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“I don’t want to get big and bulky. I just want to tone the up.”
A common misconception I get from a lot of women is that strength training will make them big & bulky like men.
And I do get the concept of the idea – after all, one of the most immediately recognisable masculine trait is muscularity. But gaining muscle mass is not gender specific – it’s a universal trait in us all.
Unfortunately, this fear of muscle usually results in a lot of women sticking to conventional cardio methods of such as running on the treadmill or using the elliptical even though this approach alone does not directly tie in with the most common goal for most women I speak to – to tone up!
Today, I want to tackle the myth of whether or not lifting weights make women bulky.
What Is bulky Anyways?
The word bulky is completely subjective. What one person might classify as being bulky, someone else might see as being perfectly normal. Bulky might be being too lean, too curvy, too broad – the term is completely subjective and depends on the individual.
However, the most commonly held thought about being too bulky lies around the fear women have that they will gain a significant amount of muscle mass if they start lifting weights – especially heavy weights.
This fear of strength training usually resorts in a lot of girls either doing cardio or using the pink 1Kg dumbbells for 30-50 reps of each exercise or putting a band around their knees and doing 100’s of glute pumping exercises.
This approach may not be the most effective way to get that shaped and toned look.
Gaining Muscle Mass
When women thinking of gaining muscle mass, they usually focus on not wanting to look like their male counterparts or the 1% of women who have a significant amount of muscle on their frame!
However, men’s testosterone levels means that they naturally will find it much easier to add muscle to their frames than women. Even if your goal was to get big & bulky like the 1%, you would find it so much harder than a guy following the exact same program.
In fact, I’m sure there’s women out there who feel insulted when they hear the ‘I don’t want to get bulky’ rant because they train so hard to get ‘bulky’ yet still find it hard to get there.
Stop focusing on the 1% of women who lift who are ‘bulky’ & instead look at the 99% who lift who are ‘shaped & toned’ as you desire to be.
Do you really think that exercise will actually make you look worse?
Another important factor that is often ignored in the “bulky” discussion is body fat percentage.
Don’t mistake getting “bulky” from lifting weights with eating too much food! If you’re eating more calories than you’re expending and your goal is to tone up, it doesn’t matter how much, how often or even how little you train. You will gain size – and usually not the size you’re looking for!
That is why it is so important to be aware of mindful of your overall nutrition intake.
However, if you do track your caloric intake and still feel somewhat bulky after a weights session, here’s why:
Think back to how you felt after eating Christmas Dinner. If you over consumed like I did, you probably felt disgustingly fat! Now, although one single Christmas Dinner meal will not be the result of you gaining a large amount of fat alone, we usually divert our attention to our stomachs when we’re stuffed with food. And we feel fat for a period of time until we settle down & digest our food.
The same phenomenon applies to lifting weights. Both during and after a workout, your muscles may feel more swelled than normal. Bodybuilders refer to this as “the pump.” However, the pump only lasts for a short period of time and your working muscles and are only temporarily bigger before returning to what you’d consider their “normal size.”
How Much Muscle Can I Expect To Build?
If you are serious about getting shaped and toned and want to change the way your body looks, this process of gaining muscle mass to become more toned does not happen overnight. It is a long process. How much muscle you can expect to build does depend on a lot of factors – how often you train, the type of training you do, the amount of food you eat etc.
In general, if you’re starting out and want to tone up, 0.2-0.4% of your bodyweight increase in muscle per month is a good target to aim for. However, the rate of growth will slow down the more trained you are. And it’s important to remember that everyone responds differently to training. This is just a general guideline.
Once you get that desired look and feel you have enough muscle on your frame for your personal preference, all you need to do is transition into a maintenance phase with your nutrition to maintain it.
Michaela and an anonymous female client of mine (see above) are both great examples of girls who trusted the process that lifting weights would not make them bulky. We had them lift weights 3-4 times per week focusing on adding quality muscle in the right areas so they could get the toned look she desired.
Michaela (on the left) is now in the final phases of leaning out before she will transition into a maintenance phase when she thinks she is ready so she can maintain her ideal physique.
Benefits Of Strength Training
Hopefully some of the misconceptions around strength training have been cleared up. Now lets look at the benefits of strength training. While there are so many, here are some of the most common benefits:
If you weren’t keeping count: that’s a lot of good things.
Strength training also teaches you valuable life-lessons. The iron is a great teacher for overcoming obstacles, developing perseverance, tuning into your body, and teaching the value of challenging yourself.
What’s stopping you getting started?
What To Do Next
If you found this post beneficial, then join my Free Facebook Group for more training tips.
If you need some help toning up, then book your free consultation call today to see if you’d be a good fit for my Online Coaching.
I specialise in providing transformation and performance-based programs specifically designed for you.
What’s the purpose of the consultation call?
To deep dive into your health & exercise history, your goals and current struggles and from there decide if we’d be able to work together. If we are a good fit, we can get working on your personalised program so you can finally make the changes you’ve always desired.
Claim your free consultation call today.
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