FFC Group Fitness Manager Lara Mele debunks the theory that lifting heavy weights will make women “bulky” and shares why weightlifting is a great form of exercise for women. 

I am definitely of the opinion that women should lift “heavy.” Strength training is not only for men, professional athletes or people who belong to a CrossFit box (gym). Most importantly, lifting heavy won’t make you “big” or “bulky” as many women still (unfortunately) believe. 

If this sounds like you, STOP being afraid! I am here to spread the word that strength training, especially with heavy weights, has many health benefits for women.

Related: What Weights Should You Choose For Your Next Group Fitness Class?

Where To Begin With Lifting “Heavy” Weights

The word “heavy” when it comes to weightlifting means something different for everyone. What may be considered heavy for you could be considered light for someone else and vice versa.

Your “heavy” lift will also change over time as you gain strength from your training. 

If you have little to no experience with weightlifting, your best bet is to hire a qualified personal trainer or strength coach or participate in a class where the focus is weightlifting. It’s important to have someone who can oversee your workouts, teach correct techniques and suggest ways to build strength and prevent injury. 

If you are going to make a go of it on your own, there are several different approaches you can take. A good place to start is finding your one-rep max (1RM) for a certain lift. Your one repetition maximum is the maximum amount of weight that you can possibly lift for one repetition. Once you find this number, you generally work in the 70-90% range from this number. 

Again, I believe that hiring a qualified coach is the best approach; investing in just a few sessions can make a huge difference. However, this article lists multiple ways to establish your 1RM depending on how long you’ve been lifting for.

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Reasons To Lift Heavy

  1. Lifting heavy builds bone density: Strength training can both slow bone loss and rebuild bone density. The force that comes with training the muscle attached to the bone can actually stimulate bone-forming cells (preventing or slowing osteoporosis). Stronger muscles = stronger bones.
  2. It promotes fat loss: Strength training, while it generally doesn’t burn as many calories during the session as running, walking, swimming or biking (think “cardio”), will give you a greater post-exercise calorie burn. Building muscle can increase your resting metabolic rate and enable your body to keep burning calories even when you’re not training.
  3. It improves libido: One surprising benefit that lifting heavy can have for many women is that it can increase their libido because heavy lifting naturally elevates testosterone. It gives your body the boost it needs to produce healthy levels of this sex hormone.

Related: Download Our Free Ebook With Three Workouts You Can Try Today

Ok, but what about the “bulk?”

The number one myth that is still circulating (unfortunately) is that lifting heavy will make you look “bulky,” muscular and “unfeminine.”

First and foremost, large muscle size comes from a combination of higher testosterone levels (like the testosterone levels found in males), excessive calorie consumption and daily intense weight training. It takes an immense amount of dedication to develop large muscles like a bodybuilder or high level CrossFit athlete, no matter what gender. Also, many “bodybuilders” (both male and female) take steroids in order to get unnaturally large. A woman’s testosterone levels just aren’t naturally high enough to promote that level of muscle gain.

Even without steroids, it takes a very long time to build muscle. You don’t wake up after a month of lifting heavy 2-3 times a week and look like Mr. or Mrs. Universe (don’t know who that is? Google it). Rather than give into the fear of getting “bulky,” just give heavy lifting a try and find out for yourself how much you might enjoy it.

Lastly and probably most importantly, heavy lifting can cause a shift in your mindset that is incredibly liberating. It gives you a chance to see what you’re capable of and shifts your own personal thoughts/feelings about your body. It creates a platform for you to focus on what your body “can do” instead of being so fixated on “how it looks.” 

Ready to give it a try and need some guidance? You can get more info on how to safely and effectively start your strength program by reaching out to any of our FFC Personal Trainers or you can contact me directly at lmele@ffc.com.

Check out some of our amazing and STRONG female members below who do some heavy lifting! Are they too “bulky”? Nope, I don’t think so…

FFC Park Ridge Member Ania deadlifting 300 pounds.
FFC Park Ridge Member Ania deadlifting 300 pounds.
FFC Park Ridge Member Annie can do a Turkish get up with a 22kg bell (48.5 lbs).
FFC Park Ridge Member Annie can do a Turkish get up with a 22kg bell (48.5 lbs).
FFC Gold Coast Member Kelly lifting a 48 kg (105 lb) KB over her head.
FFC Gold Coast Member Kelly lifting a 48 kg (105 lb) KB over her head.
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Post written by FFC Contributor and Group Fitness Manager Lara Mele.