Have you ever heard someone say “I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want big muscles”? Probably, because it’s a very common concern for women specifically, but the best way to lose body fat is to lift weights.
We want to dispel the myth that weight lifting will not make you bulky and that you will not gain large amounts of muscle by lifting weights. These two very common misconceptions hold women back from achieving the physique they want.
How do you grow muscle?
Muscle growth is based on three basic factors: genetics, gender and training intensity. Genetics determine your muscle fiber type, fast-twitch versus slow-twitch. Your gender determines the amounts of testosterone and other sex hormones that influence protein metabolism. Specifically, females will always experience less muscle growth compared to males because males naturally have more testosterone. And finally, training intensity, which is the only factor that can truly be controlled.
Most people, not just women, do not train consistently enough or with enough intensity to make their muscles grow to become “bulky,” and if a woman did start weight training it would take years to put on multiple pounds of solid muscle. Typically, what happens when women begin seriously weight training is they start to lose fat, and when fat is lost it is easier to see muscle definition that was likely already present and is now pumped up (transient hypertrophy a.k.a. ‘the pump’).
Women start to notice this in themselves and think they are becoming bulky, which again, is likely not true based on science and physiology.
Will gaining muscles make me look bigger?
In the same line of thinking, many women say they don’t want to train their legs because they don’t want their legs to get any bigger. Muscle is denser than fat meaning it takes up less room so by training legs (or any muscle group) muscle will begin to replace fat at a gradual pace which can effectively make legs smaller.
A common reason women think their legs are getting bigger with weight training is because the lower body is typically the last place fat is shed and therefore begins to look and feel larger compared to the upper body, where fat typically comes off first.
Another common concern is putting on 5-10lbs of muscle in a couple months but that is almost impossible, especially for the average gym-goer. We all have a genetic endpoint in our ability to grow muscle (which is why people use steroids) so you have to remember that you aren’t going to keep adding mass forever and you definitely cannot add straight muscle mass in such a short amount of time.
The longer an individual trains, the closer they get to their natural genetic endpoint, and the more specific they need to get with their training and nutrition to keep making progress.
Also, the week-by-week progress of a conditioned athlete is going to be much smaller than it was when they first started out, so the idea that an individual can naturally continue to add on 5-10lbs of solid muscle mass in just a couple months is completely false.
It is reasonable to say that with a consistent and specifically designed weight training program an individual could put on 1-2lbs of muscle in about a one year period. If you are a bodybuilder dedicated to a bulk, living and breathing muscle gains you might be able to double that.
In summary, you will not get bulky from lifting weights, but instead, with consistency in nutrition and a training program you will lose body fat, gain strength, and likely be on the road to achieving the physique you desire.
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