Katy Brinkley hit a new high when she lifted more than 215 pounds recently. When the teacher and single mother came to World Gym in Fairfax, Va., nearly a year ago, lifting was the last thing on her mind.
"I just wanted to lose weight, get skinny," she said. "I was absolutely miserable where I was."
The cardio wasn't cutting it for her. "I had that stuck feeling and needed to make a change," she said.
Trainer Anthony Tran says Brinkley's predicament is typical.
"They just want to get skinny," he said. "The main thing is thinking cardio will do it. "I tell them they have to lift weights, and you have to lift heavy weights."
Gyms are now noticing women stepping off the treadmills and into classes that emphasize building muscle over cardio exercise.
Classes like aerobics and Zumba are giving way to kettlebell, CrossFit, and P90X.
Vida Fitness in Washington, DC, markets the concept "strong" is the new skinny.
"I would define it as a movement," said Chandini Hemrajani, with Vida Fitness. "It is a positive movement for the fitness industry."
Fitness experts said strength training helps women's bodies recover faster, guards against osteoporosis, boosts immunity and improves balance.
"I feel so much better, and I have a ton more energy," Brinkley said.
And after shedding 30 pounds, Brinkley found that the more weight she lifts, the more weight she loses.
Tran said a popular misconception among women is that weight training will leave them "bulked up," physically muscular. He says one pound of muscle burns an extra 50 calories at resting state.
So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn naturally.