Will Lifting Weights Make You Big and Bulky?
Does lifting weights make you big and bulky? Short answer – no, not at all.
This is a relatively popular myth and doesn’t really carry much merit. It’s also a bit disingenuous to those who have packed on muscle; as the act of getting “big and bulky” takes dedication to hard training and diet. Unless you have personal plans to become a bodybuilder, then you don’t need to worry about looking like…..well, a bodybuilder.
For one, it’s a bit difficult to develop muscle mass because your body is made up of different muscle fibers. Muscle fibers can be divided into slow and fast twitch muscle fibers; how much weight you lift, along with how much force you produce when you do lift weights will dictate which ones you use and how your body responds (1). Slow twitch muscle fibers will not really enlarge (hypertrophy is the scientific name for building msucle) and lead to a muscular appearance.
Secondly, the hormonal response from training is needed for muscles to hypertrophy. The movements you choose, along with the rest you take in-between sets, can dictate your body’s testosterone and growth hormone release (2). Less GH and testosterone means less muscle developed.
Still not convinced? Gaining muscle doesn’t happen by accident. You have to eat a lot of food, basically to the point to where eating becomes your life. Unless you plan on taking a dump truck to the grocery store, then you really have nothing to worry about.
But who wants to train to be weak? Strength training enhances nervous system output and coordination; therefore you can get stronger and make activities of daily living much easier by following a strength training program. Research has shown that young men can enhance strength from an 8 week strength training program without increasing muscle mass (3). For this to happen, lift weights at or above 80% of your 1RM; which means a weight you can lift only 3 to 5 times.
1. Seeley, Stephens, Tate. Anatomy and Physiology: 7th Edition.China: McGraw Hill. 2006, pp 301
2. Bachechle, Thomas R and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics. 2000, pp 105-108
3. Monterio, A.G., Aoki, M.S., Evangelista, A.L., Alven, D.A., et al. “Nonlinear Periodization Maximizes Strength Gains in Split Resistance Training Routines.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2009. 23.4: 1321 – 1326