Will Weights Make Me Bulky?
There is no correct answer to this question. Simply saying no and not explaining why they will not gain undesired muscle isn’t acceptable, but neither is saying yes without justifying your view. Usually the answer is heavily influenced by someone’s own experience or vested interests, and likely to be a reply tainted with subjectivity.
When I say ‘bulky’, I mean to gain muscle size. I will outright say training with weights will not make you gain fat, given bulky may mean fatter with more muscle mass to some people.
We feel that weight training can make you bulky, but will only likely do so when you are naturally athletic or stocky, and even then it needs to be teamed with (progressive) effective training and nutrition.
In our experience getting too bulky is a worry fostered mostly by women, who do not want to gain muscle size whilst using weights in order to improve their body shape. Usually most people are concerned that lifting heavy weights will make their thighs and shoulders bigger, and this is an absolutely expectable and acceptable fear given us guys and bodybuilders use weights to build up! This is also due to pressure from the media for women to have long thin legs, and a slender physique (which I can assure you is not what all men want).
However, women have naturally smaller frames and less muscle mass on average, even relative to men of a similar weight/size. This and the difference in hormone make up across genders makes building muscle a much, much harder and far slower process for women. Now consider how much time and effort some men put into building up, and the slow speed in which they achieve this goal (ignoring physique competitors that may be using bodybuilding drugs).
Essentially, (far) more often than not, weight training will not make you bulky as a woman. We feel that progressive (lifting heavier over time) weight training will actually increase the likelihood of achieving your dream body, with supplementary cardio, exercise/sport you genuinely enjoy and in combination with correct eating for your weight, body type and body goals.
Does this mean I will definitely not get bulky?
No it doesn’t. You may be a woman who naturally builds muscle easily, and when teamed with a good training programme and nutrition guide it could result in muscle gain, which to you may reach an undesirable level (over a sustained period – usually 30< weeks).
What can I do to stop this, but prevent gaining fat?
There are several methods;
- Avoid strength training (2-8 rep range) with very heavy weights on the areas you do not wish to get bigger. This will slow your strength gains, and plateau your muscle gain in specific muscle groups.
- Reduce the sessions per week to 3-4 training with weights. This will reduce total volume and muscle building associated with the more optimal levels of total volume (reps and cumulative weight lifted over the week).
- Reduce isolation work on your ‘problem areas’. For instance do not use the quad extension, but maintain squatting movements, if you wish to avoid growing your quads (also look at more hip mobility and glute activation work pre session). Or potentially avoid lateral raises but maintain pressing movements when wishing to avoid broadening the shoulders.
Tracking your progress (objectively):
This is something we all fail to achieve in a neutral light. We are all too hard on ourselves, and the few who aren’t are usually in love with themselves! Picking flaws in our own physique, and down-treading our own progress is natural – so keeping tabs on scale weight, progress selfies and measurements at regular intervals is key to helping us see our progress from a more stable perspective.
Show your progress photos to close friends, your coach or indeed us at LDNM, and this will likely grant you a more neutral and fairer judgment on whether areas have got bigger or smaller!
So should I do light/body weight and hundreds of reps?
No. The plans that promote this method of training are usually lazily constructed; with ultra-high volume of (usually very high impact) training, and very low calorie, unenjoyable, rigid, expensive meal plans.
You will really, honestly struggle to get ‘too big’ whether you’re a man looking to build size or a woman looking to improve her body composition when training with weights. Take heed of the advice above, and realise that progressive weights, cardio and any other exercise that you love is most beneficial for your progress long term. Also, don’t let anybody but yourself influence what physique you are aiming for – train for you (and for the people you love in the training for health aspect).
We explain in the Training Programme section of our LDNM Guides how to construct the ideal exercise schedule for you, which you can adhere to, enjoy and move forwards with in the short and longer term. Weight training has various health benefits, and is arguably the most effective and accessible form of exercise to increase your metabolic rate and reduce/stall body fat over time.
Should you need any assistance tweaking your Bikini Guide training schedule, or wish to ask any questions about this article, simply tweet at @LDN_Muscle and your feedback to @MB_LDNM!