But weights will make me bulky, won’t they?


The effects of lifting weights are often misunderstood. There is almost this incredible dichotomy that exists between those who are desperate to get bigger from lifting weights and see no results to those looking to drop fat and get fitter who are scared that the first bicep curl will result in them looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger!  The reality, as always, is very much different…

The benefits of weight training

I am a big believer in weight training having many benefits for the mind and body – I personally have participated in different forms of weight training since the age of 18.  At a generic level, before we address gender specifics, weight training can help to:

  • Build Muscle.   By building muscle we can change the composition of our body and promote more muscle mass vs fat mass on our body.
  • Improve bone density
  • Improves your overall confidence level and comfort with your appearance.
  • Increases your overall physical capacity which can make a big difference in day to day life, whether that’s commuting, lifting, working or for sports you play.
  • Improve motor performance and lessen the risk of injury in day to day life

Nutrition is key

Just going into the gym and lifting a weight won’t make you bulky or mean you build muscle.  You may get some ‘beginner gains’ or ‘tone up’ but you won’t be building more muscle mass. A key part of building muscle or ‘bulking’ is being in a calorie surplus i.e. ensuring your calorie intake EXCEEDS your calorie output (the amount of calories you burn in a day).  Protein intake, food timing and a weight training regime using progressive overload also need to be in place to build more muscle.  If you are in a calorie deficit i.e. your calorie intake IS LESS THAN your calorie output, or at calorie maintenance, no matter how many weights you lift, you won’t increase size and weight.  You can however significantly change your body shape, tone up, gain strength and fitness but you won’t bulk.

If I do want to bulk – is it the same for men and women?

Well, if you’re looking you’re looking to increase size and muscle, then yes, essentially both men and women should follow the same principle of lifting weights to progressive overload and move their body into a 10-20% calorie surplus. Where the difference arrives is the outputs. Men and women will achieve slightly different outcomes with their appearance due to the lower testosterone levels present in the female body. This makes it harder to add ‘bulk’ to the body and can result in lean muscle adding a new composition to the body which can promote a very healthy and strong physique, if the nutrition is on point.


In summary, the benefits to lifting weights are comprehensive and it is vital for individuals looking to add shape and composition to their frames whilst increasing physical performance and strength.  By lifting weights you aren’t going to get bulky unless you are overeating, and even if you are, this is even harder for women due to testosterone levels.  Stop panicking that weights will make you ‘bulky’ and start enjoying the benefits!!

 Photo credit: iStock.com/milanvirijevic
All views are my own.