Let’s dispel a longtime myth about women who weightlift. Will women bulk up if they lift weights, or does it actually help to lean you out?
While the gym is generally divided into the weight room and the cardio floor, your workout shouldn’t be confined to one section or the other. But unfortunately, there’s this crazy rumor going around that if women venture over to the weight room side they’ll bulk up faster than the Incredible Hulk. Ladies, it’s safe to say that the weight room is far from the dark side.
In fact, weightlifting for women is often the optimal way to build strength, support a healthy weight and to keep you active for the rest of your life. To help bust the rumor, here are three solid reasons strength training won’t make you bulk up.
Women’s hormones are simply not set up to increase bulk naturally. Did you know that both men and women have testosterone? In men, testosterone is responsible for sex drive, sperm production, and muscle size and strength. Women also have testosterone but in much lower amounts.
In women, testosterone is mostly responsible for ovary functions and bone strength. An elevation in women’s testosterone levels, whether it be from a health condition or illegal steroid use, could increase muscle size and strength in the way that’s usually termed as “bulking up.” However, such health conditions typically also have medical support to manage them.
When it comes to your actual workouts, how you strength train can make all the difference. Someone who’s looking to add bulk would generally increase the amount of weight lifted through periodization. Athletes, bodybuilders and savvy weight-lifters use periodization to cycle in different exercises throughout the week to achieve their overall goal. The amount of weight lifted is increased over time. Reps are typically between 8-12. More weight lifted equals more strength, which can equal more mass.
Someone who wants to build strength but not size would increase rep range to 12-16 reps at a lower weight. Weightlifting for women would also incorporate more multi-joint, compound movements as well as cross-training and interval-training workouts. These movements spread out your energy to multiple muscle groups at one time. Workouts that incorporate more whole-body exercises increase your heart rate in a way that would also burn more calories overall to help you maintain a healthy weight.
When it comes to building muscle mass, the average bodybuilder eats more than 3,500 calories a day and also often consumes added supplements. People who are trying to gain size and strength need to supplement their heavy-lifting efforts and intense exercise plans with more fuel. Did you know that serious weightlifters sometimes even wake up in the middle of the night just to eat more calories? So, for someone who is looking to build strength and not size, and maintain an active lifestyle, your daily calorie intake should be 2,000 or less.
If you think about it, weightlifters have a hard enough time trying to gain muscle mass and size even when they have more testosterone, they work out to gain weight, and they eat more generous portions at sometimes all hours of the day. So your chances of truly bulking up? Slim to none! Weightlifting for women is essential to maintain a healthy metabolism, bone mass and immune system. Walking straight to the cardio floor at the gym will only get you so far. See you in the weight room!
Lisa Payne is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, and travel. She stems from a background in television, playwriting, and personal training. Always on the go, follow her on social media or check out her website at lisapaynefitness.com.