Contrary to popular belief, lifting heavy will not make a woman “bulky." This philosophy is as out of date as a 1980's leotard.
Most women aren't trying to obtain Hulk-like physique from their efforts in the gym (and I'm right there with ya!). And so many women continue to follow the old adage that lifting heavy will make you bulky so they resort to lifting light weight with high reps. Because as we’ve all been told, “Lifting heavy is for bulking up and lifting light with high reps is for toning,” right?
Lifting heavy won't make you bulky
Before we go any further, let's define "bulky." The term can be subjective. When explaining what bulky looks like, most women I know conjure up images of the weight room meathead or maybe even an MMA fighter like Rhonda Rousey. But for most women, this type of physique is nearly impossible to obtain without dedicating their lives to reaching this objective.
It is true that some women are capable of gaining larger amounts of muscle mass than others. But even for women who are more naturally capable of adding larger amounts of muscle mass (than the average women), it is still within their control to prevent the undesired size of muscle. Gaining considerable amounts of muscle mass doesn't happen over night. This requires dedication and large amounts of caloric intake. So even if you are more naturally prone to developing muscle mass, it won't happen by accident – it will still require an intentional, consorted effort.
Now that we know that incidental male meat head mass is a myth for women let’s discuss what heavy lifting will do for you. Lifting heavy will make your muscles stronger, but not necessarily larger. For women, size comes from eating more calories than you are burning. But muscle definition comes from a caloric deficit combined with heavy weight training. This will cause your body to burn the fat on top of the muscle creating the toned look most women desire.
The male and female chemistry is created very differently. Due to the hormones, estrogen, testosterone, and genetic differences between men and women, the results look very different. An important note to mention according to Nerd Fitness: "1 pound of lean mass takes up approximately 20% less space than 1 pound of fat. So if you lose 5 pounds of fat and gain 5 pounds of muscle, the scale will look the same, but you will be smaller."
Now that we have that misconception clarified, let's discuss the many benefits of lifting heavy.
1. Lifting heavy will help prevent injuries. Strengthening the muscles surrounding and supporting your joints can help prevent injuries by helping you maintain good form, as well as strengthening your joints. This will help with the sore joints we often begin to experience with age.
2. Lifting heavy increases more than your physical strength – countless women have confirmed that heavy lifting increases your self-esteem and even mental strength.
3. We’re all aware of the calorie burning benefits of cardio. Unfortunately, as soon as you step off the treadmill the calorie burning comes to an end. But weight lifting will both build muscle and increase your metabolism that will causes your body to continue to burn fat throughout the day.
4. I may have already mentioned it, but it’s worth noting again. Due to the low testosterone levels in women, we won’t get larger muscles by lifting heavy weights – we’ll get more toned muscles from lifting weights. And what woman doesn’t want toned arms?!
5. According to research, heavy lifting maintains bone mass and even promotes new bone growth.
6. Skip the sit-ups and crunches! A study conducted at the University of Alabama found that the women who lifted weights lost more deep belly fat than those who just did cardio.
7. Lifting weights creates a positive mental shift. Rather than obsessing over the number on the scale, lifting weights provides performance-based goals to target with each workout. Adding 10 pounds to your squat or 5 pounds to your curl provides such an incredible feeling of accomplishment.
8. Last, but definitely not least: lifting heavy is just more fun. It gives you something to look forward to each time you go to the gym.
My challenged to you: don’t be afraid to lift heavier. If you’re lifting weights that allow you to go up to 12-14 reps, pick up something heavier so that your reps fall somewhere between 6-10.