“I don’t want to do any weights or I’ll get bulky” - The single most used phrase which could send your PT’s head through the wall. All my fellow Personal Trainers will support me here, we’ve all heard it before and it’s probably induced a full-blown rant, throwing in research from multiple different studies, but most of the time it goes in one ear and out the other. So now you have it in writing: Lifting weights will not make you bulky. Let’s explore why.

The reality is women lift heavy all the time, every time you pick up your kids, lift the shopping, you don’t end up with bulging biceps and yet we still fear the bigger weights in the gym.  

Weight Training for Women

Heavy weight training benefits weight loss:

Research in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise studied this theory, they compared low intensity and high intensity resistance training on post exercise EPOC, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, this is what causes us to continue to burn calories after exercise, which is, of course, the largest contributing factor to weight loss. The study concluded that the heavier weight lifting caused a larger effect on heart rate as well as creating a larger EPOC window, meaning more weight loss from extra calories burned after exercise as your body recovers.

Women don’t have the hormones to turn into the Hulk

Testosterone is key when building muscle and a calorie surplus. Ask any bodybuilder, big muscles are not easy to come by, they're constantly eating to build their bulky muscles. Women’s genetics mean even if they are lifting heavy their low levels of testosterone will sculpt and define their muscles, without them ending up huge.

Heavy lifting increases your BMR

Your BMR is your Base Metabolic Rate, this is how many calories your body burns just to keep it alive. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest, when you're doing absolutely nothing! A pound of muscle burns around 6 extra calories per day. Muscle is actually far more compact than fat; so the more muscle you build, added with the fat you lose from the extra calorie burn, the smaller you’ll actually become. The more lean muscle tissue you acquire, the more calories you’ll burn 24/7.

Reasons you may feel bulky after lifting weights:


As your hormones fluctuate throughout the month, your weight can change drastically. 8/10 women suffer from bloating before and during their period. Women actually gain pounds of water during this time due to the ability of estrogen to cause fluid to be retained, which could be why you feel ‘bulkier’.

Fluid Retention

If you're new to weight training, when you first start training some women may experience weight gain, this unsurprisingly puts them off and they return to the comforts of cardio, but really we should stick at. The reason you may gain some extra weight when you first start weight lifting is that the muscles swell and retain more water as they repair. Once your body becomes accustomed to weight training this will become less of a drastic increase as your body recovers and settles into your routine. Stick it out.

Muscle weighs more than fat

For most women, this is a tough psychological battle as we’re taught the less you weigh, the better. Muscle actually weighs more than fat, so you may look smaller and leaner and yet be gaining weight on the scales. This is why it’s useful to take body fat measurements, or if you don’t have the equipment for that, a simple set of before and after pictures will help you keep your mind on track if your weight is going up. Your weight may change but so will your body composition.

Benefits of heavy lifting for women:

  1. It boosts your metabolism and raises your BMR so that you are burning more calories 24/7.
  2. Your chances of getting Osteoporosis are decreased by increasing bone density.
  3. It is the most effective anti-aging activity to keep your body strong, fit and active.
  4. Weight training is empowering and will increase your confidence. Becoming strong can help you feel more confident in other areas of your life and help you to succeed not just in the gym.
  5. Weight training can enhance your curves, shaping your body with increased muscle tissue.
  6. Heavy lifting increases energy levels and mood through the release of brain-chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression.

Now ladies, what are you waiting for? Those weights aren’t going to lift themselves, you got this!