It’s practically a rule of thumb among the general public: Men use heavy weights; women go light. There might as well be a dividing line on the dumbbell rack, where the big weights 40lbs and up are for boys only and the girls can use the colorful 5 and 10 pounders. We get it, ladies don’t want to get too big and lose their femininity. But don’t worry, picking up a heavy weight and lifting it for a challenging set of 8-10 reps won’t make you look like a bodybuilder. Women’s natural testosterone levels aren’t high enough for that and you’re probably not consuming 5,000 calories a day either.
I hear this a lot when female clients first come to train: ‘I just want to tone up and lose some weight. I don’t want to be all muscles and look like a man.’ My response is the same for all of them: In order for you to have shape and definition, you must first have some hypertrophy (growth) of the muscle. You accomplish this by lifting a challenging weight for you. If 10 pounds is heavy for you at the beginning, that’s fine. But you need to be struggling by the end of your set on the last 2-3 repetitions.
Where that 10 pound weight is concerned, it might be heavy for you on lateral raises or Bicep curls (exercises that usually don’t allow for big weights), but for most women, a pair of 10s will be too easy for a 10-rep set of shoulder and chest presses, dumbbell rows, squats and lunges. If you can’t get over the fear of getting too big and bulky, lifting heavier will help you achieve a goal that will please an overwhelming majority of women: increased fat-burning!!
Women have to fight for every ounce of muscle they’re able to put on their frames. Which means you must pick up a dumbbell that’s heavier than your purse!! When you train properly with weights, you increase your metabolic rate for 24-48 hours after the workout because of muscle repair. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be because muscle is active tissue, unlike body fat, which requires very few calories to maintain once it’s in place.