does lifting weights make you bulky?

I don’t want to lift weights because I’ll get too bulky, is like saying I don’t want to go for a swim, because I’ll become Michael Phelps. Just because you lift weights a few days a week, does not mean you’re going to become a bodybuilder. Gaining “bulk” in the traditional sense, is no easy task and requires dedication, consistency, a strict exercise program, religious meal planning, and stick-to-itiveness. Resistance training (lifting weights) is the best form of exercise, to help boost your metabolism, burn body fat, gain strength, and yes gain maybe some muscle mass.

You’ve Gotta Eat Bulky To Be Bulky 

Let me take a guess. You probably jump on the treadmill 3-4 times per week, knockout hot yoga classes, or spin every morning at 5 AM before you hit the office and start your day? Am I right? The reason why most women don’t lift weights is because they think they’ll gain too much lean muscle mass, otherwise known as “bulk.” But the fact of the matter is, lifting weights will not turn you into hulk anytime soon. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Lifting weights will help you burn more calories at rest, which means you’ll burn more body fat, tighten your core, fix your posture, and even give you the tone in the places you want the most. In order to get bulky, you need to eat more calories and supply your body more fuel, in order to create more mass. Just because you pick up a dumbbell does not mean you’re going to get jacked. Nutrition is the only way to efficiently initiate the building and rebuilding process of lean muscle mass. You’re actually, “building” outside of the gym, through your post-workout nutrition. If you’re not eating to get big, meaning adding at least 400-600 extra calories per day, to gain more muscle mass, you’re not going to gain any bulk.

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A recent study illustrated that a calorie-restricted diet, through eating low carbs, combined with resistance training resulted in weight loss, body fat loss, with improvements in strength and no change to muscle mass. This study proves, that if you keep your calories to a minimum, resistance training will help you get stronger and more toned, without the bulk [R

The Benefits Of Lifting Weights For Women 

Burn More Body Fat, Calories, & Increase Metabolism 

Lifting weights will increase your basal metabolic rate. What does that mean? It means that the more lean muscle mass you have, the faster and more efficiently your metabolism will be, which will help you burn more calories. As compared to steady-state cardio (running on the treadmill, or spin) you’ll continue to burn more calories after your workout, through a process called exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC). You see, after you lift, your body needs more oxygen to rebuild and repair the lean muscle mass. When you work out, you’re actually creating small micro-tears and mini traumas to your muscle tissue. Through this process, more lean muscle mass is built. However, your body needs additional resources to repair those micro-tears and continues to work long after you hit the squat rack.

RELATED ARTICLE Why Women Should Lift Heavier Weights

Increase Strength

The only way you’re going to get stronger is through resistance training. No one, ever, got stronger by gardening and walking their dog. Sure, that’s a great way to stay active, but staying active isn’t helping you lose weight, or getting you closer to your goals any quicker. By incorporating resistance training into your weekly regimen a few times a week, you’re not going to get bulky, you’re going to get stronger, which can help in every aspect of your life.

Reduce Stress & Improve Mood 

Lifting weights will naturally release neurochemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin which are proven to help improve mood state and overall well-being, by effectively reducing stress. Additionally, you’ll have more natural energy during and after your workout.

Tone Up

The only way to tone your body is through bodyweight exercises or resistance training. Lifting weights can help you shape and mold your curves exactly how you want them. Performing endless amounts of cardio will help keep your endurance in check and make you sweat, but it will never give you true tone or definition. 

RELATED ARTICLE The Skinny On Why You're Skinny Fat

Reduce Aches & Pains 

Pain is a result of natural imbalances that form in the body, which are caused by underlying weakness and over-compensation due to poor posture. A systematic review investigated the effects of resistance training on pain levels. From the review six randomized controlled trials were identified, that included participants of women aged 18-65. The studies found that pain significantly decreased in all resistance training groups, for those that reported symptoms of pain before initiating the study. Pain reduction was also seen in women, who had active and physical jobs, and those who were sedentary in the workplace.  

Builds Stronger Bones

Women are genetically predisposed to a greater risk of contracting osteoporosis than men. Lifting weights, can help increase bone density, which will improve balance, flexibility, and posture which is crucial as you age. In order for bone remodeling to occur, there must be a mechanical and physical stressor on the bone tissue. 

Will You Gut Bulky From Lifting Weights? Takeaway

Lifting weights, will not make you bulky, unless you increase your calorie consumption, and start eating to complement your exercise program, in order to build lean muscle mass. Resistance training will actually help you lose body fat and give your body the tone you want, how you want it. The easiest way to get bulky is by not doing anything at all.

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Layne, J. E., & Nelson, M. E. (1999). The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a reviewMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise31(1), 25–30.

Meirelles, Claudia M, and Paulo S C Gomes. “Effects of Short-Term Carbohydrate Restrictive and Conventional Hypoenergetic Diets and Resistance Training on Strength Gains and Muscle Thickness.” Journal of sports science & medicine vol. 15,4 578-584. 1 Dec. 2016

Deutscher Ärzteverlag GmbH, Redaktion Deutsches Ärzteblatt. “Strength Training for Women as a Vehicle for Health Promotion at Work (30.06.2017).” Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 2017,

Layne, J E, and M E Nelson. “The Effects of Progressive Resistance Training on Bone Density: a Review.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 1999,

Gordon, Brett R., et al. “The Effects of Resistance Exercise Training on Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” SpringerLink, Springer, 17 Aug. 2017,

Westcott, W L. “Resistance Training Is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2012,

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