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Does Lifting Weights Cause Women to Get Bulky?

February 07, 2024

Does lifting weights make women bulky

Men and women benefit equally from the same exact types of workout routines. Really, it’s true.

People often ask what the differences are between workouts for a woman and for a man. The honest truth is that there are no significant differences. I repeat: there is no such thing as a workout that’s specifically made for a man or a woman in the first place.

But then, you may wonder, what about all of those workouts designed for women?

Simply put, that’s just marketing. While men and women may emphasize training different muscles for aesthetic purposes (think arms for men and glutes for women), there are no significant differences in what works best as a training method at the gym based on gender. Meaning, any workout routine that works great for a man will work equally great for a woman.

This may sound absurd at first. After all, ladies have been brainwashed into thinking that guys are the only ones who need to workout with heavy weights, lower reps and big compound movements. Girls, on the other hand, should stick to toning exercises and sculpting workouts to keep their physique feminine - which is basically a load of rubbish.


How Should Women Build Muscle?

Suffice to say that most things synonymous with all these "toning" workout routines for women are highly inefficient. They don’t tone, sculpt, or firm your muscles as the marketers in the fitness industry want you to believe.

And they sure aren’t effective in building muscle. Which is quite ironic, because building some muscle is what you need to do to actually get that toned/sculpted/firm/sexy body you’re trying to get.

This brings us to the big important question. How should women build muscle?

The answer is quite simple: by doing all of the things that guys do to build muscle. The same workout routines, the same proven principles, the same methods… the same everything.

The problem right now is the misconception that women training like a man will result in women with a man’s physique. This is absolutely false.

heavy weight lifting for females


Why Women WON’T Get “Big” And “Bulky”

I'm sure you have heard of the hormone testosterone. It’s typically known as the “male hormone” even though both men and women produce it. Men just happen to produce so much more of it than women that it is now referred to as the male hormone.

Testosterone plays the largest role in predicting how much muscle a person can build and how quickly they can build it. Meaning:

Women do not have the physiological makeup to EVER get anywhere near as big and bulky as they are so scared of getting, and anywhere near as quickly as they are so scared of it happening.

There it is. No matter how hard a woman purposely tries to get that big, bulky, overly muscular and manly looking body that most women are scared to death of getting… they never EVER will–unless they use steroids.

You should already guess where I'm going with this. You know the women who actually are big, bulky and overly muscular? The female bodybuilders, certain female wrestlers/athletes, those you are so afraid to look like?

They all used steroids and various other drugs that screw with their hormone levels and allow them to get bigger and bulkier to levels that the general female population can never reach naturally!

To make matters worse, the problem with this fear is that it single-handedly:

- Prevents most women from lifting anything heavier than a 2kg pink dumbbell.

- Keeps most women away from free weights and compound exercises.

- Forces most women to do endless sets of higher reps over and over again.

- Ensures most women will never create progressive overload.

All of which prevents women from achieving their dream body!


The Rate Of Muscle Gain For Men And Women

Let’s pretend that we live in a world where women are actually capable of getting the type of muscular manly body they are afraid of getting. It will never happen, but let’s just pretend that it can.

Fear gives women the irrational belief that this will happen overnight. As if one day you’ll lift something heavier than a 3kg dumbbell or do less than 15 reps per set and the next day you'll wake up packing 10kg of muscle.

Even with steroids and other hormonal drugs, this is impossible.

For the average natural male doing everything right under the best possible circumstances, the average rate of muscle gain will be between 0.1kg-0.25kg of muscle per week. For females, it's about 0.0.5-0.15 kgs.

Read that again, ladies. AT BEST, a MAN whose genetics are significantly more optimal than yours for gaining muscle can only gain a quarter of a kilogram of muscle per week at most, or 1 kilogram per month. Most men won’t even be able to reach that amount, and definitely not every week for a significant period of time.

Similarly, AT BEST, the average woman purposely trying to get big will only be able to gain half a kilo of muscle per month! And that’s assuming she is doing everything as perfectly as possible in terms of diet, workout, and rest.

So clearly, you won’t be building as much muscle as you’d think, and you can easily track your muscle-building progress and go on a maintenance program when you deem yourself to have the desired amount of muscles on your body!


How Women Can Build Their Dream Body

Here’s a question. What type of body do you want? If I have to guess, my bet would be on the following criteria:

You want to look toned and defined. You want to be fit, tight and firm. You want to appear lean and athletic, while at the same time maintaining your feminine features.

Well, guess what? To get that body, you are going to need to build some muscle. The question is, how do we build muscle effectively?

You see, we all build muscle the same way. We all require the same muscle building fundamentals to be in place in order for muscle growth to occur. We all need and benefit from similar amounts of weight training volume, frequency and intensity. We all need to force progressive overload to happen and lift heavy weights that are truly challenging for us. We also need to ensure we're eating in a calorie surplus to supply the body with the energy it needs to build muscle. 

Whether you are male or female, young or old, looking to build 2 kgs or 20kgs of muscle–it doesn’t matter. The things that need to be done for ANY amount of muscle to be built will always need to be done.

Of course, when I say heavy, I don't mean that you should emulate men and lift 20+ kg dumbbells. You only need to lift weights that are heavy and challenging enough for you.

However, since most women use workout routines comprised of lightweights and super high reps, with little to no attempt to make progressive overload… most women will never build any muscle.

Ultimately this means that your misplaced fear of getting “big and bulky” is what’s stopping you from getting the physique of your dreams.


The Solution: Train the Same

As you may have guessed, the solution to such a simple problem stemming from misconception is equally simple: train using the same principles as men.

Aesthetically speaking, I understand that men and women have varying goals, but they’re actually achieved with the same programs. Men often want to be jacked or yoked, and many women want to be toned and shapely. The thing is, you can’t have sexy or shapely anything without building muscle!

To make muscle, you must lift weights and provide the body with ample calories to recover. Muscle won’t miraculously appear from thin air, we need to provide the body with the fuel it needs to grow the muscles. 

Similarly, we're not going to build a any noticeable muscle from performing countless sets of 20 reps with 2-5 kg dumbbells. Instead, we need to be applying progressive overload and continually increase the stimulus placed upon the muscle forcing it into new growth.

The amount of muscle and effort required to lift a weight 20 times without failing is insignificant compared to lifting a weight 6-12 times to failure. High-repetition training has its time and place, but it’s woefully overemphasized and leads to sub-optimal results for women.

Instead we should be following muscle building guidelines and sticking between the following:

  • 6-12 rep range for most exercises
  • 10-20 weekly sets per muscle group

But above all else - apply progressive overload! This can be done in many ways:

  • Increasing reps
  • Increasing sets
  • Increasing frequency 
  • Reducing rest times
  • Increasing weight

The most common method of applying progressive overload is by increasing the weights we're working with. 

With strength and muscle growth closely related, if we can stronger, then we're going to build muscle. 



The Final Say

We hope that we have cleared the air regarding workout regimen for women. At the end of the day, the muscle building principles that apply to men also apply to women, and every other living creature out there. You have to push yourself to change yourself. If a workout is not demanding enough (no progressive overload), at best you can only hope to be on maintenance-mode, and no new muscles shall be built that way.


Author: Hugo from

can women get muscly from lifting weights?

Thomas D
Thomas D


Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.

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