal confidence, and positive mindset.

The mindset needs to change first however, which means that I need to start by changing what it means to “lift like a girl” or do anything like a girl at all.

Fitness is Typically taught through:

  • personal trainers
  • youtube tutorials
  • following instagrams/ social media figures
  • images and instructions
  • group training
  • athletes taught by coaches


  • lifting makes you big
  • you will look masculine
  • it will hurt your bones
  • I’m too small
  • gym has too many people / men
  • men will be intimidated

Isolate the problem:

  • not enough knowledge on benefits of lifting
  • no knowledge on how to start/ proper form
  • no initial incentive
  • don’t know where to start
  • don’t want to pay for a personal trainer

Effectively delimit the problem areas:

  • there are different kinds of weightlifting that tackle different goals; learning and understanding different regimens and different movements will allow for different approaches
  • being comfortable and confident in a learning environment is important
  • having an expert watch you and guide you to tell you what’s wrong with form is often more helpful

See problems from various viewpoints:

  • help me understand what parts of the body are important to train for women
  • help me understand what movements and workouts effect different muscle groups
  • how do I get strong without looking buff
  • where do I start if i’ve never touched weights before
  • I have specific goals in particular sports (swimming, running, etc.) does weight training help with those sports
  • there are no dumb questions when I’m coming in blind
  • I’ve been lifting for a while but I don’t know if I’ve been doing it right
  • I don’t feel like I’m getting “fit” or “toned” and I lift sometimes
  • how do I build a workout routine that works for me, because I have no idea

Recognize what you’ve ignored:

  • women might not have interest in learning weight training
  • women might be parents/ have no time to learn
  • might not trust the coach with their bodies
  • incentive to learn must be there

Utilize the senses:

  • fear of being judged by others
  • initial desire to learn might be low
  • lack of experience in exercise in general
  • lack of knowledge about how to exercise


Starting to put the pieces together under the teaching methods and learning processes that have been discussed so far.

The web is aiming to breakdown all areas and opportunities for teaching, and tackles different parts of the topic that need to be taught.


How might you motivate people to engage in the learning experience you design (speed dating concepts)?

The following are 4 different brainstorms of how to get women motivated to learning about their health, about their bodies, and how to strengthen them.

  1. Game App:

You’re on your phone waiting for the bus, and you want to play a game. You want to workout later but don’t necessarily know where to start or what to do.

Learn different workouts, different parts of your body, and about methods of training through a mobile game. Go through levels and quizzes in order to understand different muscle groups, what movements make them stronger, and then implement them for yourself. You only progress to the next level after completing the workout that was being played (tracked by a wearable).

2. Daily life video:

Surfing through the internet, you come across a video about a group of women, some are in workout clothes and some are in jeans. You’re interested in seeing what this video is about because the caption is an obnoxious hashtag that reads #WOMENPICKTHINGSUP.

You see these women in all shapes in sizes, and they are doing all kinds of movements in this video. They are lifting barbells and heavy boxes until it clips to them carrying kids or moving luggage on their own. It directly clips together the movements in training to movements in their daily lives, and you are interested in learning more about how this training can help in your own daily tasks and movements. You decide to look for more information on the site that breaks down training methods for women.

3. Shame / external motivation:

You and your friend have a high school reunion coming up and you’re feeling a bit squishy. You feel ashamed that your bod isn’t as perky as it was in high school, but you’re determined to get it back to make your high school sweetheart remember the fact he messed up so many years ago.

You and your friend are determined to feel better and look better for the upcoming reunion. It’s in 3 months and you want to figure out a program or a way to burn calories more than doing hours of cardio. You find out that weightlifting means your muscles burn calories even after a lift session, and so you decide to look into training further, specifically tailored to movements that help women burn fat.

4. Compete against yourself/ self motivation:

You don’t like comparing yourself to other people, but are interested in bettering yourself. You don’t know if you’re getting any better unless you can see the progress or see the change. You’re a visual person and need to see progression over time.

You come across a system with both a digital and physical component that lets you take a picture of yourself every week. It then lets you fill in what kinds of workouts you’ve been doing, and lets you visualize (through maps and graphics). By reaching goals you can see images next to each other along with the notes you’ve taken about the movements you’re doing, and can compete with your old times and weights.

Initial App Concepts
Initial branding and workshop concepts