Will Lifting Weights Make Me Bulky?
Will lifting weights make you bulky? The short answer is no. But the actual answer is “that depends on your program.”
If you lift heavy weights more than five hours a week and eat a lot, like 4000 calories a day, then yes, you will get bulky from gaining muscle and fat. Olympic power athletes eat and train this way as is the requirement for their sport, and as such, they are bigger than most women. Below is a photo of women who lift heavy weights, yet they all look different. That’s due to genetics, nutrition, and their overall training.
Most of my (non-athlete) clients want to lose fat. So I put them on fat loss programs that include proper nutrition, lifting weights, cardio, and I manage things like food intolerances.
Here’s a fun fact: If you do not lift weights, you have about a 1% chance of maintaining the weight you lost. Why? It’s complicated but it has to do with our hypothalamus, appetite hormones, fat cells, and metabolism.
To sustain fat loss we need to increase our baseline metabolism, and the only way to do that is by lifting weights.
My videos on metabolism explain more, if you’re interested.
If the human body had a user manual, the chapter on body composition would read something like this:
Body Composition Trouble-Shooting Guide:
I’ve lost weight on the scale but I still feel soft and flabby.
Reason: You dieted too hard and didn’t lift weights. You may have done too much cardio. You lost fat and your muscles shrank. Not only are you not “toned” right now, but your baseline metabolism is lower so you’re going to regain the fat you lost, plus more fat …unless that is, you start resistance training!
Fix: Lift heavy weights for a total of 3-4 hours a week. If you want to do cardio make it short bursts of fast movement, with short rests. Also be sure to eat protein every time you eat.
I’m lifting weights like you say, and I’m really strong, but I’m getting bigger and bigger.
Reason: Correct training but you are eating too much. The bulk you’re putting on is muscle AND fat. The good news is your metabolism is super jacked!
Fix: Keep training the way you are. Radically improve your nutrition to go from gaining fat to losing fat. Try to eat less per meal. Eat 5-10 cups of light vegetables per day.
I lift and eat right, and I’ve lost 2-3 dress sizes, but lost only a few pounds on the scale.
Reason: First of all, congratulations! You gained muscle and lost fat! Your body fat percentage went from 30%-50% to 15%-25%. You weigh the same but are smaller because muscle weighs more than fat.
Fix: Throw scale in garbage.
I’m really lean but I think I look too muscular.
Reason: You got really fit, gained a bit of lean tissue (muscle), and lost a lot of fat.
Fix. Reduce the number of times per week you lift weights. Be careful though because you won’t be able to tolerate as many calories as you do now. In a few your muslces will look less defined.
I can lose fat but then it just comes back later.
Reason: You aren’t lifting enough weights and/or you are yo-yo dieting.
Fix Part 1: Lift weights 3-5x a week, progressively (which means you should be getting stronger each month, especially in the first year). See those little pink weights? Throw those in the garbage. See those huge weights? The ones the guys are lifting? Go lift those.
If you think a 45 lb plate is too heavy, don’t ever lift children, or you might accidentally get stronger and leaner.
You can still do cardio.
Fix Part 2: Regarding yo-yo dieting, don’t diet as hard. Instead, be more consistent with healthy eating (see Kyle, the Toronto Nutritionist!).
I’m lifting weights and eating right but my body isn’t changing.
Reason: Don’t judge your own body composition because humans are unable to do this. Get your body composition measured by a professional.
If you get it measured properly, and you’re not getting the results you want, this could be a lot of things.
Fix: lift heavy, eat protein and veggies with each meal. Get help from Kyle
I hurt myself lifting weights.
Reason: your form was incorrect. Common mistakes are core not engaged, spine out of neutral position, or shoulders up by ears. Or you went too heavy before you were ready. Strength is a skill.
Fix Part 1: See an FCAMPT level physiotherapist to fix the injury.
Fix Part 2: Do a few personal training sessions with a qualified trainer who has a degree in kinesiology or at least courses in anatomy like Toronto Trainer Kyle Byron or someone from his team. Learn the proper form and go back to training on your own.
To sum things up, resistance training (lifting weights):
- Is a skill that has to be developed
- Makes you strong, lean, and healthy
- Is essential for maintaining fat losses
Thank you for reading.