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Will Weightlifting Make Me Bulky??

There are a few common questions and comments we commonly hear surrounding weight training. Will it make me bulky? What should I do to get “toned?” Where do I start if I want to get into weight training? There are lots of misconceptions surrounding these topics, so today we are going to delve into some of these topics a little deeper.

“I don’t want to get bulky.”

There is a stigma, especially among women, that lifting weights will make you bulky and is the reason many women avoid the weight room. The reality is that it is actually quite challenging to become “bulky” by lifting weights. There are lots of people that dial into their diet, eat ridiculous amounts of food, train hard every single day, yet still struggle to put on muscle mass.

Gaining muscle mass requires a diligent effort in order to get “bulky.” This would require a caloric surplus combined with heavy weight training. Coach Barik CSCS, sums it up well: “If you want to build muscle, you do need a caloric surplus. New muscle tissue doesn't just fall on your torso out of thin air. My hockey players routinely consume around 4,000 calories (or more) on heavy training days, yet remain at a low body fat percentage and certainly aren't "too big." Why? Because they burn most of what they consume in the gym and on the ice.”

So if you’re eating a calorically balanced diet (or even if you are eating in a caloric surplus, but from mostly whole food sources) the reality is that you will only notice positive changes in your performance and body composition. As Dr. Rachel Digiacomo would say, “Saying you don’t want to lift weights because you’re scared of getting bulky is like saying that you don’t want to drive a car because you’re scared of becoming a NASCAR driver.”

“I just want to get toned.”

What does getting “toned” even mean? Most people who say this mean that they want to look leaner. This happens by decreasing body fat and adding some muscle definition. Heavy weight training combined with adequate cardio can do the trick here.

Using light weights for high reps is great for increasing muscular endurance, but if you want to get lean, heavy weight training is going to be more advantageous. Why? Because when you train with heavier weights your muscles are getting stronger. A stronger muscle burns more calories at rest (increases your metabolism), so your body fat will decrease even when you aren’t working out.

Getting toned is really nothing more than something that people say as a marketing tool. If you want muscle definition, then heavier, appropriate strength training is the best way to accomplish this goal. As mentioned previously, it won’t make you bulky. However, it is the best way to build muscle and start seeing muscle definition. Diet will be a huge factor in this goal without a doubt.

“I want to start weight training, but I don’t know how.”

Ditch the two pound dumbbells. Training high volume (think 50 reps) with lighter weights is great for muscular endurance but does little for muscular strength. So what should you do if you want to get into lifting weights? Start light, then work towards lower reps, and heavier weights.

Dr. Greg Lehman stated it very simply:

You can lift a lot more than you think you can, so don’t be afraid to go heavy. You’ll become more confident as you see what your body is capable of.

In addition to increasing your confidence and muscular strength, lifting heavy weights will also boost your metabolism more than lighter weights or cardio would. Why is this? Lifting heavy weights will lead to your body burning more fat at rest for two reasons.

  1. Lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest than fat.

  2. Your body is trying to rebuild your muscles and uses more energy (burning calories) for this.

It’s time we celebrate the beauty of getting strong.

Do we focus on insecurities conjured by other people?

Are you surrounded by people who love and respect you for you?

Let’s ditch the mantra that being skinny is the definition of beauty. Everyone is built differently. So let’s take up space. Let’s focus less on our physique, or being “toned,” and more on how we feel. Let’s lift heavy things. Let’s nourish our bodies (No, 1200 calories per day is not enough. If you’re strength training, your nutrition needs to match this. Train strong, Eat strong.)

Here at Prime, we’re big fans of weight training for everyone, men and women, old and young. Those coming from injury, those trying to prevent injury, and those just trying to get stronger overall. If you’re looking to get into weight training or use weight training as a way to rehab from an injury, reach out to to set up your initial consultation.

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