Does weight training make you bulky?Sep 12, 2022
One of the most pervasive myths regarding health and fitness is that you will develop a soft and "bulky" physique from lifting weights.
This myth causes many people to fear lifting weights and miss out on all the exceptional longevity, strength, mobility, mental well-being and physical health benefits that progressive resistance training can offer.
Whether weight training makes you bulky or not, we have mountains of scientific evidence proving that progressive resistance training will enhance every aspect of your life and likely add years to your life.
Let's put this myth to bed and make sure that nobody misses out on the benefits of lifting by addressing some of the most common arguments in favour of weight training making you bulky.
Ronnie Coleman at the height of his career. He was bulky, alright.
Argument 1: "But, look at bodybuilders. They are the bulkiest people on the planet."
Granted, weight training has the potential to make you extremely "bulky"; however, here is why you shouldn't let this stop you from lifting weights.
1. If you've never lifted weights before, you will grow muscle by typing the name of a gym into your GPS or looking at a set of dumbbells.
However, once you've exhausted your "newbie gains", growing extra muscle mass becomes harder and harder.
2. You will not turn into a bodybuilder by accident.
You have to give these men and women some credit. The amount of consistency, dedication, study, hard work, and "special sports supplements" you have to take to become an elite bodybuilder is nothing short of inspiring, regardless of what you think about their physiques.
Not lifting weights because you are afraid of turning into a bodybuilder is like refusing to cook your food because you may turn into a 3 Michelin-star chef.
It is not going to happen.
3. If you don't use it, you'll lose it. That is the name of the game.
So, if you ever get too muscular for your liking, all you have to do is stop lifting weights for a while, and you'll lose your muscles very quickly.
"Bulky" or strong and athletic? Progressive resistance training for six years and counting.
Argument 2: "I swear I got bulky from lifting weights."
Okay, here is the deal. I know this might be hard to hear, but it's coming from a place of love.
When you are in a positive calorie balance, meaning that you consume more energy through food and drink than you expend through your total daily energy expenditure for weeks and months, you will put on weight.
Notice how I said "weight".
I did not specify whether this gained weight was muscle or fat.
Whether this weight is muscle or fat is determined by how hard you train, how much you sleep, how you manage your stress levels, and how optimal your macronutrient split is, among many other things.
It turns out that when you are in a calorie surplus, you can expect to put on muscle and fat, even if you are doing everything correctly.
However, if you are in a calorie surplus but don't train hard and follow a progressive training program, you will put on primarily fat.
So, if you were in a calorie surplus while lifting weights, but you didn't do the following:
1. Follow a progressive training program
2. Execute your exercises in a way that maximises mechanical tension on the target muscles
3. Eat enough protein
4. Prioritise sleep
5. Incorporate stress management strategies like diaphragmatic breathing
6. Hydrate optimally
...chances are that you were gaining mostly fat and very little muscle.
In other words, you didn't get "bulky" because of lifting weights, but you got bulky because you were in a calorie surplus and HOW you lifted weights was not optimal.
Borderline "bulky". Progressive resistance training for 14 years and counting.
Nail on the coffin
To look better naked, you must reduce body fat and increase or maintain the lean muscle mass you already have.
To lose fat as efficiently as possible, one has to be in a negative calorie balance, meaning that you ingest less energy than what you expend through your total daily energy expenditure.
When you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight, both from muscle and fat.
Everyone who has done a fat loss diet knows just hard it is to maintain muscle mass while you diet.
Because of the deficit in calories, your body breaks down muscle tissue to make up the balance.
The only way to preserve muscle mass while dieting is to lift weights and do it properly. Otherwise, your body will not see a reason to maintain muscle mass and will give it away happily.
So, if weight training inherently made you bulkier, how is it possible that you will lose muscle and fat while in a calorie deficit, no matter how hard you train?
Weight training does not make you bulky.
Being in a positive calorie balance for an extended amount of time will make you bulky. If you play your cards right with your training and recovery, most of this added bulk will be muscle mass.
However, if you don't play your cards right, the added bulk will be predominately fat, and you will look "soft and bulky".
If you want to see countless real-life examples of how weight training makes you look and feel awesome, you should check out the before/after transformations and testimonials of the participants of the Leaner Stronger Experience and my personal training clients.
The Leaner Stronger Experience is an 18-week online coaching program. The training system in the coaching program includes three resistance training workouts per week and one cardiorespiratory conditioning workout per week.
The results speak for themselves!
If you'd like to learn more about the benefits of weight training, check out episode 52 of the Wellness and High-Performance Podcast.
The topics covered in this episode include:
- Will you get bulky if you lift weights?
- Why is muscle tissue one of the essential organs of the body?
- What is the most potent stimulator of muscle growth?
- What is the most likely reason for "getting bulky."
- How to look and feel your best this summer
This is Coach Pyry,
Let's do this!
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Get in touch via the form below, and we'll book your discovery call to map out your personalised plan to your best shape ever.