Will Strength Training Make You Bulky?

“I don’t do weight training because I don’t want to get bulky.” How many times have I heard this statement! Guys, I weight train several times a week – do you think I’m bulky?! (Pssst… the answer is NO!!)

“I don’t do weight training because I don’t want to get bulky.” How many times have I heard this statement! Guys, I weight train several times a week – do you think I’m bulky?! (Pssst… the answer is NO!!)

There are several myths I want to bust in the blog regarding weight training, and I also want to give you some insights into why it is SO important to incorporate weight training into your workout regimen. Plus we will touch on cardio as well – every way you can move and exercise your body will be beneficial, and in different ways. 

I know it is such a ration thought that you would bulk up from increasing your weight training – after all, I’m sure you have often heard guys talking about weight training, gains, bulking and shredding. And those particular topics are so far beyond normal weight training, that you should erase those words from your memory. Those words not only are used to discuss weigh training for body builders, or those with massive muscle gains in mind, but they are hugely impacted by diet. People who are aiming to “bulk” or “gain” have very specific goals in mind and often follow a strict diet and fitness regimen. For those of you on a weight loss journey – think of this as the complete and total reverse of what you are trying to accomplish. They have to work extremely hard, be disciplined and regimented in order to achieve these goals. Basically, what I’m saying is – you won’t accidentally start to bulk if you are incorporating weight training into your weekly fitness schedule. It’s still all about input versus output and increasing your strength and muscle mass will make you leaner and also amplify your caloric output, but I’ll get to that a little bit later on.

Versatility and variety are important when discussing weight training – coupled with consistency of exercise… switching up your routine on the daily or weekly ensures that you are utilising your entire body instead of focussing on just one area. Ever seen a guy at the gym that was super muscly on top but has thin legs? Some guys skip leg day and that causes them to look disproportionate. When you are using your WHOLE body to weight train and build muscle, like in Total Body Circuit 1 or 2, you are building muscle all over to ensure all over strength gains. 

Increasing your strength training is about shaping your body, not bulking it up. When your muscle mass to fat ratio is lowered, your body becomes leaner and more shapely – which is why (and I often hear this in my private Facebook tribe!) when you are working out and regularly doing strength training, you will lose inches and your clothes will fit better – BUT the number on the scale may stay the same or it may increase! Why? Because muscle is much DENSER than fat – and takes up less room in your body – but denser also then means that it is HEAVIER. This is one of the reasons that I strongly advise my community NOT to weigh themselves or tie any sense of self-worth or accomplishment to the scales. If you are new to my community, firstly, welcome 🙂 Secondly, have a look at my challenge from last November, where I followed a strict calorie deficit for 1 month BUT including 1 fun food in my diet every single day – AND lost 3kg! I also continued to choreograph for Youtube, walked between 8K and 12K steps per day and strength trainer with a PT 3x per week! As you will see, with my daily scale updates, PROGRESS IS NOT LINEAR!! My weight fluctuated so much every single day, but ultimately went down in the end, and I became significantly more toned and leaner over that month.

When you are beginning your fitness journey, most people think “calorie burning + cardio + Jane Fonda + treadmill” and it’s a totally normal thought. Our knowledge of the body, how it functions, fat loss, and fitness has evolved so much over the years and it continues to evolve. What was the norm for women and exercise back in the day is different now – now we know it is important to have a balance of weight training PLUS supplementary cardio in order to achieve weight loss and fitness goals.

But WHY Gina?

Okay, I’ll tell you. 

Your progress is intrinsically linked to your metabolic rate – so increasing your metabolic rate is imperative for long-term weight loss ad weight management. Did you know that muscle burns more calories than fat? When you build your body to have a more muscular composition, you will burn more calories day to day because your resting metabolic rate is raised. After a challenging weight lifting session, there will be micro-tears in your muscles (don’t worry, it’s s good thing!) and they will repair over the following 24-48 hours. During the repair time, you will continue to burn calories at an accelerated rate. So when you are sore – that’s what is happening inside your body! Nifty, right? 

With weight training, I would suggest starting off using just your body weight or 1kg dumbbells and the lightest resistance bands. It’s important to start small and work your way up – listening to your body is crucial here, and as much as you want to gain strength, you must do so incrementally, to ensure that you don’t cause any damage to your body.

Getting cardiovascular benefits from weight training is possible as well guys! And if you have done any of my strength workouts – you know! Weight training with little rest in between sets is a way to incorporate cardiovascular fitness into the session to. For example, try 50 seconds of lunges, rest for 10 seconds and repeat a few times. Winded? Yep.

“But I want to lose weight, that’s why I do cardio.” 

Okay, fair enough, I get that, and in theory it works because less calories in and more calories out equals weight loss. But a few points I want to really hit home here. Number 1: if you are doing cardio and looking at the output, that is a slippery slope. Not only is it nearly impossible for a machine or your FitBit to accurately measure how many calories YOUR individual body is expending, but using that output within your calorie deficit will skew your entire count for the day – the estimates will be all wrong. I firmly believe in (if you ARE counting calories) counting INPUT ONLY and making sure you get your daily movements in.

Secondly, during cardio, yes you are burning calories. But when you are weight training, you CONTINUE to burn calories even after the workout. Plus, like we previously mentioned, an increase in muscle mass = increased metabolism.

Thirdly, it is hard to progress past a certain point with cardio- i.e. you will do the same activity over and over day in and day out but your body composition will not change. In order to continue to progress your weight loss and change your body composition, you need to make changes, regularly, including weight of dumbbells or bands, number of sets, duration, rest and more – there are so many options for you to switch it up. And if you are doing my workouts, switching up the sessions on the regular will do the same – and adding weights or extra weights, bands or additional workouts can be ways for you to change it up.

Now, I don’t want to entirely BASH cardio, because it is an important accompaniment to weight training. Cardio improves and preserves your heart and lung function, reduces the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure, as well improves your cardiovascular health, of course. And cardio is something you can do every day, whereas strength training can be done as often as your muscles allow, but I would recommend starting with 1x per week and working up to 3x per week, allowing your muscles adequate recovery time. HIIT or LIIT training is a great way to incorporate cardio and weight training as well – fast-paced circuit style training with minimal rest time is exactly what we were talking about a few paragraphs ago with the lunges and rest. You’ll be puffed! 

I hope that you have learned a bit from this blog and it has adequately assuaged your negative conniptions around strength training. Trust me, adding strength training to your fitness regimen will be the best thing you can do for your training. Plus, no doubt you will find some unexpected benefits looming – like not losing breath when going up the stairs or not getting so sore from an uphill stroll. Who knows! But increasing muscle mass will make you a lean, mean, metabolic machine and will supercharge your fitness regimen, resulting in long-term, sustainable weight loss.


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