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Well, the title says it all. This is what so many females wonder when it comes to lifting weights. A common goal for many women is to “tone up” but not get “too big”. So what’s the deal?

News flash: we don’t have the same hormones needed to build huge muscles like men

Here’s the thing. Men are able to put on more muscle mass easier than females due to a much higher level of testosterone. Because of the difference in hormones, females will NOT be able to get very large muscles the size of a male bodybuilder unless they are taking artificial hormones. Even so, they would still need to be pushing very heavy weight day in and day out for months or even years to look “bulky” or have a very large amount of muscle mass.

In summary: women who want to “bulk up” (I’m using this layman’s term loosely here) do it quite intentionally and with very heavy weights and maybe even artificial hormones.

So how do I “tone up”?

This is another term I am quoting from many females who come to me when they first start to train. This usually means they want to see muscle definition and a tighter physique, but not have “bulky” muscle as previously mentioned.

The first thing to focus on is building muscle! How do we do this? Resistance training. This could be using free weights, bodyweight, cables, bands, etc. – anything that gives you a resistance. Increasing your lean muscle will not only build a shaplier physique, but you will also burn more fat at rest due to increase of metabolic rate.

What about cardio?

As previously mentioned in this post, cardio is important for various health benefits. However when it is the only way you are training, you are not doing yourself any favours. Hours and hours of cardio can damage your metabolism and cause a plateau in weight loss. Not to mention you will not necessarily have a low body fat percentage, even if your weight is lower. This is sometimes called being “skinny fat”.

With resistance training, you are helping improve your body composition (fat mass vs fat free mass) and creating a tighter looking body.


Conclusion: don’t be afraid to lift weights!

We aren’t built like men. When we do weight training, we can create a leaner and tighter physique without the “bulk” many women think we get.

“I don’t want to get bulky! Should I lift weights?”

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