Women and Weight Training

Women and Weight Training

Will I "bulk up"?

I first started working out about 15 years ago in college. At that time my main focus was cardio, and I’d spend 30 to 60 minutes plugging away on various cardio machines, completely bored and utterly hating my workouts.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the scary dumbbells, and the even scarier dudes using them. Not only was I way too timid to go over there, I truly believed that the weights were “for the guys” and that I would end up looking like one of them if I lifted anything over 10 pounds.

Lucky for me, I started dating a guy who was really into lifting. He eschewed cardio. He encouraged me to lift and lift heavy. He promised I wouldn’t turn into the incredible hulk. He told me lifting heavy weights would make me strong, bring shape to my body, help me increase my metabolism and burn fat. He was correct on all counts.

Even though that particular relationship didn’t work out, I credit him with speeding up a learning process that would have taken me years to understand. Frankly, I may have never “gotten it”. I might still be that meek woman on the treadmill, lacking confidence, and refusing to make eye contact with the guy in the squat rack.

Between then and now, I’ve gone through some phases in life where I stopped lifting, focused more on cardio, or did nothing at all….but I always come back to lifting heavy weights.


Lifting heavy weights makes me feel empowered and powerful. It's time efficient and engaging: I'm no longer bored to tears, nor do I spend hours at the gym. It has also given me the best and fastest results of my life. And if you check out my photos, I certainly wouldn’t characterize my body as “bulky”.

Lifting heavy weights has made me confident and strong.

Lifting heavy weights has made me confident and strong.

Here’s what proper weight training does for your body:

  1. It increases muscle mass. I know, I know! This is the part that scares women away thinking they’re going to “bulk up". Keep reading!
  2. Muscle does NOT weigh more than fat, but it DOES take up less space (see the picture below).
  3. Fat does NOT turn into muscle when you work out, but adding lean muscle to your body DOES increase your metabolism, which helps you burn more calories and shed excess fat. You will even burn more calories while sleeping and sitting around checking your social media feed or watching TV!
  4. The fact that muscle takes up less space AND increases your calorie burn means your body will get SMALLER -- even if your weight doesn’t budge -- because you’re losing pure FAT! HOLY GRAIL!
  5. Muscle adds nice shape to your body and improves the appearance of sagging skin and cellulite. You want that nice smooth and round shape to your butt? Lift weights!
  6. Increases bone density and muscular strength. Weight training is far more beneficial as we age in keeping us mobile and healthy. If you are ONLY concerned with health and longevity (not fat loss), I would tell you to lift weights 3 days per week and simply walk for 30 minutes at least 5 days per week. No boring 60 minute sweat sessions on the elliptical necessary!
Fat takes up more space and create a "lumpy" appearance under the skin.

Fat takes up more space and create a "lumpy" appearance under the skin.

Back to the original question: Can lifting make me bulky?

Simple answer: If you are a woman, no.

Gender and genetics play a huge role in how much muscle you can build. Women simply do not have the testosterone necessary to get large muscles like a man. In VERY FEW instances does a woman have the testosterone level and the genetics necessary to naturally become bulky. The rest of the “bulked up” bodybuilding women you may have seen are on drugs.

It takes enormous effort for a woman (or a man for that matter) to add a single pound of lean muscle. You cannot lift "too heavy".

What WILL make you bulky? FAT!

If you add lean muscle (good thing), but fail to lose fat (by not changing your nutrition), or gain fat (by eating too much), you can certainly create the appearance of extra bulk. I know what you’re thinking: "I need to lose weight before I start training with weights". Don’t make that mistake either!

IT’S THE WEIGHT TRAINING THAT WILL STIMULATE YOUR METABOLISM TO HELP YOU LOSE THE FAT! It’s your DIET that will need the tweaking so that you can lose the fat sitting on top of those strong and beautiful muscles!

What do you need? An intelligent program that balances three things:

  1. Nutrition. A good nutrition program will help you understand what and how much you should eat and help you time meals properly for maximum muscle gain and maximum fat loss.
  2. Training. An intelligent training program will keep you safe, maximize your time in the gym, and help you sculpt your body.
  3. Rest and Recovery. A great program incorporates rest and recovery. More is not better. Weight training is stressful on the body – in a good way – but rest and recovery a big part of the puzzle.

A few parting words and some of my favorite quotes:

"Lift like a man, look like a Goddess."
"Muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen, and built in bed."

If you are a total beginner and/or haven't exercised in 6 months or more and/or hate exercise and/or have little time, I just added a new self-guided fat loss e-book to my shop! This program is built for the beginner and will get you started on the path to great nutrition and working out! It's on sale right now too! Lucky you!

If you are intermediate or advanced but have hit a plateau or just aren't getting the results you want, contact me and let's chat about your goals! I LOVE making custom programs to fit YOUR needs, budget, and lifestyle!

If you're truly ready to change your health and life, consider my six month Weight Loss Coaching! I am currently taking on a very limited number of clients for this program at a steeply discounted price. Upon finishing my holistic nutrition and health coach certification in July, the price will go up!

Have further questions about my programs? Contact me or email kellybailey1980@gmail.com. I'd love to talk with you!

kelly bailey