Whenever I ask a female client about her fitness goals, the answer is pretty much always the same. "I want to lose weight and tone up. I don't want to lift heavy or too much because I don't want to bulk up". Well, I'm here to bust that myth.
Women bulking up and looking like a female version of the incredible hulk is an extremely difficult process. It doesn't happen just by walking into the gym a few times a week and lifting a little. Like most body composition changes, be it fat loss or muscle gain, it comes down to genetics. Some people are just plain lucky. Along with that, it takes a major commitment of time (typically 3 or more hours a day) in the gym lifting with a very specific routine, but also a huge commitment in diet and very strict nutrition. It takes an incredible amount of calories, more than most people can consume in any given day, to allow for hypertrophy (muscle gain). Along with genetics, many hours in the gym, specific lifting routines catered to volume and specific nutritional guidelines, it takes testosterone.
Plain and simple, women just don't have what it takes biochemically to bulk up. Estrogen does nothing for increasing muscle size. The women body builders who scare the rest of the (uninformed) female population out of the gym are taking steroids. Regardless if they admit it or not.
The benefits of lifting are so numerous, that the "chance" of bulking up is overshadowed by results of increased metabolism, bone density and better health and wellness. In all of my years of sports and personal training, I have yet to witness a women bulk up by chance. Or, bulk up easily. Between the goals of body fat loss and muscle gain, losing fat is easy. Way easy. Gaining weight, specifically muscle, takes so much more time and effort. It doesn't "just happen" to your typical gym goer.
So women, lift! And lift heavy! You will absolutely NOT bulk up. You will look awesome. Fit, lean, healthy and strong.