• Hannah Hicks

Will Weight Lifting Make Me "Bulky"?



If you walk into a gym, most of the women occupy the cardio machines and most of the men lift weights. That’s because weight lifting makes you bulky, and women don’t want that… right?


What if I told you that weight lifting probably won’t make you bulk, especially for women, and even if it did, that would be ok?


Debunking the “Bulking” Myth


There is a stigma, especially for women, that lifting weights will make you “bulky”. This logic is deeply flawed. Read below to learn why!


1) It is extremely hard to build large masses of muscles.

There is a reason there are so few bodybuilders compared to the general population. It takes years of dedication, consistency, and hard work that is often not economically or logistically possible for most people. Bodybuilders have well planned out training schedules, often including hours spent in the gym, with the purpose of gaining large masses of muscle - it’s the only way to build that much!


2) Testosterone is a huge factor in muscle growth.

Testosterone, the main male sex hormone, increases neurotransmitters - the communicators between your brain and muscles- that stimulate muscle growth. It also interacts with the proteins in cells that sense hormones, causing protein production in cells to increase. This increases muscle growth from exercise.


Biological men and women both have testosterone, but women generally have far lower levels of it than men. It is impossible for them to build large muscle masses as quickly or easily compared to men. However, this is not to say that women cannot build a lot of muscle or are weak! It just requires more effort and planning.


3) Most of the “bulky” bodybuilders use steroids and supplements to build muscle.

Steroids are a chemical form of testosterone used to increase muscle protein synthesis and stimulates muscle growth. However, they have many permanent physical and mental side effects, especially for women and young athletes.



Bodybuilders also use supplements to enhance their performance and muscle growth- again, with the intention to build more muscle. These can come in the forms of extra protein, branched-chain amino acids, or creatine. It’s pretty much impossible to gain the amount of muscle bodybuilders have naturally!



4) Muscle size is genetic!

Different amounts of specific genes, which are inherited, affect how much your muscles grow. Body shape and the proportion of slow-twitch to fast-twitch muscles also varies from person to person, so people’s bodies are quite literally built differently.


Even if you ate the same diet and did the same workouts as your friend, your bodies would still look different! It is unhealthy to compare your body to others or subject yourself to other people’s opinions.

It’s important to take care of and listen to YOUR body and YOUR unique needs!



5) Everyone has a different image of “bulky”

What “bulky” looks like varies from person to person; what I may see as slim might be “bulky” to you!


People also have different training goals, so they might strive to appear different or feel stronger than others.


Also, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being "bulky"! The stigma of women having muscles comes from patriarchal prejudices and society's disordered image of the "ideal body." As cliche as it sounds, everyone is beautiful just the way they are!


Benefits of Weight Lifting for Athletes

Weight lifting deserves a substantial part of any athlete's training because it will give you an advantage in competition and make you a better athlete. Its benefits extend on and off the field, court, or rink!


Some major benefits include:

  • Creating a foundation for athletic skills - think basic motor skills, coordination, muscle movements, speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, mobility, stamina, balance, and durability to name a few!

  • Injury prevention - strength training better prepares athletes for the stresses on their bodies that happen during their sport

  • Builds self-esteem - the confidence coming from challenging yourself and growing stronger boosts performance on and off the field


Benefits of Weight Lifting for Everyone

There are so many benefits to lifting for everyone, including non-athletes! In fact, many leading health authorities, such as the NIH and the Mayo Clinic, recommend moderate weight-lifting for all post-adolescent people!





These benefits include:

  • Increased bone density and strength - this can help decrease your risk of osteoporosis when you are older

  • Improved sleep

  • Increased muscle strength

  • Injury prevention

  • Increased flexibility, balance, and stamina

  • Improved performance for everyday tasks - for example, you might have an easier time lifting heavy boxes or walking up long flights of stairs


Conclusion

Weight lifting does not live up to its stigma.


Lifting weights will most likely not turn you into a bodybuilder, and it has so many advantages anyway!


It is vital to improving your performance as an athlete, and it can benefit everyone.


Have fun with it!




Works Cited


Abelsson, Andreas. "Sex Differences in Strength and Muscle Mass: Do Males and Females Gain the Same?" Strengthlog, 5 June 2020, www.strengthlog.com/do-males-and-females-gain-the-same/#easy-footnote-bottom-13-3161. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.


Beardsley, Chris, and Kurtis Frank. "How Do Bodybuilders REALLY Eat and Train?" EliteFTS, 4 Jan. 2013, www.elitefts.com/education/training/bodybuilding/how-do-bodybuilders-really-eat-and-train/#:~:text=In%20summary%2C%20competitive%20bodybuilders%20who,5%20exercises%20per%20muscle%20group. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.


Capritto, Amanda. "Does Lifting Weights Make Women Bulky? The Myth That Won't Die." CNET Health and Wellness, A Red Ventures Company, 16 Sept. 2020, www.cnet.com/health/does-lifting-weights-make-women-bulky/. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.


Griggs RC, Kingston W, Jozefowicz RF, Herr BE, Forbes G, Halliday D. Effect of Testosterone on Muscle Mass and Muscle Protein Synthesis. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1989 Jan;66(1):498-503. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1989.66.1.498. PMID: 2917954.


Muth, Natalie Digate. "Do Bodybuilding Supplements Work?" American Council on Exercise, 26 Oct. 2011, www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/1995/do-bodybuilding-supplements-work/#:~:text=Even%20the%20most%20conservative%20bodybuilders,chain%20amino%20acids%2C%20and%20creatine. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.


Pietrangelo, Ann. "The Effects of Testosterone on the Body." Healthline, A Red Ventures Company, 17 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/effects-on-body#Muscle,-Fat,-and-Bone. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.


Preiato, Daniel. "Are Steroids Bad for You? Uses, Side Effects, and Dangers." Healthline, A Red Ventures Company, 1 Aug. 2019, www.healthline.com/nutrition/are-steroids-bad. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.


"Resistance Training - Health Benefits." Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/resistance-training-health-benefits#:~:text=Health%20benefits%20of%20resistance%20training,-Physical%20and%20mental&text=improved%20muscle%20strength%20and%20tone,more%20kilojoules%20when%20at%20rest. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.


Verbrugge, Sander A. J., et al. "Genes Whose Gain or Loss-Of-Function Increases Skeletal Muscle Mass in Mice: A Systematic Literature Review." Frontiers in Physiology, Frontiers Media SA, 22 May 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5992403/. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.


Warren, Steve. "The Benefits of Strength Training for Athletes." Warren Academy, 21 Jan. 2020, www.joindream.org/warren-academy/media/education.html/article/2020/01/21/the-benefits-of-strength-training-for-athletes. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.

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