Monday Myths

Monday Myths – Women Shouldn’t Lift Heavy Or They Will Get Bulky

8 Key Benefits of Weightlifiting for Women

Many women miss out on the benefits of strength training because of the myth that lifting weights will make them bulky. This article explains why this is not true and provides 8 key benefits weightlifting offers.  


During your visit to the gym, you probably noticed a general trend. Men dominate the weight room while women do cardio. When it comes to female fitness, there is an insulting double standard. Women should be toned but not bulky because it is considered unfeminine. It is no surprise then, most women stay glued to the treadmill, the stationary bike or the elliptical machine to meet society’s narrow standard of female beauty.

The ‘cardio culture’ imposes the belief that women should get toned and lean and god forbid them from bulking up. We have a real cultural problem where women are taught they must exercise to get slimmer rather than to become stronger. We aren’t supposed to be strong. A feminine woman is petite and passive rather than assertive and dominant. A lot of women internalize these expectations thus find it difficult to step off the treadmill and into the male-dominated weights section. Muscles on women are often shamed or forbidden. They are deemed as “unattractive” and women often stay away from weights due to the instilled fear of becoming too bulky and starting to look too manly. You might remember the time when Michelle Obama showed off her toned arms by going sleeveless. She received tons of criticism for being “unfeminine” and “frightening”.  

What’s more maddening, is that this is not true. Lifting heavy weights does not automatically make you bulky and here are the reasons why:


strength training

The stereotype image of lifters in the media is one of the hulking men with huge, rippling muscles. But weightlifting doesn’t automatically make you “bulky”. And this is not an opinion but science.


Adding heavier weights to your routine will not make you develop huge muscles. In fact, it is extremely difficult to achieve.  The reason is hormonal.  There are many physiological differences that affect the sexes’ ability to gain muscle mass. The main reason why females cannot gain muscle mass as fast or to the same extent as men is because of the difference in hormone levels. Men have higher testosterone levels than women. In fact, women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men. Testosterone is the primary hormone that we need for muscle growth. Since women have significantly less of this hormone, they are less equipped to gaining muscle.


Muscles themselves also matter. They are made up of protein fibers and surrounding tissue. In order to get stronger, you need to increase the size and thickness of those fibers. There are two types: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 fibers are smaller and less defined while Type 2 tend to be larger. Men have a higher concentration of Type 2 muscles than women. This causes the difference in the way how big the muscles can grow.


Furthermore, the stereotype image of the bulky female bodybuilder is a result of females using steroids in order to increase their muscle mass and size. This is often coupled with the correct training and diet directed at muscle growth. While we all have different genetic makeup, and some women are more prone to having more muscle density than other, in general, you have to train for bulk to get bulk. For females who are not doing this, they will not come out of a weight-training programme looking like the Hulk.


Another common misconception is that lifting weights is not a good way to lose weight.  

When women decide to lose fat, they tend to jump onto cardio and disregard weight training completely. Although there are many benefits of cardio for fat loss, once you’re done on a cardio machine, you are done burning calories. Weight training, on the other hand, keeps your metabolism at an elevated level for about another hour.  Once you start lifting weights you begin to build more muscle. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue which is critical for fat loss. The more lean muscle mass you have the higher your BMR. When weight lifting, you build a leaner more muscular body which in turn increases your calorie burning abilities. 

woman lifting weights


Due to the stigmas and strength training myths, many women miss out on the incredible benefits that strength training has to offer. This infographic highlights the wonderful benefits of weight training for women:

benefits of weight training


Ladies, our bodies were not created for the purpose of pleasing other people’s preferences. Our bodies do not have to meet our society’s silly standards. These standards are limiting and have prevented many females from reaping all the mighty benefits that weightlifting can bring.

Abandon the treadmill for a day and pick up some weights. Be confident enough to be the only women in the weights area. If you join in, it’s likely other women will have the confidence to join in too. See the wonders your body can achieve. Strength and womanhood are not conflicting. They are synonymous.  And now that you know the truth, go ahead ladies, lift!



p style=”text-align: center”>The Ulitmate Guide to Strength Training: 10 Great Weightlifting Lessons

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Wiktoria Banda

Wiktoria is a content writer and illustrator at Shape.


  1. Hello Wiktoria Banda,

    Your article caught my eye as I myself just wrote an article on this same subject

    I feel this is a very important topic to cover as when I first begin working with women clients, weights is the first area they want to shy away from as they believe in the myth that they will end up looking like a body builder.

    However, I am so happy to report that their experience is the exact opposite. They quickly learn how it increases their body fat percentage and they begin to see definition and toning in their bodies, not to mention weight loss.

    It is so rewarding to see women clients finally achieving their goals!

    1. Hello Tanya,
      I’m so happy to hear that. I really enjoyed reading your article and totally agree with you. There are so many benefits to weight lifting that women are missing out on because of this myth. It’s important we discuss this to remove the fear and encourage women to lift.

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