6 Weight Lifting Exercises for Women to Get Lean Without Bulking Up

No, you do not bulk up when you lift weights! Strength and conditioning coach Swapneel Hazare shares how you can use dumbbells or kettlebells to get lean, strong and in-shape! 

6 Weight Lifting Exercises for Women to Get Lean Without Bulking Up

Do weights make you bulk up?

Women often come across unsolicited advice in their gym such as 'Don’t lift weights or else you will end by looking like a muscular man'. It is a popular belief that women will bulk up if they lift weights. Another belief is that women are physically the “weaker” sex and hence it is not advisable for them to lift weights like a strong man. Umm...here is the real deal:

Expert Speak:

Swapneel Hazare, strength and conditioning coach, founder of Shield Fitness says, "Women’s bodies have about 20 per cent less testosterone and human growth hormone (both vital in muscle building) as compared to men. This prevents women from bulking up like men even if they are into heavy weightlifting."

He adds, "In today’s fitness industry varied, well-structured and customised methods of training are devised for women that include weight training which not only helps women to get physically stronger but mentally as well. Moreover, in the long run, lifting weights regularly will keep bone diseases like osteoporosis at bay." So, here are some weighted exercises to begin your fitness journey:


Simple to perform yet a complex movement for the human body. Squats target your quads and activate your core along with just about every muscle in your lower body including glutes, hamstrings and calves. Exercises/Variations are goblet squats, barbell back squats/front squats, barbell overhead squats and jump squats.


A functional movement lunges focus on balance and stability as your body is always in an unbalanced position with one foot ahead of the other. Muscles targeted during lunges are glutes, quads, core, hamstrings and calves. Exercises/Variations are Static and dynamic lunges (using dumbbells), Unilateral and bilateral lunges, Goblet lunges, Barbell lunge, Bulgarian split squats, step-ups (using dumbbells), overhead lunges and plyometric lunges.


A vital movement to get a well-defined back, and firm up those biceps and forearms. This movement consists of pulling a weight either vertically or horizontally towards your body. Exercises/Variations are pull-ups, dumbbell/barbell curls, hamstring curls, cable wood chops and seated rows.


This movement brings about visible aesthetic changes faster than any other movement pattern. It involves pushing a weight away from the body either horizontally or vertically. The major muscles targeted are chest, triceps and anterior shoulder. Exercises/Variations are dumbbells/barbell chest press, dumbbell/barbell shoulder press, tricep pushdown and push-ups.


A challenging movement, it could lead to injury if done incorrectly. This movement targets the biggest and strongest muscles – glutes. Well defined glutes give great shape to a woman’s body and are key to fixing a bad posture. Exercises/Variations are dumbbell/barbell deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts and all types of hip bridging movements.


This rhythmic controlled movement pattern helps you attain a narrow and firmer waist, strengthen your core and increase the stability of your spine. Exercises/Variations are Pallof press, Russian twist, wood chops, horizontal and vertical medicine ball throws and windmills.