Forget the myth: Lifting weights does not make women bulky…

by Gareth Francis


Lets smash some really frustrating myths that have been floating around!
Lifting heavy weights will NOT, I repeat NOT make you look bulky.

If you’ve ever come across a woman on the internet with extremely big muscles there’s 100% chance that she takes performance enhancing steroids because a woman’s body cannot just build muscle like that without them.

Absolutely almost every woman we have introduced to weight lifting has asked at the beginning, “are you sure about this? I don’t want to get bulky. I just want to tone up.”

Toning Up

Well, let’s just explain what toning up actually means. Firstly, we can’t tone a muscle into a specific shape, we can only make it bigger or smaller.

Toned: This means well built glutes, legs and good definition in the arms and back and also having a thin layer of fat around the muscles that keep you from having that too lean or shredded look. To do this, we must build muscle in these areas by lifting weights and we don’t mean lifting light weights for lots of reps; we mean lifting heavier weights over time to keep the muscle getting stronger and to grow.

“But what happens if the muscle gets too big and I start to look bulky?”
Well this is where your fat and calorie control comes in. Having that bulky look usually means you’re carrying too much fat around the muscles and not that the muscle has actually gotten bigger. No matter how many times a week you’re lifting or whatever training you do if you’re eating more calories than you need to fuel your body and training, then you’re going to gain fat around your muscles and look bulky.

So if you’re trying to prevent the bulky look while making gains in the weights room, then you need to control your calorie intake and eat at a maintenance level (eating the same amount of calories than your body is burning). If it’s that leaner look with more definition in your muscles that you’re going for, then decreasing the amount of fat around the muscles is what you need to do. To do this, you must create a calorie deficit (burning more or eating less calories than your body is using for fuel) by taking in less calories or burning up more.


Cardio is a great tool for burning up those extra calories and keeping body fat down, but if too much cardio is done it can have a negative effect on your goal to look toned. As explained earlier, to have a toned body we must have well built legs, glutes and back etc but cardio alone can’t do this for you. Only weight training can. Too much cardio can actually send you in the opposite direction and you can lose muscle gains.

You’ve heard the saying ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ well that goes for your muscle too. If you’re not lifting weights and just doing cardio, there’s a good chance you’re burning through your muscles to fuel your cardio and losing your muscle mass and after time that can leave you looking thin or “skinny”.

The ultimate guide to looking lean and toned!
Firstly, get yourself to the weights room, as scary as it may seem. Now let building strength be the goal and keep trying to lift heavier weights over time. Focus most of your workouts on the body parts you want to grow or maintain like glutes and legs, but don’t neglect those other muscle groups and hit those weekly too.

If you’re not happy with the amount of fat around your muscles, this doesn’t mean you need to drop the weights and get on the thread mill. It just means you need to create a small deficit in your calorie intake but keep lifting to maintain your muscle while losing the fat.

If you hate cutting calories because you love food, then you could add in some cardio or more activities throughout the day to help burn some of those calories but just don’t let it get in the way of your weight lifting.

Take home points:
1. Lifting weights does not make you “bulky”.
2. Being bulky means you’re carrying too much fat not muscle.
3. Muscle won’t grow if you’re not feeding it enough calories to do so.


Check out Kickstart Fitness for more information.

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