We all have the ability to turn a self-portrait into a masterpiece

As a fitness professional, I am all too familiar with the popular misconception among the female population that lifting weights makes women ‘bulky’. I’m sure you’ve heard a friend say, or have said yourself, “I want to lose weight and tone up but I don’t want to lift weights because they’ll make me look manly”. You may have even believed such statements but I am here to bust the myth!

Girls, it’s impossible to ‘tone up’ and get the bikini-body you desire without building lean muscle…and lean muscle doesn’t just appear overnight, although I wish it were that easy! You can’t just pick up a pair of dumbbells one day and turn into The Incredible Hulk the next. Muscle definition and growth takes years of heavy lifting, facilitated by a structured training program. As a figure athlete I know this first-hand – I train consistently and lift heavy weights while ensuring I feed my body with correct nutrients, tailored to my specific goals. I’ve been weight training as a serious competitor for about four years now and like to think I haven’t turned into The Incredible Hulk.

The fact is us women cannot, and do not, naturally produce as much testosterone as our male counterparts. Testosterone, the male sex hormone, is primarily responsible for building muscle – so keep this in mind next time you doubt those dumbbells!


When women consider their ideal physique and compare what they do – and don’t – want to look like, they tend to shun images of professional female body-builders that are posted on Facebook and Instagram. There are many contributing factors that enable a woman to achieve such a high amount of muscularity in order to compete as a body-builder. Diet, carbohydrate/water manipulation and even performance-enhancing drugs play a part in enabling a woman to gain size (I am proudly 100 per cent natural and do not take drugs, however many athletes out there do).

Believe me; women don’t bulk up ‘by accident’. Being lean and shredded is usually not maintainable year-round, I can personally vouch for that. As women, our bodies prefer to store a reasonable amount of body fat for our hormones to function normally. To give you an example, my stage weight is about five kilos lighter than my off-season weight. Therefore when I have a break from competing and my body fat resumes to a normal level, my muscularity doesn’t look quite as noticeable.

To all the cardio queens out there who spend hours pounding the treadmill and spinning circles in RPM classes – if you want a super tight, banging body you won’t get it doing hours of cardio. The only way to tone up is to incorporate weight training into your fitness routine. There are so many benefits for women to gain from lifting so don’t be afraid to ‘pump some iron’.

Here are a few reasons to lift to achieve the body you want:

  • Weight lifting and building lean muscle mass can visibly reduce cellulite (in conjunction with a healthy diet).
  • Building muscle speeds up your metabolic rate which in turn helps your body burn unwanted body fat. Put it this way, wouldn’t you love to have a super-fast metabolism that burns fat even at rest? Lean muscle can help you do this. How amazing is that!
  • As we get older, particularly during and post menopause, our bone mineral density (mass) decreases. Lifting weights helps slow this process, strengthens your bones and provides better support for your joints.
  • Intensive weight training increases serotonin – the feel good hormone. So there’s no need to reach for a chocolate bar for a dose of the happy hormone – reach for the ‘bar’ instead!

I always advise my clients to get a check-up from their doctor before embarking on any kind of physical activity program, especially weight training. It’s also a good idea to enlist the help of a qualified personal trainer (PT) at the start of your new fitness regime to ensure you’re lifting with correct form.

While the weights room can be somewhat daunting for women at first, don’t let fear stop you from achieving the body you want. Grab a friend and tackle it together, before you know it that initial feeling of intimidation and trepidation will pass. When starting out, I’d suggest booking a one-on-one session with a PT at your gym who can introduce you to the equipment and show you how to use it.

I’ll leave you with my final thoughts on weight training, which essentially sums up why I’m so passionately in love with lifting.

‘Your body is the canvas, weights are your brush and nutrition is your paint – we all have the ability to turn a self-portrait into a masterpiece.’

Sarah Davis

Sarah Davis


Bachelor of Exercise Science – Griffith University

Cert 3 and 4 Master Trainer – Australian Institute of Fitness

Sporting Achievements

WNBF (World Natural Body Building Federation) Pro Figure Athlete

2012 International Natural Bodybuilding Federation – Open Figure World Champion

2011 International Natural Body Building Federation – Natural Universe Overall Sport Model Champion

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