I just want to get toned…. I don’t want to get bulky.

The amount of times I heard that, at this point is too much to count. There is this connotation that if you lift weights, you get bulky. It is probably the biggest fear women have and a huge reason they stay away from strength training and stay in the cardio area of the gym. Sometimes they also take some classes, but weights are scary.

So, I’m just going to say it… Strength training doesn’t make you bulky.

Again, for people in the back… STRENGTH TRAINING DOES NOT MAKE YOU BULKY.

Toning up IS strength training-you are building lean muscle and cutting down your fat, hence toning up.

lifting weights

There is a variety of different ways to strength train:

–   Hypertrophy

This is the main way to grow muscle. With this type of training, you use moderate to heavy weights to trigger muscle growth.

–   Circuit training

Circuit training usually involves a routine where you do a full body workout, going from one exercise to the next with little or no rest at all.

–   Maximum strength training

With this type of training, you’re going heavier in weight and only doing 2-6 reps. This is something to progress to, when enough strength is built already, and exercise form is good.

 –   Explosive power

This type of training is one of the more advanced and is a combination of strength and speed. It is a great tool in sports.

The best way to be active is having a combination of Strength training and cardio or endurance training. There are also many different ways you can do strength training. For example, if you’re just starting out, body weight exercises will be effective in order to start building muscle.

Once you train more regularly, and you feel like body weight is not enough anymore, these are your options of progression:

–   Machines

A lot of people are scared of diving into free weights from the get-go, so machine workouts can be the step towards that. You get controlled movement with those, so form, while important, is not the top priority at that time. Cable machines also fall into this category; however, those do require some more familiarity with the proper form and execution of the movement.

–   Resistance bands

These are either rubber or cotton bands that create resistance when they are stretched out.

–   Free weights

These are dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, vipr. Free weights can be used for the majority of the movements. They work great in a combination with cable machines.

If you’re working out at home, things around the house also can count as free weights, like cans, water bottles, backpack filled with things, books. When it comes to home workouts, you can get pretty creative with tools you can use.

No matter what you’re using, you would want to stick to a routine for about 6 weeks or so before changing things up. Your muscles get used to the same movement, so in order to keep growing and building lean muscle, you want to change things at that 6-week mark.

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woman weight lifting

What are the benefits of lifting heavy shit, thought?

  1. You become stronger

That one is pretty straight forward. When you strength train, you do become stronger. You can notice it in everyday activities too, simple things like carrying groceries or even feeling like you have more energy to do things.

Strength training is also a great tool in improving performance in sports.

  1. It’s a great way to burn calories

While we are told that cardio is the way to burn calories, and it is a way, strength training is also great at burning calories. The difference is that when you’re building muscle, you also increase your metabolic rate-muscle burns fat, letting you burn more calories even when you’re not working out.

  1. Great tool for body recomposition

While you can’t spot reduce fat, building muscle can help you replace and cut the fat, you will be able to change the way your body looks while not necessarily targeting the number on the scale.

  1. Reduces risk of injury

Consistent strength training is a great tool in improving range of motion, developing mobility of muscles as well as tendons and ligaments. With that, you build stability and strength of the main joints that decrease your risk of injury in day-to-day activities, as well as when working out.

  1. Improves heart health

Strength training has been found to decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels as well as improve blood circulation in the body. Strength training also is great for managing blood sugar levels, which, if high, can be a risk factor when it comes to heart disease.

  1. Aids in hormone control

Insulin is one of the main hormones that is directly connected and affected by physical activity.

Muscle mass has an ability to increase insulin sensitivity.

Strength training also has an ability to help you lower chance of getting diabetes, compared to people who don’t exercise.

  1. Helps improve mobility as well as flexibility

While this one doesn’t seem directly logical, strength training is great at helping you get more mobility and flexibility by continuously increasing your range of motion (ROM).

It has been found that weightlifting is equally as good at increasing ROM as stretching.

  1. Strengthens your bones

Weight training is fantastic for strengthening your bones. What happens when you lift, is you put stress on your bones, which sends a signal to bone-building cells that get activated and go into action building stronger bones.

  1. Makes you feel better about yourself

This one might be more ego driven, but damn, isn’t it great when you check yourself out in the mirror thinking how happy you are with all the progress you’re making?

The cool thing about this one is that it translates so much into your day-to-day life-you are feeling better about yourself, being more self-confident can go a long way in your relationships, work and any other endeavors.

  1. Improves your mood

Exercise of any sort is often associated with being a tool to battle anxiety and depression. Weightlifting is not an exception. Exercise promotes release of endorphins-the happy hormones, that’s why a lot of times after you leave the gym you feel like you can take on the world.

The point is, lifting weights is one of the best things that you can do for your body. Don’t get me wrong, if you completely hate it, don’t do it. While the benefits of muscle building are great, you do still get benefits from doing physical activity in general.

The reason for this post is to break some of the assumptions and misconceptions about weightlifting and what it does to your body. Unless you’re a bodybuilder in the category that requires you to become bulkier and bigger, you will be able to build nice lean muscle and look as feminine as you want. It is important to add that the best results are achieved when combining strength training with a diet that’s designed for you and your goals.

By Co-Author: Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio