Lifting Weights = Bigger Muscles?

There is a common question that fitness professionals are often asked: “Will lifting weights give me bigger muscles?” and often women will ask “Won’t lifting weights make me bulky?”
Let’s dive in to these questions and answer them in a way that everyone can understand (there is a lot of scientific and anataomy answers out there that can be confusing to someone who may not be in the physical training or medical field).

“Will lifting weights give me bigger muscles?” Yes – but it is going to take a long time! Muscular hypertrophy (increase in skeletal muscles and and increase in their component cells – Wikipedia) happes in the long term not the short term. So if you start a workout program (lets say 12 weeks) and you think you are going to be ripped by the end of it? Probably not.

Here is a simple break down of how muscles grow…

  • Muscles being under tension. Your muscles respond to increasing stress loads OVER TIME to allow your muscles to adapt and respond to heavier weights. (Another reason to move slow when buiding your weight load up, to not cause severe injury to yourself.)
  • Muscles being damaged. Every time you lift weights you cause microscopic tears to your muscles. Sometimes you may even feel sore after a workout – which is a sign that your muscles have some damage. These small tears will build stronger muscles – but again it is OVER TIME.
  • Gym Pump, also known as Metabolic Stress. (Sorry guys, I am about to bust your gym selfie bubble… and let your secret out). Ever go to the gym, have a great work out, set a bunch of PR’s and then you take that after workout selfie, admiring how much your muscles have grown?… Sorry to inform you… it’s only temporary! This is caused by swelling around your muscles giving them the temporary arrearence that they are much bigger. But you know what, keep taking and posting those gym selfies… who am I to stop you from being your own motivation?

I was prone to thinking years ago that if I started lifting heavy that I would become very bulky, and I would refer to this as not wanting Madonna arms. Now don’t get me wrong, at Madonna’s age – if I am as strong as that – I will take it! But because the process takes so much time, and also very reliant on diet… the time it would take for a women to get bulky is way far from where you current goals are. So rest assured, while you are trying to build a stronger body, you don’t have to worry about leaving the gym (or your living room, or garage) and looking like Arnold or the Hulk.

Many are under the impression that they will lift heavy and that all of the extra they see around them now (arms, thighs, butt, stomach) are going to transform to these giant forms of muscle just from a few training sessions – but that simply is not the case. And the best thing about personal training?? It is 100% adaptable to what you are thinking and feeling. So you have no where to start from except where you are now, and you have no where to go except to where you want to go… 

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