Can Lifting Heavy Weights Make Women Bulky? The Answer Is A Clear “NO” | Common Weight Training Myths Debunked

One of the biggest deterrents to weight training for women is the fear of bulking up with bulging biceps and a footballer’s calves. Yes, most women, as does society at large, regard such features as unfeminine and therefore unattractive; which female would want to look more masculine?

While we can save the discussion on gender stereotypes and body image issues for later, the concern about bulking up with weight training is valid for most women. But if you’re looking to get fit and tough, should you be worried about getting bulky and is this really a risk?

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The Risk of Getting Buffed With Weight Training

“It takes consistent effort, rigorous working out, and enhanced nutrition to bulk up; besides, bulking up is a lot tougher for women because of hormonal differences that do not support such muscle mass gain”

Fitness experts agree that it’s possible for women to get bulk from weight training, but it’s highly unlikely. You’re probably shaking your head in disagreement because of those images you stumbled upon with super-fit and buffed women pumping iron. Just remember that those are just a few women and what you’ve seen cannot be regarded as representative of all women who workout with weights. It’s like every man expecting to get a six pack from his gym sessions! As with men, it takes consistent effort, rigorous working out, and enhanced nutrition to bulk up; besides, bulking up is a lot tougher for women because of hormonal differences that do not support such muscle mass gain. This is because testosterone encourages muscle growth and despite the increased release of anabolic hormones with weight lifting, levels of anabolic hormones, particularly testosterone are typically a tenth or even less in females as compared to in men.

“For women who also eat healthy, lifting heavy weights can help to retain muscle mass rather than gain bulk”

Moreover, testosterone helps with muscle repair, but on its own is inadequate for bulking up. Testosterone is released from lifting heavy, while growth hormone is released with higher volume or longer duration of muscle tension. For women who also eat healthy, lifting heavy weights can therefore help to retain muscle mass rather than gain bulk. To actually gain muscle mass and sport bulging biceps and shoulder or back muscles, you’d need to do a lot more than lift weights.

The Real Reason For The Myth About Women Bulking Up With Weight Training

Whether you look at it as a blessing or a curse, some women are genetically endowed with a hormonal balance that supports bulking up, but this is a miniscule percentage of women. You are highly unlikely to fall into that category, but if you really are that worried you could get your hormonal levels checked first. Either way, the perception of bulking up with weight training has more to do with other factors.

Body Image Issues

“Women tend to have negative self-perception issues, assuming that the bulges are more pronounced and masculine than they really are”

Because of our obsession with having the perfect body, most women tend to have negative self-perception issues, assuming that the bulges are more pronounced and masculine than they really are. Women are also used to having slender figures that are not muscular, so even the slightest change with working out makes the muscle strengthening more pronounced. However, few have real self-awareness and healthy body image perception.

Water Retention

“Inflammation of the muscles and increased storage of glycogen and fluid in the muscles can create an illusion of bulking up”

Inflammation of the muscles and increased storage of glycogen and fluid in the muscles is common when you start to lift weights and this can create an illusion of bulking up. This is what causes stiffness and soreness of the muscles after you begin working out, but the effect is temporary.

Overeating

“Many women tend to eat more simply because they believe they need to when training, but this can contribute to weight gain, not necessarily to increased muscle mass”

When you begin weight training, you need more calories to compensate for the increased load, but your increase needs to be proportional to your increased caloric requirement. Many women tend to eat more simply because they believe they need to when training, but this can contribute to weight gain, not necessarily to increased muscle mass. So, while your muscles are strengthened with the workout, you’re also gaining weight.

Muscle Gain

“In the first few months it’s actually muscle toning that occurs and you start to feel stronger, which creates the illusion of bulking up”

Gaining muscle mass takes a lot of time and you are unlikely to gain more than 1-2 lb/month on an average. This is also true for men. When you start working out, your muscle fibers still have to be trained to create muscle damage or tears that stimulate growth. In the first few months it’s actually muscle toning that occurs and you start to feel stronger, which again creates the illusion of bulking up.

At the end of the day, everyone’s body is different and how you respond to weight training will not necessarily be the same as for the next woman. As you get attuned to your body and become more self aware, you’ll be able to fine tune your workout program to get the desired results, whether you want bulk or wish to keep it off!

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