Will Weight Training Make Women Bulky?

By DanielleJune 27, 2018

Why I Strength Train (And why I think you should, too!) 

will weight training make women bulky

Many of my clients are women. In fact, much of my coaching practice is focused on helping women feel better about themselves – both physically AND mentally. I want all my clients believing they are strong, capable badasses (because they ARE!) 


With that being said – I hear this often from new clients: “I want to get stronger, and lose weight, but not TOO strong. Not buff I mean… I just want to tone my muscles.”


I like to break it down like this:
If you continue to lose fat, but never add any muscle – you will only reveal a thinner version of yourself right now. I have been there. I ran until i didn’t have any more fat to lose. I was still unhappy. And hungry. Not a fun combination.


I had all these photos saved in my phone of women whom I admired – they had defined abs and bigger legs than I had. They looked STRONG!  I wanted that, but I also didn’t want to “bulk up.” When it came down to it, I was afraid. I was afraid of giving up my current routine because I thought I HAD to suffer to be thin. The more time I spent doing cardio plus dieting, the closer I thought I’d be to my goal. I thought if I gained a half of a pound, I’d be less attractive. As women, these messages are what we are bombarded with on a daily basis . If you do more, eat less, take up less space, be more quiet, have less muscle – THAT’S when you’ll finally be happy and desirable! 


Please believe me when i tell you this: IT. IS. NOT. TRUE. It’s total bullshit.
And we (women) need to stop believing it.


It wasn’t until I stopped doing so much cardio and dieting – and started lifting weights – that I realized there’s so much more out there than just focusing on being skinny. My body finally started to LOOK different. In a GOOD way! Fitness does not have to be a game of “who can suffer the most.” Fitness should be something you enjoy that you do to feel good about yourself. Not as a punishment.


Which leads me to my main point: Why I fell in love with strength training. And why I think you should try it, too!



So this is a scary statistic – but once you reach 30, you begin to have age-related sarcopenia, which is the medical term for muscle loss. According to WebMD, “Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you’ll still have some muscle loss.” Your total muscle mass contributes to your resting metabolic rate – meaning the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn at rest. So, someone who has more muscles will naturally have a faster metabolism and need more calories than someone with less muscle. 


This is a very abbreviated version of metabolism – but what I am getting at is that the more muscle you can build, the faster your metabolism will be. You can continue to eat the same exact number of calories but actually shed fat with more muscles. So, you will have more muscle but actually BE MORE LEAN. Which equates to looking more “toned” and less “bulky.” 


Also – unlike cardio, your energy needs are higher for HOURS after an intense weight lifting session – as the body needs more fuel to repair muscles. The heightened metabolism causes more calories to be burned long AFTER the weight lifting has ended. Cardio, on the other hand, only burns a set number of calories during the activity and very little after. 




Another added bonus with strength training – you are ALWAYS chasing a new goal and it has nothing to do with the scale. Whether its being able to do more reps at a certain weight, or lift more weight for just 1 rep – there’s always a way to track progress and it’s so fun to see yourself get stronger! You get to BE MORE instead of focusing on just trying to be less. And that’s an amazing feeling.


As I began to appreciate my body for what it could do, instead of punishing it – I found myself being less obsessive and critical in front of the mirror. I also began noticing muscles I never even knew I had – HELLO, DEFINED BACK! Things started changing with less effort. I was eating a little more, but I felt LEANER – but also – STRONGER! And I didn’t have to run for 60 minutes and then lift 10lb dumbbells 100 times to get these results (two things I didn’t enjoy but did because I thought it was “what it took.”) 


Allowing myself to focus on what my body could do shifted the focus away from obsessing about the way it looked. I felt free. 



Have you ever deadlifted your body weight? What about 2x your bodyweight? 
Let me tell you – the first time I wrapped my hands around a barbell and my coach told me: you just lifted 85lbs! I was over the moon excited. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to lift something heavy and feel STRONG. Here I am, 4 years later, deadlifting 200+lbs  – and I still get the same rush of feelings every time. Being able to share that with other women is why I do what I do. Nothing brings me greater joy than seeing people get stronger.


Weight lifting allows you to focus on all the amazing things your body (and mind) are capable of – without once having to think about the way your body LOOKS. Women aren’t told they need to feel strong in the gym. In fact, we are handed pink dumbbells and told to do more reps, but not too many, but lift weights, but not too heavy, because – we might look unattractive. It’s a shame, because being empowered, feeling strong, feeling happy about our bodies is something many of us all want. Women are strong – we can lift weights – and lifting those weights WILL NOT MAKE US BULKY. Women who appear “bulky” set out with a mission to look that way. They train differently to get there. And furthermore – those women want to look that way! Which is why that shouldn’t scare the rest of us from lifting weights. You do you, girl! 


I always tell my clients: If you ever think you’re gaining too much muscle, I promise we can scale back the weight. In all the years i’ve been coaching, i’ve yet to have anyone ask for that.


If you’re at all interested in learning more about weight lifting, fitness, or training in general – please contact me [email protected] Or check out our semi private personal training sessions here at Ascend Body, where you can learn how to lift ALL the things and more!


Hope to see you in a session soon!


*About Ascend Body: As the best personal trainers in San Francisco’s Mission District, we offer 1:1 personal training, Semi-Private strength training sessions and Boost your body small group training sessions. We pride ourselves on having the best nutritionist, massage therapists and wellness coaches in SF to provide you a one stop shop for all your SF fitness and wellness needs. Call (415) 724-7164 to schedule a free nutrition and fitness consultation today! Will weight training make women bulky? No. 


Download our FREE Nutrition Success Guide

Whether you’re a pro who needs a jumpstart or a beginner who’s struggling with where to start, download our nutrition success guide and get the support that will take your fitness and wellness to the next level!
First Name
Email address
Secure and Spam free...