Do women that lift heavy get bulky?

2018-04-26 12:20:07

Living in 2018, you would think that this is a topic that should not need to address as frequently right?

And yes, there has been steady, powerful growth and development in the way women and society as a whole see “strong, masculine” women, thanks to Instagram models such as Massy Arias, Michelle Lewis, and Aurora Lauzeral among many others. This, on its own, is excellent and positively progressive BUT what we need to address is how many women (and men) still believe that lifting heavy will automatically result in them resembling ‘The Hulk.’ So before we get to the nitty-gritty of why that is NOT true let me just give you a quick list of benefits:

The truth behind the myth, there are some key components, but the most important one of them all is DIET!

Yes, diet plays a massive role in whether a woman is going to ”Bulk” up or not when lifting heavy weights. For ladies to gain mass, it takes a much bigger effort than men due to the simple fact that our hormones and bodily structure are different, and even then, men eat in a caloric surplus too, depending on their goal. Most people don’t understand that a woman that is growing in muscle mass is not just getting that way because she lifts heavier weights but because she is eating a calory strict diet and more often than not it will take eating in a ‘surplus’ to make ‘BIG Gains.’ A lot of dedication, nutritional planning, and hard work goes into growing big muscles. If your goal is to get lean muscle and have a toned, more streamlined look than lifting heavy weights that challenge you and eating a clean, healthy diet that has slightly fewer calories than what you are putting out in your workout will get you there a lot quicker than lifting light.

A healthy diet and weight lifting combo.

Don’t quite understand how caloric deficit and caloric surplus work?

Let me give you some insight; Caloric Surplus is consuming more calories than you’re burning off each day. Caloric Deficit, on the other hand, is consuming fewer calories than you are using.

Does Caloric Surplus mean I can eat as much as I want?

Eating in surplus does not mean eating as much as you can of whatever you can, whenever you can but is instead a calculated amount to get the results you are looking for if you are trying to put on muscle mass without necessarily putting on extra body fat.
The best way to accurately calculate how many calories you need to be getting in on your training days is by multiplying your body weight (pounds) by 20 (body weight x 20=xyz). Focus on healthier foods and do some research on learning to split up your carbs, proteins, and fats the right way.

Dealing with the “deficit” Does this mean I need to be practically starving myself?

Ladies (and gentlemen), if anyone ever tells you that you have to starve yourself to get the results you want than PLEASE walk away… No, run!
To eat in a deficit only means that you will be consuming fewer calories than you burn during the day (training days and non-training days alike). Keep in mind that the intensity of your training can also influence your deficit gap.
Typically a good healthy deficit for athletes would be 300-500 calories a day so a good idea would be to track your daily calory intake as well as the number of calories burned during your workout
Remember that if you are sitting around most of the day, i.e. an office job, then you may want to factor that in as you would be burning fewer calories than someone that has a more active job or lifestyle.
You don’t want to be lethargic and horribly hungry all the time, but you will need to cut back and be slightly stricter with yourself, as most of our ‘secret calories’ enter our bodies through that extra cookie or liquid calories (sugary fruit juices, fizzy drinks, coffee creamers, etc.).

Why is a deficit significant in lifting for weight loss?

There’s NO shortcut to getting toned, and the only real way to lose excess body fat is to eat in a deficit, whether you are training or not. However, the healthiest way overall (and quickest) is to pair it with good ol’ weight training and some light cardio (2-3 times a week).

Creating a calorie deficit will force your body to use your fat storage as energy once it burns through the calories you’ve consumed which means the muscle that you already have will begin to show more and as you continue to train it will add some more and tone it up, giving you an athletic look.
But remember that having too large of a caloric deficit can also turn unhealthy and cause your body to eat its very own precious muscle eventually!

Rest Periods Between Sets

Resting between sets is yet another determining factor in weight training. Typically people that are training heavy to build muscle mass and growth will rest between sets for around 1-2 min doing 6-12 reps. This gets them bigger quicker because of the anabolic hormone release. The rest period AGAIN is goal orientated and resting x amount of time between sets is dependant on what goal you are trying to reach. You could train with medium-heavy weights to get stronger without packing on mass which would mean having longer rest periods in between sets at 2-3 mins.

What have we learned?

All in all, don’t be afraid of lifting heavy, it will NOT make you bulky automatically. Period. Unless you are eating in a way that can sustain and support significant muscle growth, the way you eat will have the most significant effect on the goals you are trying to reach. Whether it’s to build muscle or slim down and strengthen the muscle you already have, lifting heavier, more challenging weights is an excellent way to go about it.

woman with biceps


Carly Schäper

Hi guys, I am a 23-year-old Latin and Ballroom Dance Teacher. I am also a fitness and traveling addict. I have seven indoor cats and one husband – in that order – (laughs). I am the oldest of 3 daughters but definitely not the wisest. I also believe in the holistic approach and I’m very much in love with Africa. Born South African!