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I can’t lift heavy weights! No offence but, lifting weights is for meatheads! I want to look healthy and beautiful not bulky!!
As a Personal Trainer, this is something that we still hear on a regular basis. Someone comes into the gym wanting to get more tone and definition, or just lose weight, and as soon as we mention weight lifting or resistance training will be a big part of that, apprehension sets in. They picture themselves looking like some combination of the Incredible Hulk, an NFL linebacker, and a professional bodybuilder.
So, do people get bulky when they lift weights? Sure, but ONLY if they are willing to dedicate an enormous amount of time and energy to do it. For most people, getting bulky is not a concern, unless they are training and eating specifically to do so.


Let’s start by addressing the male population. Simply put, there are hundreds upon hundreds of guys working out in the gym doing everything they possibly can, 24 hours a day, to get more mass. And even under these extreme circumstances they can have limited success with this lofty and difficult goal. To get bulky takes a lot of time, dedication, and specific programming. Body composition change, tone, and definition happen first. You will not wake up one day, flick on the lights, and accomplish what literally takes people years of planning and hard work to accomplish! More realistically, after several months of hard work, you may achieve a level of muscle mass that is closer to the look you came here to obtain. After these initial gains, you would just switch your routine to maintain them.


If you are a female worrying about getting bulky, my first question would be, “can you grow a beard like the guys on the show Duck Dynasty?” If they answer is no, then you are not likely going to get bulky. And you especially are not likely to do it quickly. Why? You don’t have the same hormones in your body that a male does. In general, men have much more testosterone in their system than the average woman and testosterone is required to build any definable level of muscle observable with your clothes on. Unless a female is willing to pump themselves full of artificial testosterone (aka steroids) it will be much harder for them to gain any significant amount of muscle mass quickly.

The Exception

Everyone, whether they are male or female has heard about the exception to this. “I’ve lifted weights and gained weight and bulk in the first 3 weeks. Once I stopped, things went back to normal”. The qualifying question that needs to be asked in response to this testimonial is “In the hours after your resistance training sessions, I am certain you felt hungry – what did you eat after your workout?” When people start to lift weights intensely, their metabolism can spike by up to 30% immediately. If they are fueling the body properly then desired body composition changes usually occur (ie. they can burn fat and build muscle mass – NOTE: since muscle mass takes up less volume than an equivalent weight in fat, this normally leads to size reduction). However, if your daily post workout ritual consists of visiting Ben and Jerry’s to fill the void, then getting bulky might happen because of calorie consumption, water retention, and fat gain. What you fuel your post workout body with matters!!!

So what is the message? Don’t be scared to lift weights, even the heavy ones!!! Resistance training is going to be one of the 4 major requirements if you want to achieve your fitness goals (the other three being cardio, sleep and proper nutrition).

Darryl Marchuk
Regional Fitness Manager

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