One common reason women become afraid of lifting heavy weights is the fear of becoming 'bulky'. Some women seem to be under the illusion that as soon as they enter into a progressive resistance program such as lifting weights, they will instantly gain a lot of muscle taking on a 'bulky' look. I am sure everyone has heard this many times.
Unfortunately, this belief misdirects many women on their fitness journeys and hinders their ability to be able to achieve their goals. It directs them towards the cardio equipment, as opposed to the weight room. Not that there is anything wrong with doing cardio - but for many, it's not the place that is going to allow them to achieve their goals best.
Testosterone And Hormones
One of the main reasons women won't make large muscle gains, especially initially, is that they produce far less testosterone than men and testosterone is the hormone that is primarily responsible for one's ability to grow muscle.
For many women, this belief is based off seeing pictures of female bodybuilders from certain untested federations and they assume after a few months of weight training they will end up looking similar. The truth is, depending on what federation they compete in, the women in the photos are probably using steroids and this why they carry so much muscle mass. So, unless you're taking steroids, you won't look anything like them after years of training, let alone after a few months training with heavy weights.
A better option is to check out natural female physiques from all sports, from powerlifting, figure competitions, Crossfit and Olympic lifting. These athletes use heavy weights on a daily basis and still look great.
It's Not Easy To Gain Muscle Naturally
With the above said, there are also women who carry decent amounts of muscle mass and have achieved this naturally (without the use of exogenous hormones such as steroids). Gaining muscle naturally is a hard slog though, even for men who have the natural testosterone production to support it.
These women have generally been training for years and have been extremely dedicated, slowly adding muscle every year. This is not something that is easy to achieve, and it's naive to think that you will end up carrying that much muscle just starting to lift weights or even after years of training. Being worried about gaining too much muscle naturally is not something you should be concerned about.
Toning And Shaping
Another common reason behind why women are afraid to lift heavy weights is because of the belief that they should be 'toning and shaping'. This misconception no doubt comes from the age old fitness myth that 'toning and shaping' muscles is achieved by lifting light weights, with high repetitions and even some kind of circuit training. This is why women often stay away from heavy weights. This is incorrect for many reasons.
It's impossible to change the shape of a muscle. The shape of your muscle is genetically pre-determined, you cannot change it. No amount of shaping exercise will change the shape of a muscle. Your muscles will be shaped the way they are shaped for life.
All you can do to make your muscles look 'toned', and 'shaped' is to make the muscle itself bigger through hypertrophy and the loss of body fat. Losing body fat through diet will make the muscles seem more shapely and defined because they will be more visible. Adding muscle mass will also help with this. So if you want to look toned and shaped, the best way to achieve this is through dieting and adding muscle. So, if this is your goal there is no reason shy away from the weight room.
People in general incorrectly believe, and especially women, that if your goal is fat loss, then primarily performing cardiovascular exercise is the best way burn fat. This is incorrect. While cardiovascular has its place in anyone's training routine and it does burn calories, this doesn't mean that it's superior to lifting weights for fat loss.
Lifting weights or resistance training is extremely beneficial for fat loss for a number of reasons. After training with weights your body continues to burn calories for hours, and even days after. On top of this, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn simply doing, well, nothing. This is because muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning the more you have, the more calories burn just maintaining it! So if losing fat is your goal, don't feel the need to head to the cardio section first.
So, Will Lifting Heavy Weight's Make Women Bulky?
The answer is a very clear no. Women don't produce adequate testosterone naturally. While some women do gain impressive amounts of muscle naturally, this is achieved through years of dedication, slowly adding muscle each year and even then they just look great and not what you'd describe as bulky.
Lifting heavy weights is great for women to burn fat and achieve their fitness goals, whatever they may be. It's not something to be scared of.