If I Lift Weights, Will I Get Bigger Muscles/Bulky?
One of the biggest questions I have from female clients is “if i lift weights wont i get bulky?” And the answer is no, women don’t tend to get bulky and grow big muscles. And here’s an outlin on what makes muscles grow.
Hypertrophy (muscle gain) depends on three basic factors:
With genetics some people find it easier to build muscle and some find it easier to run long distances, thats just the way we are built, this is because of the muscle fibres that we recruit during exercise, people with predominantly fast-twitch fibres find it easier to gain more muscle compared to people with more slow-twitch fibres but these people can train long distance and muscle endurance more easily.
For gender, men will put on more muscle than women, not being sexist but this is simply because men have more testosterone and other hormones that influence protein metabolism (break down of protein to make more muscle) (Tipton 2001). This is why females do not get as “Bulky” as men do with strength improvements, so ladies don’t think that lifting weights will mean you become bulky (Lewis et al. 1986).
This leaves us with “Training Intensity” which is the only naturally controllable factor (excludes steroid use). For Hypertrophy to occur the muscles need to be used in a way which forces them to adapt, this adaptation is dependant on the type of activity and muscle fibres used, the exertion on the muscle and the velocity (speed) during the contraction.
Muscle is built by progressive overload. Simply put, this means you must continually overload the muscles with resistance, most commonly in the form of lifting weights. To make the muscles grow they need to adapt, if you constantly lift the same weight for the same amount of repetitions then they will grow to a certain extent but will eventually reach a plateau.
Tipton, K.D. 2001. Gender differences in protein metabolism. Current Opinions in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 4 (6), 493-8.
Lewis, D.A., et al. 1986. Physiological differences between genders. Implications for sports conditioning. Sports Medicine, 3 (5), 357-69.