Given the rise in the number of ladies in the weights area of most gyms, you would think this was a myth that was no longer necessary to explain. But, it remains one of the most popular misconceptions in fitness, especially from women.

Not lifting weights due to not wanting to get bulky is an excuse that I have heard for as long as I can remember. But, within the bubble of owning a gym and talking, predominantly to people who do work out in some capacity, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that their views are not the norm and that there are still a huge number of people who believe that lifting weights will make you bulky.

This isn’t just women though, many men use that as a reason to avoid weights or, at least, to avoid lifting heavy.

And whilst there are more factors making it borderline impossible to be true for me, it is still the case that lifting weights does not make you big. Well, not on its own.

There are several reasons why lifting weights will not make you bulky on its own.

Here are just a few.

Have you also bulked up your eating?

Lifting weights does not build anything. What it does is tear your muscles (micro-trauma) in a way that your body responds by wanting to protect itself from such trauma again in the future.

Therefore, through the recovery process, your body tries to strengthen the fibers of the muscles to allow them to go through the routine you just put them through without getting damaged.

However, this all happens during the repair process.

If you haven’t given your body the fuel to correctly and efficiently repair itself, then it doesn’t have the materials to do the job.

But, even if you have given sufficient nutritional input to do the repair job, if you are going to add mass to those muscles during that period, you need an excess of energy to draw from.

Assuming you were consuming an amount that had your weight staying around the same level beforehand. This process is using additional energy, so you are more likely to lose weight (and because you have forced your body to look after its muscles, you are more likely to burn fat).

To add mass, you need to be consuming more calories than you need to just get by during your usual day and recover from the workout. There must be something left over to add mass.

Therefore, lifting weights cannot make you bulky without the addition of additional caloric intake.

Do you have an abundance of testosterone?

For women, 95% of the time the answer is no.

You are just not genetically built that way.

And even if you do have higher than usual levels of testosterone than most women, you will still be more estrogen fueled than testosterone.

Testosterone is useful for both genders in that it is a useful fat burning hormone. But, men are born with much more of it than women and it is required to build that bulk that most women are afraid of.

Even some men are low in their T levels to a point where muscle building is excruciatingly difficult.

This is particularly true of older males.

Once you pass your late teens/ early twenties, if you haven’t been encouraging that hormone to stick around; you’ve been loading your diet with alcohol or sugar based products and you haven’t been giving your body a reason to hang on to your muscle tissue; chances are you’ve had a significant drop in your testosterone levels.

The general vision most women have of the physique the are looking to avoid comes from female bodybuilders and in most cases those bodybuilders are utilizing steroids and growth hormone injections to give them the testosterone required to make the gains in mass required to reach competition level (in untested arenas).

But, if you are not injecting testosterone, you are female, or you are a man who happens to have lower testosterone levels, lifting weights will not make you bulky.

Adding muscle is not easy!

The way most people describe it, when adverse to the bulk, you would be forgiven for thinking that one session lifting weights and you wake up the next morning looking like the hulk.

No matter who you are, what you eat or how much testosterone you have, it is a slow, methodical process adding muscle.

The people that grace magazines or enter high profile bodybuilding competitions, have generally been working on their growth and development, not just for years, but for over a decade in most cases.

Even if someone followed a plan to Squat Every Day for a month, the changes achieved may be noticeable, but smaller than you would likely expect.

So, to say that you don’t want to lift weights because you don’t want to get bulky is actually quite insulting to the people who do work extremely hard to achieve just that.

I have come across women (in particular) over the years who are convinced they are getting bigger. Their thighs are doubling in size or their back is suddenly huge.

The usual measuring stick for that is their clothes are tighter in those areas.

Keep in mind, muscle is hard and dense, fat is soft and pliable. If we are talking about clothes that feel restrictive, chances are they were fairly fitted in the first place (no one is going to be complaining about feeling tight in a baggy jumper that is 5 sizes too big for them, but they wear for comfort in the winter). Therefore, where certain body parts may have felt more maneuverable before within those clothes, now they are causing pressure.

This is generally not because they are bigger overall. It is simply that they have burned off a little fat and gained a little muscle. Or, if their diet hasn’t been great, they may have added a little muscle density without burning off much of the fat. The difference in size is usually miniscule, if you measure it, but it feels huge because the composition is so different.

Lifting weights does not make you bulky. It is a slow process and if you feel it is going in any way too far, you can change your approach, or if you so desire, stop.

If you are trying to tone up, you WANT to add muscle

I’ve already covered this in my article What’s the best way to tone up? However, briefly, when someone says they want to tone up, get leaner or look more athletic (but they don’t want to get bulky) what they generally mean is, they want to look shapely with fewer wobbly bits.

The bits that wobble is fat, so that’s what they want less of.

However, the bits that are hard giving the shape you are looking for is muscle.

Skinny with exposed rib cages and collar bones protruding may work in Millan or Paris during their fashion weeks, but as the clothes displayed on those catwalks are rarely ‘day to day’ wear, neither are the physiques sporting them.

People tend to want ‘shapely’ arms, sculpted mid sections, and a proportion to their physiques that not only looks good, but is functional, feels good and radiates the energy they are feeling.

Without adding muscle that can then be uncovered, you can’t have that shape.

However, that does not mean adding bulk, it simply means adding shape to the areas of your choosing. And that is exactly what a well-developed training programme is there to achieve.

So, lifting weights does not make you bulky, it allows you to shape your body in the direction of your choosing.

It’s a lazy excuse

Often, even with all this information, and more if needed, there are people who will still fight against it. However, the bottom line is, that person just doesn’t WANT to do the work. They are choosing not to take part in resistance based training because it is hard work. But, rather than admit that, they would rather find an excuse that puts them in control. Because, they do actually want the results that training would bring, they just don’t want to do the training to achieve it.

I’ve have MANY female clients over the years tell me that they have been out with friends after training for a while and those friends will ask them, “how do you get in such great shape?”. However, once they are told that they go to the gym and lift weights they get a dismissive frown or possibly the reply of, “oh, I don’t want to get bulky”.

I mean seriously!

They clearly liked the changes this person has made and yet, when given the ‘secret’ they say they don’t want the result they BELIEVE it will bring, despite the fact that there is evidence sitting right in front of them showing their beliefs are incorrect.

The bottom line is, some people don’t want the truth.

However, those people probably stopped reading after the first paragraph.

But, for those who have continued to be misinformed up until now, I hope this has helped you realise the error in that thinking.

Whether you choose to go and start utilising resistance training is entirely up to you. But, if you are doing it through an informed choice rather than inaccurate information, that is a much better path to be following.

This is all part of getting the right mindset to tackle the problem in front of you. And the mind is generally the biggest obstacle to be overcome in trying to make a change.

So, if you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, click here and download your free guide to getting your head in the right place for making the changes that you have been dreaming of.

Weights Make You Bulky
Myths Demystified by Mark Tiffney

So, where are you on this scale?

Are you someone who wants to get bigger and finds it a struggle?

Have you been avoiding the weights room until now?

And has this, in that case, helped sway you to give it a go?

I’d love to know in the comments below.

And if you missed the last myth demystified – check out the sit-ups for a flatter tummy myth here.

Until next time, have an amazing week & lift something heavy.