The benefits of lifting weights — also called weight training, strength training or resistance training — include stronger muscles, a stronger heart, a leaner physique, and a body better able to support your everyday needs and activities. Women, however, still tend to shy away from this beneficial form of exercise.

Ladies, does the mere idea of weightlifting scare you?

“I don’t want to lift weights because they’ll make me too big and bulky.” For how many of you is this the reason you’ve never attempted weight training?

It seems to be many a man’s dream to have big, bulky muscles. Why is it then, that men, whose bodies naturally contain much greater amounts of testosterone and growth hormone, lift weights and don’t get big and bulky? It’s true! Unless they are supplementing with dangerous and unhealthful steroids or similar substances, most men do not naturally bulk up hugely by lifting weights regularly. And neither will most women. The idea that women get big, ugly muscles from weight training is a misconception.

The fact of the matter is that women must lift weights in order to achieve the lean, sculpted bodies they dream of having. If a woman does happen to have the genetic disposition to bulk up quickly, there are easy ways to alter a workout to prevent too much muscle gain, while still increasing strength and rapidly burning fat.

The idea that weightlifting causes insanely huge muscle buildup is largely a creation of the media. It’s true that some women weightlifters takes steroids, and these hormones do make them look very masculine. Those women who take performance-enhancing drugs should expect to develop deeper voices and more masculine bodies. The average woman who weight trains, however, will simply achieve a slim, healthy body without adding unwanted muscle mass. In fact, this is how boxers, wrestlers, and other athletes who need a lot of strength without a lot of extra weight (muscle mass) train and stay in shape.

Let’s discuss the basics of weight training. Weight training involves controlled lifting and working out with weights. Two basic terms related to weightlifting are “rep” and “set.” A rep describes the complete act of raising and lowering a weight during a single act of exercise. A set describes the number of times a particular rep is performed. For example, when a person does five reps of a squat, they squat down and stand up five times, continuously, before stopping and either moving on to another exercise or finishing their workout. Those five squats would equal one set. A balanced weight-training session will include several sets of different exercises.

more advanced weight-training method would be to perform exercises doing only 6 or fewer reps, per exercise. This would make the time under tension very short and primarily train your nervous system, which would allow you to gain strength without building much muscle. This technique should be done using the maximal weight you can lift with without losing perfect form for no more than 6 repetitions. Doing more than 6 reps allows for greater muscle development, presumably something women generally do not want to achieve. Since you don’t want big, bulky muscles, simply keep your reps to 6 or fewer.

Another method that has been around for a long time is performing as many repetitions as possible, with the idea of toning your muscles.  Well, like a lot of under informed ideas, this concept is a bunch of hogwash. True, you will build stamina and endurance within a muscle through multiple repetitions, but it the work will not shape or tone your muscles. If your goal is to build stamina without gaining muscle mass, perform anywhere from 15 to 30-plus repetitions of a single exercise. Only perform more repetitions if you feel it will specifically benefit your life’s activities.

These two solid principles will help you benefit from weight training without bulking up. Though, like I said at the beginning, chances are that no matter how much weight you lift, you will never have the problem of building too much muscle mass. It is always possible for you to gain fat, and with it a little additional muscle, so you will feel bigger. But remember, that is the mostly the effect of the fat, and I guarantee that once you lose the fat, you also will lose the feeling of bulkiness.

Ladies, I encourage you: Let go of your preconceived ideas about weight training. Do not fear it. Embrace your weightlifting potential! You will benefit so much more from it than from spending hours on that piece of cardio equipment.