Women are underrepresented in the weight room and it’s likely due to the false belief that if women lift weights they will become bulky. The general public believes that if a woman touches a heavy weight she will suddenly turn into the female hulk. If you are nervous about weight training and lifting “with the guys”, you’re not alone. This article serves to debunk some of the most common weight lifting myths and encourage you to lift heavy at the gym.
I have always enjoyed exercising but my workouts used to be random and far from structured. My expertise is in exercise science and within the last year, I recognized that I was not optimizing my time and not getting the full potential from these random workouts. Prior to taking strength training seriously, I would complete HIIT training one day, take a spin class the next day, do a full body workout with light weights the next day, and maybe do cardio or yoga the following day. IT WAS SO RANDOM. What the hell was I thinking!
I’ve been weight training for just over a year now and I am a living example that with a well balanced diet, women can lift heavy and not look bulky.
Diet Plays a Major Role
Diet arguably plays the largest role in our appearance and physique. Being “bulky” does not come from lifting weights, it comes from eating in a caloric surplus.
Consistently eating in a caloric surplus will eventually lead to weight gain. If you want to learn about how many calories you should be taking in daily, check out this easy to understand YouTube video I created on macro counting, here. If someone is in a consistent caloric surplus (eating more than they need and weight lifting) they will look bulky. To clarify, the “bulk” did not come from the fact that the person was weight lifting, it was due to the fact that this person was eating more than they required. If this caloric surplus is significant enough, there will be more adipose tissue than muscle mass (to put it kindly).
Conversely, when someone lifts heavy and eats a well balanced diet at maintenance calories, they will have more muscle and less fat than if they didn’t lift. To clarify, this person is neither under nor over eating and is lifting heavy at the gym. This creates a toned, lean, and strong physique.
This is the case for both men and women, thus it is not gender specific. This is how diet plays a role in physique.
You don’t and should not starve yourself either because of fear you will become bulky once you start lifting. Eat when you’re hungry and more importantly, eat a high protein, whole foods diet. I personally don’t count calories but, if you want to make sure you are truly taking in what we call “maintenance calories”, check out my YouTube video and blog about calorie counting, here.
REMEMBER STRONG IS THE NEW SKINNY.
Being strong will prevent injuries in the future and will empower you as a woman.
Gender Differences Will Also Prevent Women From Becoming Bulky
The anatomy and physiology of a woman varies greatly from that of a man. Genetically, we are innately unique and the hormone profile between genders is largely responsible for our physique. Testosterone is the primary sex hormone and an anabolic steroid which promotes increased muscle and bone mass. Healthy adult males have 20 times more testosterone than females. This biological fact alone ensures that women have less muscle and bone mass than men. That being said, women WILL get STRONG, LEAN, and TONE from weight lifting.
So What is Classified as Weight Lifting Anyways
To achieve noticeable changes in muscle definition and strength requires weight training which involves the following:
- Spend time in the weight room; I’d recommend a minimum of 3 days a week for 40 minutes and a maximum of 6 days. Taking exercise classes that utilize weights unfortunately won’t cut it if your goal is to become incredibly strong.
- Includes using barbells, dumbbells, and nautilus equipment.
- You must be reaching an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 8/10. This essentially means the load is VERY heavy and by the end of a set you may be able to do 2 more reps. To learn more about RPE, read my blog about it here.
- This means you are essentially working to failure. Your muscles should be shaking and you should feel as though you cannot complete another repetition without compensating.
Is Weight Training Appropriate For Your Fitness Goals?
Everyone’s fitness goals are unique and different. If you want to become strong and tone, you must begin weight training. It is the most efficient and effective way to increase muscle mass while decreasing fat mass. Increasing muscle mass remember, is not associated with becoming bulky, it’s associated with becoming TONE and DEFINED. If your fitness goal is to only lose weight, there are more efficient ways to burn calories than lifting weights. Someone who wants to lose 10 pounds would be better off jogging or using the elliptical for an hour every day than strength training.
In summary, you cannot get bulky from weight lifting alone. Weight lifting in combination with a constant caloric surplus is what creates a bulky look. When a woman or man for that matter eats a wholesome diet within their needs, muscle is gained and fat is lost through weight training thus leading to a defined look.
Want to see my push, pull, legs split workouts I do at the gym? Check them out on Instagram @ahealthyprofit