Women's body images are the constant target of marketing agendas. The fitness industry is especially guilty of this. Everywhere from social media to bill boards they are told not only what they should look like, but also how they should get there. Most times this includes juice cleanses, 30 day squat challenges and, most laughably, waist trainers.
It's an unfortunate fact that lies like "lifting heavy makes you bulky" are being sold to women. Avoiding heavy squats, deadlifts and other movements is really keeping them from reaching the goals that they want to achieve, and sometimes even causing them injury.
Build Muscle/Lose Fat
Almost every girl has heard at least once that they should lift lighter weights if they want to "tone". In fact it's in various fitness magazines and even the trainers at your local globo gym may give you this advice. The problem with "being tone" is it's a made up concept.
If you asked any true fitness professional how you can get tone they would most likely laugh at you. They would then proceed to tell you that if you want to look and feel better that you should focus on either gaining muscle or losing fat.
Squatting, pulling and lifting heavier weights will help you do just that. It is simple physics that to moving a heavy load requires greater energy than moving a lighter one. It also takes considerably more energy to stabilize your core with a heavy load.
Full range functional movements like the squat and deadlift cause favorable changes in your hormones, especially when compared to workouts on machines. Completing heavy lifts like these disrupt your bodies homeostasis. This stress causes your body to break down stores of fat and sugar and eventually super-compensate by developing more muscle.
Many girls worry that they will end up looking like some of the top competitors in the sport of CrossFit if they lift too much. You won't.
Too put things in perspective these athletes typically spend 3 to 4 hours a day training. They will consume nearly twice as many calories as a sedentary person and many have been doing this routine for a half decade. These girls have committed their lives to the sport of fitness.
Adding muscle and losing fat doesn't happen on accident. If you workout 3 to 4 times a week for an hour you will lose a moderate amount of fat and gain lean muscle. You will never have to worry about accidentally becoming too "bulky".
Lifting heavy and becoming fit doesn't just allow you to add lean muscle but keeps you from getting injured. Since many women don't participate in regular strength sessions they are much more likely to experience injury than their male counterparts. In a NCAA report female basketball players were 6 times more likely to incur an ACL injury than male players.
Many of these injuries are preventable through training. Building strength by lifting heavy loads helps develop neuromuscular coordination and strength the stabilizers around the knee, ankle and shoulder. Soft tissues, like ligaments and tendons, grow and become stronger just as muscle does.
Lifting heavy is hard work. You don't always make all the lifts you want. You will fail, you will be sore and you definitely will sweat.
The reason so many athletes, especially women, keep coming back for more is because its a ton of fun.
The challenge of bettering yourself is addicting. Some days you come into the gym and you break your personal record. Other days you walk out tired and broken. No matter what your getting stronger and your around a group of friends that are on the same mission.
The Take Away
Lifting heavy isn't as scary as many women think it is. If your looking to add lean muscle you should be squatting or pulling heavy weights at least twice a week, along with other functional movements.
Have some fun, be safe and LIFT HEAVY!