The Antiquated Myth of Bulking



Does Lifting Heavy Make You Bulky?

Truth Bomb coming atcha!


Does this sound familiar?

“I don’t want to get big and bulky. I just want to tone up so I prefer not to lift heavy weights.”

Yes, you are totally going to “hulk out” after 4 weeks of E-Fit Training. Negative.


If you’re brand new to 4U Fitness, then allow me to assure you:


Firstly, “Bulky” is completely subjective. When it comes to our bodies, it’s up to us to decide what level of muscularity we desire for ourselves.

Personally, I love having muscles and looking and feeling strong. But there is absolutely a body type and level of leanness that is beyond what I’d want for myself. That’s OK. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with that body type. It’s just not for me. Similarly, my body type might not be someone else’s preference. It might be considered too “bulky,” too lean, or too firm for someone else. And that’s totally FINE. We don’t determine what someone else should want their body to look like.

Some things to consider

  1. Some women are capable of gaining appreciable amounts of muscle mass. Genetics will play a major role in how your muscle will take shape and where it will be placed.
  2. It’s not up to us to determine what “bulky” looks like for someone else.  They might feel bulky if they add just five pounds of lean mass.
  3. You know those women bodybuilders who look really bulky? They eat, train, and take supplements specifically so they can look like that! They’ve probably been working towards that goal for years and years.


Here’s the truth: when you incorporate strength training and challenge your muscles with heavier weights, your muscles get STRONGER (but not necessarily bigger). Now if you pump yourself full of testosterone/steroids and eat way more calories than you are burning every day, sure…you could get bigger.

When you combine strength training with quality foods that are timed purposefully around your workouts (i.e. eating protein & carbs post workout), your muscles will get stronger and denser. And by consuming fewer carbs and higher fats on your rest days (aiming for a caloric deficit), you will burn the fat surrounding the muscle, and you will get that lean, “toned” look that you’re after.

Here’s where the myth becomes a reality:  If you change nothing about your eating habits and begin any type of strength training program… this will eventually lead to weight gain and your favorite pair of paints feelin super snug. Why? Because you are gaining lean mass but you are not actively losing fat through your dietary choices and calorie consumption. At a certain point, exercise can’t torch the fat on it’s own. You must consider altering the quality of your foods and the amount in which you consume.

This is why we recommend Carb Cycling and Intermittent Fasting – “deficit” days and low carb days are much easier to practice with these methods.

Everyone responds differently to Training


Take a look at these women… any monstrous lifters here?







Four different women. Four different body types. All of them rockin’ strong and fit bodies that have responded differently to heavy strength training.



Real Life Scenarios

Scenario 1: After a few weeks of straining, female A reports that her clothes were fitting more snugly, and that the number on the scale was going up instead of down. When I asked about their nutrition, she admitted that it hadn’t been great, and that she’d actually been eating more, because the training had increased her appetite.

So why did this happen? 

In this instance, of course she was going to gain size.  She was eating more calories, and gaining something without losing anything else. What’s generally happening in this type of situation is that the client is gaining some muscle, as well as some fat, increasing their glycogen stores, and holding onto more water as well (muscles retain water). Yes, her overall size has increased, but this was not due to just the training. Because she wasn’t changing the quality of her foods and she was eating in a caloric surplus, this was the reason she was getting bigger!. 

Scenario 2: More often than not, when a client starts a strength training program, that activity in combination with the increase in lean mass over time and eating quality foods boosts metabolism (raises caloric expenditure) enough to encourage body fat loss. Metabolism is in high gear and calories are burned throughout the recovery period. So even though the client is gaining muscle, she is also losing body fat (not necessarily simultaneously, but within the same time period). Over time, she ends up leaner, tighter, and smaller.


The Takeaways

  1. “Bulky” is completely relative, and it’s no one’s place to push a particular body image on anyone else.  We all get to choose what type of body shape, size, leanness, and muscularity level we strive for.
  2. Gaining lean mass doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen much faster and easier for some.
  3. “Lifting heavy” won’t give you one particular body type.  Strength training will give you a strong, super fit, kick-ass version of the body you were given.

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