This article will discuss the health benefits of lifting weights for females, and what factors would contribute to making you ‘bulky’

One of the most common objections we receive from girls about lifting weights is that they will get too bulky. More often than not women tend to stay on the lighter side of squats, deadlifts and pressing movements in the fear of developing too much muscle size.

“A common misconception is that lifting weights will get you bulky, and doing cardio will get you lean and thin, it’s actually the opposite.”

This previous quote is entrenched in peoples minds. If we spend an hour per day on the treadmill, it will mean we can lose belly fat, slim down and look slender. Sure this can happen, however, cardio does next to nothing for our muscle mass. We know over time that muscle mass declines with age.

If we are constantly doing endless cardio routines with no weight training than we can end up in a position which makes it very hard to lose weight and to keep the weight from coming back.

If you are not in any way stimulating the growth or maintenance of new muscle, over time your body composition will shift – The result is a disproportionate increase in the amount of fat mass and a reduction in muscle mass. This is inevitably the end result of doing too much cardio and not enough weight training.

I have depicted this in a formula below:

Too Much Cardio – Weight Training = Increase in fat mass and reduction in lean muscle mass

Ideally, for optimal body composition we should be making the formula look something like this:

High intensity cardio + Moderate to heavy weight training = Low body fat and increased lean muscle

Benefits of women lifting weights

# 1 – Improved bone mineral density

Bone mineral density is a measure of how strong your bones are. Women, due to hormonal reasons, will lose bone density at a faster rate than males. This becomes more prevalent as we age as with a reduction in BMD, we have an increased risk of fractures following a fall or a heavy hit to the shoulder of arm.

Lifting weights can reduce the rate of loss of BMD and even increase our bone density – the result: Your bones stay strong and you won’t fracture your hip if your a 70 year old lady.

“Clinical research into this area shows that bone mineral density was only sufficiently increased if one was lifting above 70% of their 1RM.”

This equates to lifting something for about 6-9 repetitions. If you are looking to improve your bone density by lifting weights, than light weights just won’t cut it, you will need to choose something which feels heavy for you.

# 2 – Improved muscle mass 

Well surprise! The best news is that – YOU WILL NOT GET BULKY OVERNIGHT BY LIFTING WEIGHTS. Muscle mass is ESSENTIAL for your health. You only needs to increase your muscle mass slightly to see health benefits.

You don’t need to back on 10kg of raw muscle to get benefits. If over a 2-3 year training period you gain 2-3kg of muscle, that is a massive health benefit in your favor! Doing so will shift your % body fat lower and increase your lean muscle mass.

# 3 – Reduced fat mass

Doing weights is more beneficial for weight reduction, period!

Lifting weights does the following:

Helps release certain hormones which help to breakdown fat and releases hormones that improve muscle. Again your body composition has the ability to shift to a more favorable one.

How many times have you had this goal in mind or heard this goal from someone?

“I want to reduce body fat and improve muscle tone”

Essentially the goal they are after is to lose body fat and to increase muscle mass – Both of which are achieved by weight training.

So, back to our first question, will lifting weights get me bulky?

Sure, if you train each muscle group at least 2 x per week with a volume of over 8 sets per muscle group and if you eat enough calories to stimulate muscle growth over a period of over 3 months…than yes you will. This is not an easy task to do and is not done overnight.

If you do weights and are worried about putting on too much muscle you can do the following things to reduce it:

  • Not eat in a calorie surplus, that is eat more calories than what you should to gain weight. To gain significant muscle mass you need to be eating more calories than what you burn.
  • Keep total volume of each muscle group less than 8 sets per week. The volume of each set needs to be over a 70% maximal load. For example if you do squats for 2 x per week and complete 8 total sets with a load of 70% of your maximal load than this could increase muscle mass over a period of a few months.
  • Go through a training cycle where you lift heavy with enough volume for a period of 4-5 weeks followed by a few weeks where you might de-load and lift slightly lighter.
  • Focus on maximal strength rather than heaps of volume. To increase maximal strength, think about lifting heavy things. For example a weight you can only lift about 1-8 times with 2-4 sets. To keep volume low think about reducing the amount of total sets you complete for each muscle group.


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