5 Reasons Why Lifting Heavy Weights *Won't* Make You Bulk Up

Shutting down that argument, once and for all — with science.

Woman deadlifting a barbell in a gym.
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The women's weightlifting revolution has long been building momentum. More and more women are picking up barbells and dumbbells, increasing their strength and power, and banding together because of it. But even with its increasing popularity, there's still a camp of firm believers in the whole "weightlifting will make me bulky" concept.

Well, it's time to crush that argument once and for all. Lifting heavy weights is an excellent tool to help you build lean muscle, reduce fat, and enhance your athletic performance. (These strong-as-hell women are proof.) Yes, it's true — just ask Jacque Crockford, D.H.Sc., C.S.C.S., spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. Below she shares five specific reasons why you shouldn't shy away from lifting heavy and why strength training is for every woman.

1. You'll burn more calories.

Lifting weights doesn't only affect your muscle tissue, it also increases the release of testosterone and human growth hormone, both of which boost your metabolism. That said, the amount of hormones released may differ based on your gender and workout, says Crockford.

"Lifting weights can increase your lean body mass, which increases the number of overall calories you burn during the day," she says. So by adding more lean muscle, you'll be burning more calories outside the gym, even when you're chillin' on the couch or typing away at work.

2. You'll change your body composition.

"Lifting heavy weights is a great way to get the [results] you may be seeking," Crockford says. While doing cardio will help you build endurance, the secret to changing your body composition is creating a solid muscular base. Work with a trainer to find a strength training routine that works for you and your goals, Crockford says. (Although, this four-week beginner plan is a great place to start.)

3. You train for the results you want.

"Women can use resistance training to reach all types of health and fitness goals," Crockford says. Sure, you could use weightlifting to train for competitive powerlifting (like this badass 15-year-old), Olympic-style weightlifting (like these strong AF female athletes), or for a bodybuilding competition, or you can just use it to feel strong and confident. There are plenty of plans to suit your needs.

"If you're simply looking to improve your body composition, then lifting weights is a very important component of a well-rounded fitness program," the trainer says. To gain significant amounts of muscle mass, you're looking at four to six days of lifting a week, versus one to three days of lifting for general health, Crockford adds.

4. You have to pay attention to your diet.

A well-rounded balanced diet is just as important as working out when it comes to your overall health. But contrary to popular belief, a calorie deficit isn't going to help you build muscle.

"Gaining muscle mass comes from a combination of heavy weight training and an excess in calories," says Crockford. "If you perform resistance training one to three days per week and you're not eating more calories than you expend in a day, you probably won't see a ton of muscle growth." Instead, try using food as a way to maximize your strength training routine and deliver the results you're looking for.

5. Building muscles takes time.

Seeing results from working out largely differs from person to person. While there's no doubt that the immediate aftermath will make you feel empowered and give you an instant mood boost, long-term results don't come overnight. "Consistency is key when it comes to reshaping your body and making lifelong changes," says Crockford.

To reap any benefits of strength training takes dedication and hard work. But to achieve the physique of a bodybuilder or Olympic weight lifter requires an incredible amount of commitment and years of regimented exercise and nutrition. You won't end up there by accident, we promise.

If you're still nervous about grabbing a pair of heavy dumbbells, your best bet is to get some personalized advice from a trainer who can tailor a strength training program that works for you and your goals, whatever they may be. Guaranteed, it'll leave you feeling stronger, sexier, and more badass than ever.

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