It actually DOES matter that you lift heavy weights

Building size vs. strength, plus: the Big Beautiful Horse Shirt; how to stop hating salads; a very brief ode to the $9 half-gallon water jug. This is Links 48!

It actually DOES matter that you lift heavy weights

Huge news: the Big Beautiful Horse Shirt is now for sale in the She’s A Beast store! Paid subscribers have already had early access and a discount code via the Discord, but now we are going wide. Here is a photo of me wearing it.

A post shared by Casey Johnston (@swolewoman)

You can read the posts that inspired it here:

What paid subscribers will get this week: I’ve been reflecting on the absolute hold that Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Body had on the peripatetic exercisers of the world, the ones hovering on the threshold of the gym, just about ten years ago. There may even be some in this audience who toyed with the idea of The 4-Hour Body workouts and diets, or actually tried them.

Ferriss mainstreamed a lot of stuff that I now recognize as pretty standard broscience fare, perpetuated some harmful and weird stuff, but then he did get a couple things right. Since we are doomed to repeat that which we don’t understand, it’s time to re-appraise the workout and diet regimens of one Timothy Ferriss, in two days, right here on She’s A Beast.


~Discord Pick of the Week: In a wasteland of overdetermined “ten key takeaways,” “five weird tricks,” “one thing I wish I knew before I started” YouTube influencer videos, LeanBeefPatty (of TikTok fame)’s new channel stands apart. Few of the videos have a plot or a point. This is an unequivocally good thing. It’s giving Dada; it’s giving cinema verité; it’s giving postmodern. Sometimes you just want to watch people work out, but these days, everyone is marketing and no one is vibing, except LeanBeefPatty. Stay gold, LeanBeefPatty. (A while ago, I briefly reviewed in our Discord the weight lifting program that LeanBeefPatty; it’s terrible, do not buy it.)~

I learned this week that “animal-free whey protein” (which, per FAQs, claims to be neither vegan nor dairy-free), exists. There is one company making it, apparently using microflora to generate the actual protein molecules and then partnering with other companies to sell it. I must stress that I have no idea how “real” this is. I do know that the sticker price is astronomical—about $25-$30 for a pound, or “ten to fifteen servings.” Compare and contrast with a tub of Optimum Gold Standard whey protein, which is about $60 for 50 servings. I have ordered one of these very small sacks and will find out more.

Very interesting paper from January that constitutes a smackdown of people who are like, “Don’t worry about using heavy weights!!”: Researchers found subjects got the greatest strength gains for weights that they could lift for only seven reps or less. Those weights were more effective at building strength than weights they could lift for a maximum of 8-15 reps. Importantly, 16+-rep-max weights didn’t build strength at all.

The next bit of common wisdom is that 8+ reps are better for building muscle size (a.k.a. causing hypertrophy). This study somewhat contradicts that, stating that muscle size gains were “similar irrespective of the magnitude of the load”—it didn’t matter how heavy the weights were, especially if the overall total volume (weights x reps x sets) was matched.

In other words, squatting 50 pounds for 4 sets of 12 would do the same for the size of my muscles as squatting 200 pounds for 3 sets of 4. But it would not do the same for my strength. This would further mean that, if you want the muscle size that lifting 50 pounds for 4 sets of 12 will get you, but you can’t yet lift 50 pounds, you will get to lifting 50 pounds faster by progressing your strength using weights appropriate to sets of seven reps or less.

I’m not convinced that it would further be the same as lifting 10 pounds for 10 sets of 24. But at that point, I think the argument for heavier weights becomes “preserving your sanity.”

I’m wary of saying that any two things are exactly equivalent based on one study, and there are bunch of effects lifting has on your body other than strength or muscle size to care about (stability, neuromuscular development, etc.) However, if you wondered why you can’t just use small weights for lots and lots of reps and get the same effects as someone lifting heavier weights: This is why. If this interests you, the StrongerByScience article on the “hypertrophy rep range” of 6-15 reps is very good.

French term of note here: “musculoskeletal” is “musculosquelettique.”

Know someone who might benefit from knowing that they don’t have do ten sets of 25 pulses with 2lb weights?

The real reason women aren’t exercising: too burdened with everyone else’s BS, still. Still!!

I viscerally hate being “destroyed by facts and logic,” so I’m surprised how much I like this video that helps walk the salad-apathetic like myself through most of the objections I don’t even bother to articulate a lot of the time: too many ingredients, too much chopping, etc. My biggest problem has long been that the diet world wrested away everything that made salads even remotely good, like dressing, fruit, nuts, cheeses. If we simply add this stuff back in, salad is fun again, and tasty to eat instead of being the tool for self-harm I previously knew it as. The best salad, to me: greens mix, a little blue cheese dressing, extra blue cheese crumbles, a sliced stone fruit like a nectarine, honey, a little vinegar, salt, some toasted nuts or seeds (pine, pumpkin, almond, etc) if you have them.

An ode to the “humble” day hike.

I… kind of like this article on how to know when you’ve worked out enough?? But as I touched on in last week’s newsletter, most good training programs have an internal logic that might not be apparent to the untrained eye (see above with the whole thing on strength vs. size reps). Usually you are always expected to titrate up or down by the weights used, and sometimes according to how many reps you do (if it uses rep ranges or AMRAPS).

The [chess] grandmaster diet. Representative legendary quote:

At 5-foot-6, Caruana has a lean frame, his legs angular and toned. He also has a packed schedule for the day: a 5-mile run, an hour of tennis, half an hour of basketball and at least an hour of swimming.

As he’s jogging, it’s easy to mistake him for a soccer player. But he is not. This body he has put together is not an accident. Caruana is, in fact, an American grandmaster in chess, the No. 2 player in the world. His training partner, Chirila? A Romanian grandmaster. And they’re doing it all to prepare for the physical demands of ... chess? Yes, chess.

Harkening back to a vintage Ask A Swole Woman column: no, it does not make you any less of an intellectual to keep your body in working order!

Gen Z is rethinking alcohol. Anecdotally, I heard fourth-hand from a friend of a friend who has a daughter in college right now that no one drinks anymore. But they do have a lot of weed.

Twitter avatar for @datLucario

lucario speedwagon @datLucariomy betterhelp therapist had never heard of dissociative disorders and compared my life to a cowboy movie for 45 minutes. it was honestly extremely funny and worth every penny, but please don't get therapy from there unless you have literally 0 other options

Jonah Furman @JonahFurmanI tried the online therapy “better health” and ended up paying almost $700 and having a single “therapy” session that was the worst therapy experience of my life (I have had many). Now I keep getting ads for them, so this is me doing my part to forewarn others. Bad system!

August 4th 2022480 Retweets1,563 Likes


It’s time to put the veggies back in veggie burgers. I’ve had… feelings, not all of them un-petty, watching vegan and plant-based foods rise in popularity as they went from being rather extreme “health” foods to ones that actually taste good, because they are loaded with coconut oil or are essentially nut butter.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But many vegan, or “sustainable,” or both, foods have traded on the consumer’s assumption that because they are vegan or organic or artisanal or all of the above, they are always nutritionally equal to a pile of cruciferous vegetables. The popularity decline seems to come from people finding out this is often not the case at all; vegan food is not low in calories or sugar or fats or high in fiber or anything else, by default. Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I read this piece on the obsessive fandom of HydroJug, the culty and overpriced half-gallon water bottles, back when it came out. But I learned this week that:

I want to note for the record that in my day, we drank out of half-gallon bottles that looked like this because they came free with our month’s protein supply, and everyone said to us, “Haha, got enough water?” and we had to just sit there and take it.

Twitter avatar for @caseyjohnston

Casey Johnston @caseyjohnstonYOU BODY SHAME MY BOY??????

Bleacher Report @BleacherReportZion Williamson's new contract extension will require his weight and body fat percentage to add up to less than 295, per @cclark_13 Failure to meet this could reduce his guaranteed money.

July 29th 202243 Likes


I’ve spent many hours in the liminal space of 60 Wall Street, because it was right around the corner from my therapist and also my physical therapist. No one had better harm a hair on its head.

I’ve been enjoying Tammie Teclamariam’s The Year I Ate New York for a GOOD while (Miss James Beard award winner!) but enjoyed this on the inaccuracy of online reviews.

How to embrace doing nothing. Also, this is very basic-bitch of me, but the YouTube algorithm played me through to this brief summary of stoicism/Marcus Aurelius, and it feels like I’ve really backed into this framework this year: Everything will or won’t happen, and whether it does or doesn’t, it will be what it is. Deep! Now I just have to spin around three times and throw salt over my shoulder so YouTube doesn’t continue me all the way down the road to alt-right commentators.

I also stumbled on this “historical soundscapes” channel, and I just love this concept: “1940s Sitting in bed reading while there's a party downstairs (Oldies from another room, chatter).” I’m a sucker for a rare vibe.

The GeoCities founder on what killed the internet.

That’s all for this week! I love you for reading, thank you, let’s go—