Will Women Get Bulky If They Lift

My former client and great friend, Adreiane Esteves, made a fantastic Facebook post last night in reply to a question she often gets asked: If women lift weights, will they become bulky? Her reply was spot on. “A woman’s body doesn’t produce enough natural testosterone to look bulky. Don’t worry about weight training, worry about the diet!” Bingo! Adriane hit the nail on the head. (By the way. Adriane knows a thing or two. She has won a number of trophies for various bikini and figure competitions.)

So, being the nerd I am, I wanted to quickly dig into this a little more and shed some further light on the female-lifting-bulkiness topic.

To further elaborate on Adriane’s comment, women simply don’t have as many anabolic homones (muscle building hormones) floating through their system. It’s a physiological fact. On average, the adult male creates 6-8 times as much testosterone than that of an adult female. That’s a lot! Keep in mind, testosterone is a primary driver of muscle creation.

Let’s take this a step further: look around gyms everywhere. Do you see the time and effort men put into “looking big?” It takes them years to pack on muscle, and that’s only if they train and eat just right. And, some of them (*gasp*), even take performance enhancing substances to get where they are! A few of them add testosterone, or other anabolic hormones, to further help increase size. So if a person is already at a muscle-producing disadvantage, and said person doesn’t partake in supplementation, adding “bulk” is incredibly difficult.

Before going further, I want to answer a quick question. Can a female add bulk? Sure. And if you’re one who wants more size, more power to you! Go get it. What we’re saying here, is, it’s more difficult to do than the male counterpart – much more difficult.

I did a Google search on women, lifting, and bulkiness, and I very quickly found these three statements … among a plethora of others.

“…it is unlikely that lifting weights will make women appear masculine. Jan, a personal trainer, who can push 320 pounds on the leg press machine and bench press 135 pounds, explains that she lifts weight because ‘With more muscle and fat, I burn more calories. It also shapes your body better than anything else going.’” (Femininity and the Physically Active Woman)

“…weights have significant health benefits for women. Don’t worry – you won’t end up looking like Arnold! Women generally have too much estrogen in their bodies to build large amounts of bulk.” (American College of Sports Medicine)

“The common fear that women will become too bulky or large with strength training is not physiologically possible and should not dissuade women from engaging in this mode of exercise.” (National Center for Biotechnology Information) *It should be noted, this sentence states “will”, not can; as we mentioned before, if you’re goal is to pack on size, it can be done. It’s just going to take much more work, with altered nutritional planning, and possible supplementation.

So, there you have it ladies. Listen to Adriane, and have at the weights. Crush them! Lift big! Trade in the plastic weights for iron. It's the excess cupcakes and pizza that should be feared, not the deadlits, squats, and overhead presses.

Jason Harle