For years now people have claimed that the way to get big and "bulky" is to lift heavy weights, therefore a woman should not lift heavy but instead lift light weights many, many times. This is why so many women are scared to lift heavier weights for less reps. The issue here is that majority of women want a "toned" look. Well that "toneness" comes from muscle. You have to have muscle to have shape. And to build muscle, or even maintain muscle, you need to lift heavier weights to create a stimulus to the muscle. However, with a fear of getting manly, women usually won't do this. This is the thing though: there are two things that these women are missing that prevents them from getting "big". One being large amounts of testosterone and the second being a high calorie diet. Therefore, the larger muscle recruitment from lifting heavy weight will burn more calories as well as develop some shape and "tone", which is exactly what most women are looking for.
In the New York Times this week an article was published addressing just this. It explained what many of us strength coaches/trainers have been trying to preach over the past years, that lifting heavy weights will have better results than endless hours of cardio and pink dumbbells. Try doings sets of 6-8 reps with a challenging weight for a little while and see the changes that occur. Not only will body composition improve, but you will be a lot more functional for daily life, whether it be as a mother, a worker, or a weekend athlete.
Get away from the normal thoughts of female training and avoid the group fitness classes and get in a squat rack and move around some heavy weights. You won't get manly and big (unless you are taking something) but instead you will see some results you have been waiting for for years.
Juliet Deane...she is a powerlifter, who lifts heavy weights as you can see. She is not what I would call manly by any means.