Will Lifting Weights Make Me Bulky?
The quick answer is no, lifting weights will not make you bulky.
Lifting heavy causes hypertrophy in muscles, which will lead to a size increase. However, this growth is very gradual, the size increase is often proportional to the stress demanded, is impacted by other variables like sleep, and nutrition, and if at any point we think “I am too jacked”, lifting weights can be stopped and undone at any time. If we are worried that a month of lifting weights will make us look overly muscular, rest assured, to develop the physique of a professional bodybuilder or a full-time Olympic lifter requires a full-fledged dedication to the craft. You won't end up there by accident, nor will you get there by attending a class at FCF three-times a week for months on end, I promise.
Getting bulky is not a side-product of lifting weights. However, there are some beneficial consequences of moving weights around. A dedicated weight-training program leads to stronger muscles, tendons and ligaments leading to more stable joints and safer overall movement. It can lead to a decrease in body-fat, increase our bone density, improve our mood, help us sleep better, and transfer over to other physical abilities like increasing our coordination, balance, and respiratory systems.
But, before we keep going, I’m going to risk sounding mean and ask some follow up questions:
- Will lifting weights make you happier with how you look than your current view of your body? Namely, if you don’t lift weights and continue to do what you’re doing, will you be satisfied with the appearance of your body?
- Will eating the foods you are currently eating, and the exercise program you are currently engaging in (or not) make you more or less bulky than lifting weights?
- What needs to happen to focus more on what your body can do, than how it looks?
To be fit, you need to be competent in 10 physical skills. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. This is what the body does, not necessarily indicative of what the body looks like.
Standards of beauty are based on social constructs, not what the body is capable of. These constructs are constantly changing as well. What is considered beautiful today isn’t what was beautiful 100 years ago, and most likely won’t be considered attractive in another 100 years. To be aesthetically pleasing today isn’t a guarantee you will be aesthetically pleasing tomorrow. We get the term “aesthetics” from the Greeks, and it is the combination of two words (strength and beauty) but can be better thought of as a phrase, “beauty in strength”. We see both body-capacity and body-image ideals exemplified by the Greek gods and statues, where their women and men were all various forms of muscular, some more than others.
Not to mention the daunting but real fact that your body will one day not be attractive at all to society and its physical capacity will also dwindle. “Eternity is pressing upon our time-torn lives,” Thomas Kelly quips, meaning, we are all going to age and die. Our bodies will peak in their physical prowess, and so too will our physical appeal.
However, focusing on what your body can do today will grant you a healthier life and a higher quality of life more than focusing on what it looks like. Aiming to maintain your work capacity (fitness level) over your lifetime is pursuing health, and opens up possibilities for a better life overall.
You can be fit without being thin and chiseled or looking like a Greek god, and you can lift weights without being bulky. I encourage you to do both.