Why Weight Training Won’t Bulk Up A Woman’s Figure

One of the greatest misconceptions in the exercise world is that if a woman does strength training with weights her body will bulk up in the same way as a man’s would, making her look less feminine and less attractive in most people’s eyes. Here we explain why women can feel free to reap the benefits of weight training without worrying about bulking up their figures…


The myth

Many women spend hours every week working hard on the treadmills and other cardiovascular machines trying to achieve their fitness goals but never do any resistance or weight training exercises.

There is a general consensus among fitness experts that for women and men, a combination of cardio, resistance training, and good nutrition is the best approach to improving one’s fitness and bodily performance.

Despite this, many women shy away from resistance and weight training because they’re afraid it will distort their figures by making their muscles and body frames bulk up in the same way that it does for men.

This fear has been strongly exacerbated by the increased popularity of bodybuilding among female populations. Women see photos of female bodybuilders with huge muscles on magazines and websites and associate that with weight training as a whole.


The facts

In reality, it takes a long time, intense training, and usually a lot of steroids for a woman to achieve a bodybuilder’s physique, and only through sustained, intense effort can a woman achieve any noticeable increase to her muscle and body size.

Women can easily get the increased strength, fitness, healthier bones and other benefits that come from weight training without making themselves any bigger.

The main reason for this is because women have something like ten-to-twenty times less testosterone in their bodies than men do. Testosterone is what makes human males develop muscle mass during puberty, as well as giving them more body hair and deeper voices. Because men are born with a much larger amount of testosterone, they are much, much better equipped to gain muscle mass.

Because of their testosterone, men can gain muscle mass even when they aren’t trying to, as seen in the way that men who do manual labor for a living will often develop large, muscular frames even if they’ve never set foot in a gym in their lives.

This is the reason female bodybuilders almost always need to use steroids to get the bodies they have; they need to boost their bodies’ natural testosterone amounts before they can bulk up like men can.

When women do weight training, their muscles become more toned, but do not gain much mass. A toned muscle is a muscle that has had its surrounding fat burned away through exercise, making it more noticeable. Not the same thing as a muscle which has grown massively in size.

English singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding is an excellent example of how an exercise regime that includes the use of weights will tone a woman's muscles, but not heavily inflate them, allowing her to retain an attractive figure.

English singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding is an excellent example of how an exercise regime that includes the use of weights will tone a woman’s muscles, but not heavily inflate them, allowing her to maintain an attractive figure.

Another reason why women don’t generally “bulk up” is that the process of bulking up relies as much on calorie intake as it does on exercise. In order to gain significantly larger muscles, a woman would have to be eating many more calories each day than she’s burning, and then doing the right exercises to try and turn the surplus fat she’ll gain into muscle mass.

Most women who are actively trying to achieve fitness goals and improve their bodies are on some form of healthy or low-fat diet, and if a women maintains her healthy diet and does not generally consume more calories than her body uses, she does not have to worry about her muscles getting too big.

Bodybuilders, whether they're Arnold Schwarzenegger or one of the chemically-altered women on the cover of bodybuilding magazines, didn't get their bodies just by exercising - they constantly consumed a great deal of calories and protein.

Bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger or the women on the cover of bodybuilding magazines didn’t get their bodies just by exercising – they constantly consumed a great deal of calories and protein.

Yet another reason is that women who are not deliberately trying to bulk up aren’t going to be doing the amount of repetitions during resistance and weight training that would be necessary to make their muscle size increase significantly.

In order for a muscle to grow bigger, it has to be damaged first. It has to rip and then knit back together stronger than before. A woman would have to work for hours each day performing large numbers of reps of many different exercises in order to rip their muscles enough to make them knit back together in a much larger size.

If a woman sticks to challenging yet reasonable targets in terms of number of reps and time spent exercising, she doesn’t have to worry.



If you’re a woman who spends a lot of time doing cardio and has a good diet, but isn’t getting the results you want or wants to take things further, then you should definitely integrate resistance and weight training into your workouts.

One piece of advice we will give you, however, is that if you’ve never done weight training before, get someone to show you how, like a gym instructor or personal trainer. Technique is very important with weight and resistance training. Without the proper technique, you could fail to get the full benefit from the training or even injure yourself.


Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or have anything you want to say, please leave a comment below…


  1. kat says

    the example of the girl that didn’t bulk up sorta shows the opposite. She has too thick shoulders and her belly is sticking out because of muscles. Not good at all. I use cardio and ballet and I have better body without weight lifting. I use smaller weighs from time to time only to increase strength a little, if muscles are too week for good ballet jumps.

    • Discovery Learning says

      Her belly isn’t “sticking out”, it’s just the outline of her abdominal muscles. Women can get abs like that from running and other aerobic exercises, not just weight training. Most people would consider Ellie Goulding to have an attractive body.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *