Many women, and perhaps some men, avoid doing weight training for fear of bulking up. They think that lifting weights will make their muscles bigger and therefore, make them look bulky. Because of this, many women focus more on doing cardio workouts and avoid doing any strength training routine for fear of muscle gain.

Weight training making you look bulky is simply a myth, one that has persisted for a long time. As a matter of fact, if you want to sport curves, you should do a weight lifting program which is aimed at toning up the muscles. Your diet should also support the workout you are doing to achieve a toned look.

If the question, “Will weight training make me bulky?” is still on your mind, then read on to learn more about weight training. Find out about the benefits of lifting weights and how you can get started.

What Is Weight Training?

Women Using Kettlebells

Before answering this question, let us first look at what strength training is since weight training falls under its umbrella. Strength training uses opposing force in order to build body strength and increase muscle mass. Its goal is to provide the body with a stimulus which would produce an adaptation response.

When it comes to weight training, weights are used for resistance. When you do weight training, you put stress on the muscles. They get stronger by adapting to the stress, like how your heart gets stronger through aerobic conditioning.

You can perform weight training using free weights, like dumbbells and barbells, or weight machines. Your strength can also be increased through other resistance exercises, like using resistance bands or simply your body weight.

Toning Up versus Bulking Up

In weight training or weight lifting, ‘toning up’ is often used interchangeably with ‘bulking up’. However, they actually mean different things and you achieve them in different ways. Toning up means you tighten up your muscles and give them shape to get rid of the flab. Bulking up, on the other hand, means you make the muscles bigger by increasing muscle mass.

Toning Up

You can tone up your muscles by lifting lighter weights with higher repetitions. This means your weight lifting program would involve lifting a weight which you can lift consecutively 12 to 15 times. You will have to do one to three sets, but this depends on your fitness level and how many reps you do. Performing six different exercises in one full body weight lifting session, and doing two to three sessions is a good start.

For a “toned” look, you should also have a healthy diet that is slightly below your caloric maintenance. This way, you burn more calories than what you consume in a week, which will lower your body fat levels.

Bulking Up

In terms of bulking up, it is achieved by lifting heavy weights with lower repetitions per set. To bulk up, you must “overload” your muscles by working them more than they are used to. As you get stronger, you increase the workload (reps, sets or weight).

To increase muscle mass, you should use a weight which can be lifted up to six times before failure happens. However, you can do more sets of exercise.

In addition, you should consume more calories than your caloric maintenance level to promote muscle growth. You should have enough protein in your diet because the body uses it as building blocks for the muscles.

How Do I Stop My Muscles From Getting Bulky?

The answer to this is making sure that your weight training program is geared towards toning up and not bulking up. Weight training has several benefits, so you should not forgo it.

For example, weight training and other types of strength training help preserve and enhance muscle mass no matter how old you are. As you age, it is natural that your lean muscle mass gets diminished. Therefore, it is important that you replace the lean muscle you lose over time. If you do not do this, your body fat percentage will increase.

Benefits Of Weight Training

Weight Training has other health benefits which include:

Person on Weighing Scale

1. Managing Your Weight

Weight training aids to manage or lose weight. It can also increase your metabolism, helping you burn more calories. It also helps to have a clean and healthy diet.

2. Developing Strong Bones

When you lift weights, you introduce stress to your bones. Just like how you need to exercise your brain for it to stay sharp, your bones also need to stay challenged. Weight training can help increase bone density, decreasing the risk of osteoporosis by improving bone density.

3. Managing Chronic Conditions

Weight training can help manage the symptoms of different chronic conditions including diabetes, arthritis, obesity, heart disease, back pain, and depression. For example, weight training helps you burn through glucose and helps manage blood sugar levels, which is what diabetes patients consistently need to do. Lifting weights also aids in fighting inflammation.

4. Enhancing Quality of Life

Your quality of life may be enhanced by weight training, which helps you perform everyday activities better. Weight training can protect you from injury as well since it strengthens your joints. When you build muscle, your balance will improve and your risk of falling will be reduced. This means, you can maintain independence as you get older.

5. Sharpening Thinking Skills

Research shows that there may be a link between regular aerobic exercise and weight training and improved learning and thinking skills for older adults.

Aside from increasing lean muscle mass, reducing body fat, and burning calories more efficiently, weight training has other benefits and it is important for fitness and overall health for everyone.

Getting Started With Weight Training

For those who are older than 40 and have not been active recently or for people who have a chronic condition, it is important that you check with your doctor prior to beginning an aerobic fitness or weight training program.

Start with a warmup before you do weight training. Do an aerobic activity like brisk walking for five to 10 minutes. Warm muscles are less prone to injury compared to cold muscles.

Choose a weight that will tire your muscles after 12 to 15 repetitions. If doing more repetitions of an exercise becomes easy for you, increase the weight gradually.

According to research, if you do one set of 12-15 reps using the proper weight, you can build muscle efficiently. The important thing is for the muscle that you are working to get fatigued, which means you cannot do another repetition. Doing this is necessary for the muscle to get stronger.

Make sure to have one full rest day between exercising a specific muscle group to give time for your muscles to recover. Also, listen to your body. Pain while doing a weight training exercise is not normal, so you should stop doing the exercise. You can try doing it again in a couple of days or try a lower weight.

In weight training, as in other types of strength training workout, using proper technique is important to avoid injuries. Working with a fitness specialist or trainer can help you learn correct technique and form. Always remember to breathe when you perform weight training exercises.


Even though it may seem frustrating, getting rid of extra fat is not impossible. There are many studies that show it is best to do both cutting back on calories and exercise to get rid of the flab. As you hit the gym, do not forget that you have a great fat-fighting ally – your own muscles.

Aerobic workouts can definitely tune up your heart and lungs but pumping iron is also a great way to fight the bulge. Weight training can help maintain or slim down your waistline, build additional muscle mass, shore up your bones, and make hefting grocery bags easier.

Do not be worried about bulking up when doing weight training because unless you do what has been mentioned here to bulk up, lifting weights will simply tone your muscles and not make you bulky. In case it has not sunk in yet, toning up will give you a more lean look and will get rid of the flab.

1. What is the difference between core training and functional training?

When you do core exercises, you train your trunk, that is, the muscles in your abdomen, hips, pelvis, and lower back. Core training helps improve balance and stability. Functional training, on the other hand, typically uses the entire body, emphasising core stability and strength.

2. Why is core strength important?

The core stabilises and controls the spine and pelvis. Therefore it influences the upper body and legs. If you have weak core muscles, you can get fatigued quickly, have lower endurance and are more prone to injuries. You are also susceptible to lower back pain, poor posture, and muscle injuries.

3. Can rowing give you abs?

Rowing is a great full body workout and doing it for a few minutes can already work your abs. It targets your core muscles because you need to engage them to be able to complete a rowing action.