May 2, 2023

Weight Lifting for Women: Will I Get Too Bulky?

By Robert Fisher
Weight Lifting for Women: Will I Get Too Bulky?

Weight lifting for women has historically been subject to negative rhetoric, and women have been led to believe that lifting weights will make them bulky or masculine.

The truth is that weight lifting and other forms of strength training are beneficial additions to any workout.

Read on to see the beneficial ways you can benefit from weight training. Even if you are starting your journey toward better health, you can discover some great tips to boost your results, develop more muscle, and achieve the lean body mass you seek.

The Importance of Weight Lifting in a Fitness Routine

Women can experience many benefits from lifting weights, and let's list some of those benefits. But before we do, remember that balance is the key.

Cardio workouts help you burn calories, get your heart pumping, and improve blood flow. That's great for your overall health and critical for preventing heart disease and chronic problems, and it helps you maintain a healthy weight management routine.

But you also need to include strength training to increase strength; weight lifting is a great way to do this. Here are some of the specific benefits of weight training.

Build Lean Muscle Mass

Weight training helps women gain toned definition. By toned, we mean long and lean muscles with a sculpted appearance. It not only looks great, but it is also healthy and supports a long, active life.

As women age, they suffer from sarcopenia, the gradual and involuntary loss of muscle mass, strength, and function.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that muscle mass decreases approximately 3-8% per decade after age 30 and declines even faster over the age of 60.

This highlights why women must take preventative steps to stop this loss by actively building lean muscle by lifting weights.

Increase Metabolism

Type 2 diabetes and heart disease stalk a large percentage of the population. These two disorders are linked to metabolic dysfunction and inflammation in the body.

Strength training can improve insulin sensitivity and metabolic efficiency and reduce inflammation markers in the body.

One epidemiology study by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that individuals who engage in regular strength training might realize a 40-70% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

One factor here is a woman's resting metabolic rate (RMR). Our RMR is responsible for 60-70% of our daily energy expenditure. Muscle is highly metabolically active, meaning it takes more energy to sustain a lean body mass - muscle, bones, connective tissue, and body water - than one with greater fat deposits.

Prevent Health Problems Associated with Aging

According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training effectively supports women's health as they age.

Strength training exercises stress your bones and can help to increase bone mineral density. The body works to adapt, including bones that rebuild themselves and become stronger in response to heavy loads.

This can be an effective defense as a woman's body changes with age due to hormonal changes that may cause problems, like osteoporosis, with bone health.

Lifting weights helps to protect joints from injury as they are regularly used and contribute to better balance.

A good strength training workout can reduce symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis and back pain.

Research suggests regular strength training and aerobic exercise can improve cognition and learning skills and reduce depression.

The Common Myth: "I Will Get Too Bulky."

You don't have to worry about suddenly gaining a lot of muscle just by lifting a few weights. It is a common myth that weightlifting will make a woman bulk up, and the truth is that a woman won't accidentally bulk up.

Bulking is difficult to achieve, requiring disciplined caloric intake, intentional and consistent muscle-building, and years of effort.

Strength training will help a woman achieve strong and toned muscle mass. It can be a great support for losing weight and increasing bone density too.

How to Begin a Strength Training Program

Every journey begins with a single step, or in this case, a single rep. It can take some work to know where to begin, and here are some tips to help you decide the best way to build muscle.

First, you must decide how to carry out your strength training.

Strength Training Options

Strength training can take different forms. Some women may prefer a home workout, and others may enjoy a trip to the local gym. In either case, there are common options that can supplement your exercise regimen.

Choose from these methods of strength training exercises to find a style that works for your situation and keeps you motivated.

Body Weight

You can strength train with little or no equipment. Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, planks, lunges, and squats let your body act as the weight load.

These effective exercises are the oldest in the book but are also free and can be performed anywhere.

Resistance Training

Sporting goods stores and online retailers offer resistance tubing or bands that provide stretched resistance.

This equipment is portable and inexpensive. Resistance training can grow with you as your exercise program intensifies because the bands come in different resistance ratings.

Performing different resistance exercises allows you to target specific muscle groups.

Free Weights

Barbells and dumbbells are classic features of gyms. Kettlebells or medicine balls may be another option for lifting weights.

If you want to avoid investing in expensive sets of weights, consider using any object around the house that you can lift safely while using the correct form, like gallons of water or canned goods.

Never use the excuse that you can't afford a gym membership or expensive weight training equipment. There are always other options!

Weight Machines

Fitness centers offer a variety of resistance machines that provide a one-stop place to weight train. Some committed exercise enthusiasts invest in home weight machines to give a convenient alternative to the gym.

Cable Suspension Training

Cable suspension training for women can also be an effective addition to their exercise program. In this strength training method, you suspend part of your body, such as your legs, while doing bodyweight training, like push-ups or planks.

Start Small

It can be tempting to lift heavier weights during successive workout sessions, and small increases will help maintain good form while building muscle through strength training. But don't overdo it!

Depending on how often you lift, add small weight increases every 3-4 weeks. And many fitness pros will instruct you not to increase your weight by more than 10% at a time.

That means that if you are performing squats at 50 pounds, when it's time to push it up, only go for 55 pounds.

In general, exercises that use heavier weights at low repetitions result in increased muscle bulk and power. Exercises performed at lighter weights and more repetitions lead to muscle tone and endurance gains.

Use the Proper Form & Technique

Women's health journeys should also feature a focus on safety. Following proper safety standards when lifting weights is important to avoid causing injury.

For example, check out this blog on the proper form for using a bench press so you can:

  • Understand the machine's setup
  • Assume the correct body position
  • Use the right bar placement
  • Maintain the correct grip

Remember to Warm Up & Cool Down

A proper warm-up is essential before strength training, and it prepares your muscles for what's ahead.

The goal of warming up is to activate muscles to prevent muscular injury. But it will also improve your performance during the workout session.

Many personal training professionals suggest performing a light version of the same workout you will do during the strength training workout.

This form of dynamic stretching ensures that the right muscle groups are activated.

A cool-down stretching session afterward helps reset tight muscles and avoid knots. It can help prevent soreness and supports flexibility and mobility in the future.

Use Spotters

Have a friend or personal training professional spot you as you attempt heavier lifts.

This is also important when trying new and unfamiliar equipment for the first time.

The added benefit of exercising with friends beyond the safety factor is that you can find more motivation to keep going strong during your workout and rally each other.

Don't Lock Your Joints

Locking your elbows or knees when strength training with weights puts them in a hyperextended state.

Adding a load, either your body weight or external weights increases the chance of overextending the joints.

Maintain a slight bend during the entire exercise motion for the safest results.

Practice Proper Breathing

Breathe out when lifting or pushing, and breathe in as you slowly lower or release weights.

Resist the urge to hold your breath while lifting weights! This can be easier said than done because it is a natural urge to hold your breath as you lift, making you feel like you can lift heavier amounts.

However, holding your breath as you lift may unintentionally raise your blood pressure, making your muscles tense up, and they are more prone to strain and injury.

Keep Your Back Straight When Lifting

According to the Comprehensive Spine Institute, keeping your back straight during lifting helps you engage the muscles surrounding your core and legs.

This will reduce the risk of injury or muscle strain. Don't allow your shoulders to slouch, as this will lead to a curved spine, which strains your muscles and vertebrae.

Wear The Right Attire

Believe it or not, there's a right way to lift, and it involves the right clothes!

The proper footwear and flat sneakers can help you keep traction and avoid slipping while lifting.

Wear breathable, form-fitting clothing to keep your full range of motion without getting in the way or restricting your movements.

Cotton fabrics tend to hold sweat and are slow to dry, so that better options may exist.

Listen to Your Body

Some people will tell you to "play through the pain."

Stop the exercise if you feel pain at any point during the workout. Letting your body rest is better than aggravating an injury further by continuing.

Consult your primary care provider if the injury doesn't improve in a few days.

Rest & Recovery

Weight lifting for women should also include rest periods. Stressing muscles causes damage, and the body's response is to tear down the tissue and rebuild the same muscles stronger.

Returning to the same workout the next day may make you lose some of the progress you've made through lifting. Focusing on different muscle groups on different day can be a good idea.

Give yourself time to recover by building rest days into your routine. You won't reach your goals in a day. Soon enough, you will see an increase in muscle strength that continues to improve.

Starting from Scratch

If you are new to strength training with weights, consider getting assistance from a personal trainer. There are right ways and wrong ways to lift weights.

A personal trainer can help you ensure you don't injure yourself with an improper form and progress to heavier weights appropriately.

Strength training will feel different from cardio exercises that do not tax the body similarly. Expect it to feel different, and give yourself time to adjust to the new change.

Full Body Weight Lifting Workout Routine

Let's examine a sample full body program of weight lifting for women. The goal here is to cycle through these exercises in multiple sets at timed intervals of 1 minute (45 seconds of work, 15 seconds of rest). 

The benefit of these specific exercises is that they target both upper body and lower body muscle groups. Compound exercises that stress more than one muscle group at a time may give you the maximum bang for your buck while also helping to decrease body fat.

Step 1: Front Squats and Overhead Shoulder Press

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward. Hold one dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, palms in. Exhale to engage your core muscles and lower your hips.

Keep your thighs parallel to the floor with weight in your heels. Drive upward to stand tall, pressing both dumbbells overhead, biceps by your ears.

Step 2: Alternating Reverse Lunge and Bicep Curl

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold dumbbells in each hand at your side, palms inward. Step back with your right leg, dropping to your right knee as you lower. Dip until both knees are at a 90-degree angle with your front thigh parallel to the floor.

While holding the lunge, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height, performing bicep curls. Lower the dumbbells again to the starting position.

Exhale and push up on your left heel to return to standing. Repeat the process using your left leg.

Step 3: Push Up & Side Plank Hold

Start in a high plank position with shoulders above wrists, feet hip-width apart. Lower your chest toward the ground. At the bottom of the push-up, exhale as you push back up to the high plank position.

Pull your right arm over your body, opening up to your right into a 'T' shape. After a count to three, return to the start position and repeat with another push-up and opening to the left.

Step 4: Deadlift and Upright Row

With feel hip-wide apart and a dumbbell in your right hand, have your palm facing inward. Stagger your feet so your left leg is slightly forward. Keep most of your weight on the front foot and use the right one to maintain balance.

Push your hips backward as you lower the dumbbell down the front of your legs until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Push your hips forward, pulling the dumbbell back up as you stand tall.

Continue to pull your right elbow up toward your right shoulder and glide the dumbbell up your body. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.

Step 5: Lateral Lunge and Single Arm Back Row

Hold a dumbbell in your left hand with your feet under your hips. Step your right leg outward to the side as your push your hips back. Bend your right knee and leave your left leg straight. Keep knees and toes pointing forward.

At the bottom of the lateral lunge, pull your left elbow back toward your left hip and raise the dumbbell. Lower it back to starting position.

Drive off your right foot to reverse the lunge and return to your starting position.

Step 6: Glute Bridge & Tricep Extensions

Lie on your back with legs bent at 90 degrees and heels on the ground. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms so dumbbells are overhead and palms are facing one another. Bend at the elbows to lower the dumbbells toward your head.

As you push the dumbbells back up, drive your heels down and squeeze your butt muscles to lift your hips upward. Keep your knees in line with your hips. Hold for a moment, then lower your hips back down while lowering the dumbbells.

This sample routine is one you might find in a Fit Results Groundworks class where you can develop the strongest version of you in a group setting.

How to Track Progress & Set Goals

There are many ways to track your progress. The first step is setting reasonable goals to work toward. Then consider what measurements you can record to test your progress.

For example, if your main goal is to improve your overall health with weight training, consider keeping a log of your blood pressure or blood glucose levels to see how successive workouts affect your body.

If your main goal is to lose weight, you can hop on the scale or note how your clothes fit.

Consider keeping a fitness journal that chronicles your progress for weight loss, body fat or even you strength training program. This may be on paper or by using a fitness tracking app, and the benefit is that you can look back and see tangible advancement.

Snap workout pictures to document the changes in your body. You may be surprised to see visible results after a few weeks!

Many women will benefit from assistance in developing a program that helps them find the right diet and workout routine while also keeping them accountable so they can overcome early setbacks. Check out the Fit Results Challenge today!

Conclusion

Although they have yet to be encouraged to do so, weight training for women is a great addition to their workout routine.

Strength training exercises have many health benefits, and they can help women build lean muscle and increase their resting metabolic rate.

Don't worry. Lifting weights won't cause a woman to bulk up accidentally.

Begin your lifting journey by starting small and working your way up gradually. Practice the proper form and safe habits while working out to avoid injury. Remember to build rest days into your routine to give yourself a chance to recover properly.

Whether you work out at home or at your local gym, find ways to track your progress to remind yourself of the results you are getting from your new routine. Before long, you will see the fitness results you've been looking for!

By Robert Fisher

Robert C. Fisher is a professional SEO writing consultant who can help you and your business thrive in the online market. With years of experience, he offers a variety of writing services, including content creation, blog writing, creative writing, career writing, SEO optimization, and SMM.

As a Registered Nurse with a Master's degree in Nursing and an MBA in Healthcare Management, Robert is well-versed in healthcare, nutrition, medicine, fitness, wellness, and other related topics. His professional background makes him a valuable resource for those looking to create content in these areas.

Robert is the owner and operator of Top Content Consulting (https://www.topcontentconsulting.com/), a business that offers optimization and SEO strategies. He is passionate about providing high-quality writing services that increase business visibility, influence, and credibility online. His goal is to help his clients succeed by providing them with the knowledge and expertise they need to succeed in their respective industries.

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