Will lifting weights make me bulky?

“Will lifting weights make me get big muscles and look like a bodybuilder.” Or “Will CrossFit make me bulky?”

I hear this all the time when I meet with people.

The short answer for everyone: Probably not

The short answer for women: Almost definitely not

Let’s talk about what it takes for muscles to grow. 

Muscle growth (or hypertrophy) requires multiple steps, and is typically a process that requires significant dedication and attention. Consider this article a very elementary look at the very complex physiology that occurs during muscle growth. 

The first step in hypertrophy is the initial stimulus, which is some sort of strenuous activity that will cause some micro-trauma within the muscle. We often think about lifting weights as the main catalyst for this to occur, but that is not always the case. Think about swimmers that you see at the olympics. You can see that they have grown their back muscles (lats) so much that they almost look like they have wings. While most athletes at that level are doing some weight training, the majority of their exercise comes from time in the pool, where they are achieving resistance training. So just remember that resistance training can come in many forms, including body weight, machine, and free weight exercises.

After you have created enough stimulus, there is a period of recovery, and this is really where the magic happens. A wide array of hormonal cascades occur, which will lead to a growth at the cellular level within your muscles. The amount of growth is affected by several factors:Things you can control- Nutrition, recovery techniques, training volume and intensity, and things you can’t control- genetics, growth hormone levels, .

Now while it may be tempting to think that just because you have started lifting weights 3-5 days a week, that you will suddenly gain muscles on muscles on muscles, it probably won’t happen (trust me, I’ve tried.)

The things that you can’t control often will overrule the factors that you can control in regards to muscle growth. Most people understand that testosterone is the main growth hormone that is required for muscle growth. However, most people don’t understand how much testosterone is required to gain significant amounts of muscle. 

If you look at a bodybuilder, understand that most of them aren’t only using their natural levels of testosterone. In order to achieve the crazy amounts of hypertrophy that they achieve, they are unnaturally boosting their testosterone. This is not something that will happen to you by accident.

Likewise, the top bodybuilding professionals have incredible genetics on their side. Thinking that lifting like them will make you look like them would be like saying, “I don’t want to go play catch in the park because I don’t want to accidentally become an NFL quarterback.”

The things you can control is making sure that you are getting in the right workouts to encourage muscle growth (another article itself), make sure that your nutrition is appropriate for encouraging protein synthesis (correct amounts of protein and carbs following your workout), and that you are recovering appropriately between workouts (not too back-to-back days, and getting plenty of sleep.) Even if you dial all these things in perfectly, you will likely not get bulging muscles.

 For most of our members who follow these protocols, they notice decreased body fat in their trouble areas, slightly increased muscle size in areas that typically lag behind (if you haven’t been working out your legs, you might find that your skinny jeans are a bit skinnier), and that they have a new-found confidence when they wear their bathing suits.

So to conclude, unless you are planning on following an intense bodybuilding regimen, don’t worry about getting “too big.” Even if the top CrossFitters’ muscles are intimidating, know that they are working out several times a day, and following a perfect plan to help them get to that level. Probably not something that you will need to worry about if you are planning on keeping your 9-5 🙂

If you are still unsure if lifting weights is right for you, schedule a time below to come by and chat through your specific goals and let us help you decide if TriForce is a good fit.

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