<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://ct.pinterest.com/v3/?tid=f4de1632775725aa6fdc3fb6c132e778&amp;event=init&amp;noscript=1">
Fitness, Resistance Training

Will Lifting Weights Make Women Look Bulky?

By Joe Talarico on Jan 14, 2021 9:00:00 AM
6 Minutes Reading Time


The fitness industry has spent years and years marketing fitness to women as doing everything the opposite of men. They developed places for just women to go like Curves, or told women that aerobics classes were better than trying to get bulky in the gym. The reality is none of this holds true, and it was all horrible advice that gave women the complete wrong idea about what lifting weights actually does. They built the fear of being “too big”.

Tone Means Muscle

I don’t think I’ve ever really had a female client come to me who was dieting down say anything other than “I want to look tone”. Let’s break that down. What does being “tone” mean? Usually (for women) that's definition in the arms, small waist, shaped legs, and a firm butt. What do all of these have in common? They involved BUILDING muscle in order to achieve it. If you felt you had a pancake butt and wanted it to firm up, isn’t that just adding more size to round it out? I used to show my clients pictures of my friend who did Miss America beauty pageants. Surely these women would never lift heavy to get that bikini and feminine physique they need to win right? Wrong. This woman’s main focus in her workouts were heavy deadlifts and squats. She wasn’t afraid to push it in the gym. Yet she blew away all my female clients' expectations of what a woman’s body should look like who did that.

The reality is even if you COULD put on muscle too fast, you wouldn’t just wake up one day too bulky. It would still take weeks to add it on, in which case you could just switch your program to maintenance once you hit the size you liked. Think about all the bro’s in the gym who will spend their ENTIRE lifting career trying to get “too big”. And yet, few will achieve it.

Build Up The Metabolism

One of the problems with focusing only on cardio is, while it burns a lot of calories in the session, it won’t shape your muscles. You need progressive resistance to build the kind of shape that produces a tone look. Also, as your body adjusts to doing more and more cardio, it actually becomes MORE efficient with preserving fat. Yup. From a survival standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to let your body keep burning through calories the more you keep throwing a running stimulus at it. It will eventually work to slow down the metabolism and make you efficient. That’s why marathon runners have such slow heart rates.

Lifting on the other hand, will get your body to burn MORE calories at rest. Doesn’t that sound nice? It’s calorically expensive to keep and maintain muscle. Every time, you give the stimulus of a resistance training workout you send a signal to your body to use up energy to preserve or grow bigger muscles, so that the stimulus being placed (the heavy weight) becomes easier.

How Should Women Start Lifting?

If you still feel intimidated by the process, start small. You don’t need to be in there 5 days a week like all the bodybuilders. Two to three days a week is all you need. By working out that frequent, you send the proper signal to build muscle, shape it, and boost your metabolism. 

Here’s how I’ve found new female clients respond to these sessions. The first couple weeks they notice feeling stronger (even at home moving things). After that, they start to feel firmer. Things start to give a tighter look you can’t really explain. Then they notice their appetite goes up because their metabolism has now revved up to try and keep up with the lifting demands you’ve placed. This is perfect. It means you are in a great zone for noticing your body to start taking shape in the mirror.

Ignore The Scale

Yes, the scale can eventually be a metric we used to hit very specific goals. For now, don’t worry about it. The reason being, this is a new stimulus and demand placed on your body. With your metabolism being revved up, there’s a highly likely chance your weight won’t move at all. All that means is you are in the exact sweet spot we want you in where you are burning fat and adding muscle. This does of course assume you are eating mostly whole foods, and minimally processed foods and nourishing your body with quality foods. I’ve had a lot of clients tell me that their scale looks the same but their husband says they look like they’ve lost weight. That’s perfect. That means you’ve been doing everything correctly.

Wrapping It Up

If you still aren’t convinced, I ask you to do a challenge. For just 30 days, try a resistance training program for 2-3 days a week, progressively pushing heavier weights and/or reps. Eat good quality food, and make sure you are pushing yourself appropriately. See if after those 30 days, if you think you look too bulky. You may just be surprised at what kind of transformation your body ends up having.

And if you need help with a 2-3 day a week workout plan, make sure to check out our MAPS Anabolic, or MAPS Aesthetic programs to provide you with a sound, periodized program that will tell you exactly what to do.

Flat Tummy Guide | Mind Pump 

FREE Flat Tummy Guide


Free Resources

Everything You Need to Know to Reach Your Fitness Goals

Learn More

Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

Read more from the Mind Pump Blog

Have a question for us?

Feel free to send us an inquiry and allow up to 24 hours for a response.

Contact Us