“Lifting Makes Girls Look Bulky.”

girls who lift

“I want to tone up, but I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to get big or bulky.”
“I want to lose weight so I’m just going to focus on cardio.”

Sounds familiar?

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Strength training is probably the most effective method of exercise increasing the lean muscle mass responsible for a “toned” appearance.

Let me bust some myths.

Myth #1 Lifting weights will make me bulky.

This is obviously not the case, as it is not possible to add a significant amount of mass in a short period of time.

Consider this riddle: “Which is heavier, a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks?”The answer, of course, is that they both weigh the same, but a ton of feathers takes up significantly more space than a ton of bricks. Fat mass and lean muscle have the same relationship—lean muscle tissue is denser and more compact than fat tissue. So, while 5 pounds of fat weighs exactly the same as 5 pounds of lean muscle, muscle takes up significantly less space and is more metabolically active, which means that it can burn more calories at rest than the relatively inactive fat mass. Strength training can help reduce levels of body fat and increase the amount of lean muscle. That means a woman can change the structure of her body and its ability to burn calories at rest without changing her net weight on the scale.

Increased resting metabolic rate (RMR) due to an increase in lean muscle tissue, can burn 5 to 7 calories per pound per day. Adding 5 pounds of lean muscle mass can increase the RMR by 25 to 35 calories per day or 175 to 245 calories per week. The more muscle added, the greater the number of calories burned while the body is at rest.

It can take a woman months or years of proper training, meal preparation and supplementation to develop the sculpted physique seen on muscle-bound females in popular media. Whether you call it weight lifting, resistance training or strength training, exercising with external resistance helps increase the amount of lean muscle tissue in a woman’s body, but it is a process that is simply not achievable in a few days or even a few weeks. For clients who express concern about looking too masculine as a result of strength training, it should be comforting to them to learn that, according to researchers Zatsiorsky and Kraemer (2006),  “Without anabolic drugs there is little chance of women looking like men through strength training.”

Myth #2 Running will help me lose weight.

Another myth is that women should focus on lower-intensity aerobic exercise for burning fat and avoid high-intensity or heavy-resistance training. In fact, women should train with enough intensity (weight) to stimulate adaptation in muscle, bone and connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, cartilage). If the intensity of strength training fails to provide a sufficient stimulus, the physiological benefits may be minimal. To gain maximal benefit from strength training, women should occasionally work at or near the repetition max for each exercise (Kraemer, Fleck and Deschenes,

The fellas behormones

The metabolic and mechanical stress created by strength training initiates a repair process in which hormones help rebuild and restructure the damaged muscle proteins. Testosterone is the hormone most closely related to promoting the protein synthesis necessary to repair muscle tissue after exercise. While the muscle tissue of men and women has the same properties, one significant difference between the genders is that women produce approximately 20 times less than the amount produced by men (Kraemer, Fleck and Deschenes, 2012; Howley and Powers, 2004).


High-intensity strength training and anaerobic exercise is extremely beneficial for women because these activities promote the production of Growth Hormone, which plays a role in burning fat for fuel (lipolysis) and repairing damaged muscle tissue. From a metabolic strength-training standpoint, the principle that creates calorie deficit for fat loss is intensity—that is, the more muscles you work or the longer you work, the more calories you burn.

Increased lean body mass and reduced levels of excess body fat—even though a woman may not lose any weight, her clothing sizes may decrease because muscle takes up significantly less space than adipose tissue

Final words

If you want to “lose weight” and“tone up,” strength training is probably the most effective mode of exercise to achieve that goal. However, many women have bought into the myths regarding strength training and women and continue doing the same aerobic exercise they have always done, even though they are not happy with the results. When done correctly, many will realize that they actually like the results they achieve from strength training.

The moral of the story is: be open to new experiences, because you never know whether you will like something or not until you try it.


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