The number of articles online reassuring women that upping their dumbbell weight will not morph their feminine physique into a She-Hulk speaks volumes. Although over the years more women have gravitated to the weightroom, the misconceptions surrounding women and weights continues to make its rounds.
Many women start lifting because they want to get toned, but fail to understand that the secret to toning their bodies is by putting on lean muscle mass. So, they walk into a gym, grab a set of very light dumbbells (which has its place and time) and end up sticking to the same weight amount for fear that an increase will cause them to bulk up or make them grow chest hair.
“For so long, women were at a huge disadvantage in the weight lifting world. The first large-scale government-funded study of women’s health and longevity didn’t even occur until 1992! Society has finally realized that women absolutely can and should lift weights. It’s a proven fact, weightlifting is incredibly beneficial for women who want to achieve optimal health, physically and emotionally.”
With that said, its’ time, once again, to crush the misconception that heavy lifting will turn you into a man, but rather give you the physique you long to have!
Why You Won’t Get Manly or Bulky When Lifting ‘Heavy’
“It’s physically impossible is the short answer,” says Kim Lyons, former Biggest Loser trainer with more than two decades of personal training experience. Well, unless you’re taking heavy doses of anabolic steroids.
The science is simple: It is hormonally and physiologically impossible for an everyday woman to naturally grow muscles like men. “Muscles in the male body are composed of larger muscle fibers than muscles in the female body,” she explains. This means that women can’t sculpt bulging biceps and massive pecs. “Instead, females build stronger, leaner muscles that help increase their metabolism, tighten their trouble spots, and remain injury-free,” she adds.
Women simply lack the testosterone, muscle fibers, and overall, the chemical makeup of a man, which puts this myth to rest; case closed.
What Will Happen If You Lift Heavy?
Weights do a body good, and utilizing heavier weights is the missing link to achieving the most sought-after fitness goals, such as fat loss and higher metabolism.
“Women who lift benefit from increased bone density, lean muscle mass, increased strength, and neuromuscular coordination; all of which safeguard the body from injury,” Lyons says.
In combination with a clean diet and consistency in the gym, your body will begin to build a leaner, stronger, and more defined physique.
Benefits of Lifting Weights
- Fat burning & faster metabolism: Lifting heavy elevates your metabolism 48 hours post-workout, which means you’re burning more calories at rest.
- Toned and defined physique: Weights sculpt and shape your muscles creating a more defined (and firm) physique.
- A healthier heart: A growing body of evidence has shown that weightlifting can help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve overall heart health.
- A stronger fight again depression: Although adding poundage to your bench press will not solve all of your problems, there is steady evidence that lifting weights can help people better deal with depression (and anxiety).
- A better night’s sleep: Your body heals and repairs itself during sleep and thankfully time well spent with iron helps improve sleep quality.
Where to Begin Incorporating Heavy Weight Training
The word “heavy” varies from person to person, as there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to increasing your strength. This is where hiring a professional to get you started comes in handy.
“The best way to start lifting heavy is to team up with a knowledgeable trainer that can teach you the basic exercises,” says Lyons. “The silly creative exercises we see too often on social media will not benefit you like the traditional movements that have stood the test of time.”
Lyons breaks down how to safely and effetely start lifting heavier:
- Start with the basics: squats, lunges, overhead presses, lateral raises, etc.
- Begin with a weight that you can comfortably do three to four sets of 8-12 reps — making sure the last few reps are very challenging (but not causing pain).
- If the weight is not challenging, it’s time to bump up the weight.
- Don’t overcomplicate it. Stay consistent, bring intensity to every workout, and give your body time.
- Continue to increase the time under tension, challenge your muscles with each workout, and they will get stronger. Our bodies are amazing, they will step up to the challenge and get stronger.
- It’s important to be able to perform at least six reps with proper form before increasing weight.