Fitness Myth - Will lifting Weights make me Bulky?

One of the greatest fears women have about working out is that they're going to bulk up to Hulk-like proportions if they start lifting weights. They worry about "going heavy" and instead stick to aerobic training or only work with 1.5kg and 2.5kg weights – and as a result, are continually disappointed by their lack of muscle gain.

The belief that you're going to get bulky by lifting a heavier weight is one of the most damaging myths about women and exercise. There are so many benefits for women who do weight training that all women should be lifting weights at least two times a week.

But first, let's ease your concerns about turning into Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here are the main reasons why you're not going to end up looking like a female bodybuilder by choosing a heavier weight:

The female body doesn't produce enough testosterone

There's a reason why women aren't able to acquire the same muscle mass as a male:

We don't have testicles.

Testosterone is an anabolic and anti-catabolic steroid which stimulates muscle growth, helps maintain muscle mass, and expedites muscle recovery.

Consider this: the average man's testosterone levels sit anywhere between 300 and 1100 ng/dl. For women, our testosterone levels are between 15 and 70 ng/dl.

Even if we were to take the average of the two – 700 for men and about 43 for women – men produce around 16 times more testosterone than women!

Men are working their butts off in the gym to gain muscle. So if they're working that hard and have that much more testosterone in their body to increase any muscle mass, imagine how much harder women would need to work to get big and bulky.

Our muscles are built differently

There are significant structural differences between male and female muscles, which is another reason why women won't bulk up to the same extent as men (unless they're taking supplements like steroids).

The contractile muscle fibres in men are two times larger than those in women. This means that while women can significantly increase their strength through strength training, we simply aren't capable of naturally building our muscles to the same degree as men can.

What lifting heavy actually does

Choosing a heavier weight at the gym isn't going to leave you with an unfeminine form. Lifting weights create a more lean and athletic body without any of the bulk.

Muscle is a lot more compact than fat. The more muscle you build, the more fat you'll lose, and the smaller you'll become.

Another benefit to building lean muscle tissue is that you'll burn calories more efficiently throughout the day. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) will reach new heights which will help burn the fat and keep you lean.

Lifting weights becomes even more important as we age. Research has shown that weight training strengthens our bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. It increases spinal bone density, and it reduces our risk of injury since the muscles are strong and able to support our joints, ligaments, and tendons.

Apart from a leaner frame and supporting our health as we age, weight training is the ultimate confidence booster and mood lifter. Nothing will give you greater energy and elevate your level of alertness better than the endorphin rush that comes with a solid weight training session!

Stop choosing weights that are too light

No one will stop you from pumping out 20 easy reps with your 2.5kg weight. But do be warned that what you are doing is building muscular endurance and not muscular strength.

To force your muscles to build, repair, and tone up, you need to choose a weight or resistance heavy enough to totally fatigue that muscle in about a minute and a half for each set.

Interested in upping the ante and increasing your lean muscle mass?

Start by choosing weights that are around 50% less than you think you'd be able to lift. Do a few reps of an exercise (such as a squat and press), make sure you have good form, and then increase the intensity by 1kg to 2.5kg. Again do a few reps and continue to increase the weight until you need to slow down to complete 8 to 12 reps while maintaining good form.

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References:
https://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20851993,00.html
https://coach.nine.com.au/2018/06/25/09/08/women-weight-lifting
https://www.hoffmanfit.com/will-women-bulk-up-from-heavy-weight-training/
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/7-strength-training-myths-every-woman-should-know/
https://greatist.com/move/when-to-lift-more-weight
https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/all-about-testosterone.html
https://www.maxineschallenge.com.au/