“I don’t want to look ‘bulky’ – I just want to tighten and tone up!” – this is the one concern I hear most from women when it comes to exercise and lifting weights, so it’s time to clear up why women will not “bulk up” from lifting weights, once and for all – with science.
It’s crazy that we’ve been sold the idea that women will “bulk up” if they lift weights, when in fact, it’ll do the exact opposite. It’ll tighten and tone all over your body, burn fat even when you’re resting (yep, while you’re sleeping), and shape your body exactly how you want it.
Here’s why weights can be used by every woman…
1. No Testosterone as a Woman = No Bulk
Ok, “no testosterone” is a bit of an overstatement, but I wanted to get the idea across that women have MUCH lower levels of testosterone than men, which is the key driver in adding muscle.
Women aren’t built to “bulk”, so it’s nearly impossible to have this outcome simply from using a set of dumbbells, even heavy ones. Women who DO look “bulky” (like women bodybuilders) spend years trying to achieve that look, and they do it on purpose. They also typically use some sort of performance-enhancing substance to achieve that level of masculinity.
Gaining muscle and looking “bulky” comes from eating in a caloric surplus (meaning you increase your amount of food/calories by a lot) while also incorporating very heavy weights.
There’s also a huge hormonal difference between men and women, so it’s much more difficult for women to get “bulky” when resistance training. For example, adult men have anywhere between 240-950 nano-grams of testosterone, whereas adult women have between 8-60. Since testosterone is a key component in gaining muscle, it’s much easier for men to put on muscle mass compared to women.
2. You’ll Burn More Calories by Lifting Weights vs. Cardio
Compared to cardio, resistance training burns fewer calories on a minute-by-minute basis, but where the REAL benefit comes in with resistance training is the post-workout boost in metabolism you get from the workout.
Simply put, lifting weights will help you build lean muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your “basal metabolic rate”, which basically just means you’re body is burning more and more calories even when you’re at REST. Yes. When you’re on the couch watching TV, your body is still burning calories.
If you compare that to steady-state cardio (ie. running for a long period of time where you’re only burning calories while you’re moving) it’s clear that resistance training is a win-win and why I always recommend it for women wanting to start seeing some lean muscle definition (ahem, without the ‘bulk’, obviously- since that’s what this whole post is about).
I suggest cardio for good heart health, and of course, if you just enjoy it- that’s cool too, but running for miles and miles is NOT necessary to get the body you’re trying to achieve, and it’s definitely not going to help you “tone up”.
3. Weights Help You Sculpt Your Body – Not Make It Bigger
You could spend hours on the elliptical, bike, or running, trying to burn fat. But the secret to a tighter, more toned body and releasing unwanted extra weight isn’t cardio- it’s creating a solid, muscular base. And as mentioned above, we know that the more muscle you have, the more fat burned, even at rest.
With the right program, you can use resistance training to completely transform your body and shape it to create a toned, lean look. It’s about time we break the stereotype that weight-lifting is only for men and that women will somehow “bulk up” by using them when it will actually give you the results you’ve always wanted.
With the right program or trainer, you CAN create lean muscle and shed unwanted fat, something that cardio alone will not help you achieve.
So, don’t be worried about using heavier weights while working out! As a woman, your muscles won’t dramatically “bulk up”. Instead, you’ll burn the fat on top of your muscles to achieve that lean, toned look.
If you haven’t tried strength training and incorporating weights/resistance into your exercise routine, I challenge you to try it. Try something new. It’s OK to be “bad” at first, that’s how we learn and grow and develop into the best version of ourselves.
Forever in your corner and cheering you on,