Question: "I'm interested in strength training but worried it will make me "bulky". Should I be concerned?"
Christian Agudelo, ACSM - CPT
There are many misconceptions of strength training in regards to overall appearance. Many individuals are hesitant to strength train because they don’t want that “body builder” look or they don’t want to feel like they are getting “bulky”. For the average person who is resistance training 2-3x per week they typically will not get “bulky” because they are not training at the level of a true body builder, nor do they have a body builder mentality. It takes an extreme amount of effort for an individual to gain a significant amount of mass. Not only would you have to increase your weight training to 5-6 days a week of muscle specific weight training, you would also have to increase your calorie intake above normal ranges. Your fat, protein and carbs would see a dramatic increase that is only sustainable if muscle mass is your primary goal. Not to mention an increase in testosterone levels is also needed to see significant bulk (which women do not have). A typical 2-3x per week strength training program which is customized to the individual will help in burning fat and increase lean muscle. Because you are lifting weights your body will pump necessary blood to those areas and you may feel those muscles pumped up and swollen for a short period. However this does not indicate that this will cause any unwanted bulk. In many cases complementing a customized cardio program to your strength program will also help to prevent any chance of gaining too much muscle mass if your body is genetically predisposed to rapid muscle gains.
Earvin Bahena, NSCA - CSCS
The biggest misunderstanding for woman when it comes to strength training is that it will make them “bulky”. When you strength train, there are a variety of ways to train and workout your body to get different results. In order to gain weight or obtain the “bulky” look, you need to change several variables to do so. The amount of calories you intake must change, your frequency of workouts per week and so forth in order to see these results. Most women do not have the same physiological means (ex: enough testosterone) to achieve that bulk look as quickly as men can. Most women who do have that look are professionals and treat working out as a job and want to look the way they are. You can lift weights and increase your lean muscle mass and tone your body and still be stronger than ever without looking bulky.