This is a recurring topic where women express concern in regards to getting all swole and bulky from lifting weights. Let’s see if I can put some of these concerns to rest for you as I am a strong proponent of women getting into strength training. There are many benefits for you to gain by strength training such as the obvious with a more toned body, but more importantly you will gain not only physical strength, you will get stronger mentally, you will become more confident in your abilities with all of lifes endeavors.
Another important aspect is resistance training how it is good for increasing the strength of your bones. Ladies, chances are pretty good that if you live long enough, you may become afflicted with osteoporosis. Strength training with a proper diet will help to prevent this or at least mitigate the severity. The human skeletal system reaches peak bone mass by the age of 30 years old. Even though our bodies have quit growing in stature, our bones are still building in mass. After we turn 30, whether we are male or female, it is imperative that we protect our skeletal system by strengthening it through resistance training and ensuring we consume sufficient quantities of Vitamin D and calcium. When there is low amounts of calcium in our blood, hormones and Vitamin D call on the inner trabecular bone matter which is akin to a lacy network of calcium crystals that are almost sponge like in appearance, to release calcium into the blood for use in the rest of the body. Over time, this lacy network becomes less dense and fragile as calcium is depleted. Since our bone mass is at peak level at 30 years old, think of this like money in an account where you need to protect the account and not make any withdrawals unless you absolutely have to.
Next, as a female of any age or physical condition, your body does not produce testosterone which will promote building huge mucle mass. If you bulk from lifting it will never be accidental and will definitely be on purpose through a tremendous amount of work and muscle building supplements of either legal or illegal types, such as steroids. Truth be told, most men do not bulk up easy with lean muscle mass either. Most men who get bulked fairly rapidly actually are carrying more body fat than they might realize or want to admit.
Everyone, male or female has a genetic potential, or rather a limit of how much lean muscle mass they can naturally put onto their bodies by 100% natural means. That potential is all in the size of your bone structure. The bigger your structure, the more muscle you can pack on through, again, very hard work. For instance an accurate way to calculate your maximum biceps size, excluding fat is through a simple measurement. Measure your wrist and then add 10 inches to that measurement. Male or female, this will give you a pretty accurate expectation of how big you can grow your biceps through lean muscle growth. You measure at your wrist because that is the part of your body where you have the least muscle and fat to indicate your bone structure. If your biceps gets bigger than this potential, it is either because of body fat which we hope you are losing, or drugs.
If you do not want to bulk, you also need to know the variable aspects of different lifting methods. Light weight, high reps as opposed to heavier weights low repetitions. Ladies, if you are concerned about bulking, the last thing you want to do is to lift with light weight and high reps even though this is likely to be your first instinct to try. In the short term you might like the toned look you are getting, especially while cutting body fat. But, in the long term, light weight high reps will give you some of the bulk you may not desire. This is because when you do those high repetitions you are promoting sarcoplasmic hypertrophy which does gets you all “swole”. High rep sets pump your muscles full of blood which causes microscopic tears of the muscle tissue. This action causes your muscles to retain sarcoplasmic fluid which results in bulk over time. The good thing, if this is not desirable, the swole will disappear with the dissipation of the sarcoplasmic fluid. Remember too, it takes on average 4 to 5 years of serious weight training to reach your genetic potential, if even then. It will not happen over night. You never know, but during that time you might decide you like being more muscular.
My personal choice in weight training is power lifting where I use higher weights and less reps in order to achieve maximum strength over aesthetics. With this style of lifting you can get huge as I did. I was 250 lbs at my heaviest and strongest. I only stand 5′ 7″. But, the thing is, I was intentionally eating 6000 calories a day to fuel my lifting, and I was also carrying too much body fat despite the amount of training I was doing each day. I was lifting competitively and ate like a horse to fuel my workouts. The other reason I ate a ton of food to drive maximum strength is because I was a Correctional Officer in a pretty hard core prison. Which is really not a environment for small weak people. The inmates will eat you up if you appear weak. Now that I am no longer in that environment, I have taken off 70 pounds and still lift pretty heavy weights for my body weight and age. I still do heavy weights at low reps and in no way am I any way bulky.
Ladies, if you want to strength train, I highly recommend you do compound lifts where you work multiple muscle groups with each lift and begin at light weights, lighter than you feel necessary, in order to master the movements and form. There is no call to be intimidated by barbell training and I assure you, you are not going to look like a male bodybuilder.