Will You Really Get Bulky If You Lift Heavy

Sep 08, 2019
Ashley Lawrie

Author: Riley Pearce
Director of Social Media

One of the worries people have when they begin lifting weights is that they will become “bulky”. It could be the rise in popularity of bodybuilding competitions, or maybe it’s the conclusion people come to when they see endurance athletes looking slim, and strength athletes looking more muscley. Either way we would like to debunk this myth once and for all. 

It is true that one of the many adaptations that occurs as a result of lifting weights is hypertrophy – or the increase in the size of our muscle cells. However, one workout of bicep curls will not give you Popeye biceps. In fact, the process of gaining significant muscle mass is incredibly specific and the timeline is different for everyone. 

If you ask any of the personal trainers at Free Form Fitness, especially the boys (although women can have the goal to put on more muscle), they will all be quick to tell you how difficult it is to put on size. 

This is partially due to the fact that muscles are an incredibly “expensive” tissue – metabolically speaking. It takes a lot of energy and resources to keep muscles working. So the body will actually adapt in favour of decreasing muscle size in order to conserve energy. This is why just a few weeks away from the gym can make you feel like you’ve lost strength.

From this fact we actually get one of the many benefits of lifting heavy, and that’s that the more muscle mass you have the more potential calories you’ll be burning at rest, and in theory you can eat more because your body needs more calories to maintain that muscle.

So no, doing a couple of workouts with heavy weights will not make you bulky. 

Lifting heavy weights will provide you with numerous health benefits though. For women, doing challenging load bearing exercise is a great way to keep your bones healthy. As women age, their body begins to leach calcium from the bones because they are unable to absorb vitamins and minerals from food as efficiently. This leaching of calcium can eventually lead to osteoporosis and is a serious concern for aging women. 

Lifting heavy weights also keeps the connection between the brain and muscles very clear. This super highway that you can build between the brain and the muscles not only benefits the health and strength of the muscle cells, but it can change the health and “strength” of the brain. Weightlifting has been observed to improve multiple areas in the brain, most notably the memory centers. 

Not only is it good for our muscles, our bones, and our brain, but weightlifting is great for our hormones, those lovely little compounds that are constantly fluctuating in our bodies making us tired, or hungry, or happy, or sad.

That’s right – by lifting weights your body will release more human growth hormone to help repair the broken down tissue from the exercise. Not only does it repair broken down muscle tissue, but it will also promote the use of fats for energy to help rebuild the muscles. Lifting weights is also a great way to regulate our sex hormones. We have written about the amazing ways testosterone and estrogen affect our bodies, so having these is in a better balance is a great way to ensure we do not suffer from any of the side effects of high estrogen or low testosterone.

Last, but certainly not least, lifting weights is a great way to give the body shape. By having some muscular definition (doesn’t have to be huge and veiny – just some definition) we have something more solid sitting on our skeleton, instead of the soft and somewhat shapeless form we can get when we are not using our bodies to their best abilities.

To conclude: no, you will not get bulky from lifting heavy weights. Athletes who “get bulky” work incredibly hard to look that way – sometimes taking years of training and specific diets to get there. If they don’t take the time, then there is a good chance that they are using steroids to speed the process along. 

Do not be afraid of lifting weights. The benefits far outweigh the very low chance of you getting bulky.

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