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Will You Get Big and Bulky if You Lift Weights?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Will You Get Big and Bulky if You Lift Weights?

Story at-a-glance -

  • Ninety nine percent of women do not have to worry about getting big and bulky from lifting weights; they simply don't have high enough natural testosterone levels for that degree of muscle gain
  • Muscle is five times more dense than fat, so a pound of fat takes up to five times more space on your body than a pound of muscle, which is why your size can shrink when you build muscle mass
  • Body "sculpting" cannot occur with simple weight loss; resistance training is necessary for reshaping your shoulders, arms, buns, back, and chest
  • In addition to losing inches, resistance training causes you to burn more calories all day and all night, as muscle demands energy just to sit on your frame
  • Resistance training decreases inflammation in your body, thereby lowering your risk for diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases

This question comes up a lot from my female clients. And the answer is, no, most likely you will not.

In fact, gaining more muscle through resistance exercises is an integral part of any well rounded fitness / fat loss program.

Having more muscle on your frame is the best "fat burning friend" that you will ever have.

Below are some advantages to incorporating resistance training (lifting weights) into your fitness / fat loss routine, along with a sound nutrition program, a strong positive mindset, and a social support plan.

Muscle is Five Times More Dense Than Fat

I can understand why many women may be reluctant to start lifting weights.

You may have visions of steroid-bloated female bodybuilders with veins running through their biceps and chests.

Of course, there is that extreme, but keep in mind those women are out of balance.

That kind of build is NOT the typical result of weight lifting, and 99 percent of women simply do not have the level of natural testosterone to gain muscle like men.

It is a common misconception that muscle weighs more than fat. In reality, it's simply a matter of density.

They take up different amounts of space.

Conversely, a pound of fat takes up five times more space on your body than muscle, which means you can gain a pound of muscle and lose a pound of fat, and while your weight stays the same, you will actually shrink in size, and get that toned look you are looking for.

Muscle is five times more dense than fat, meaning it takes up five times less space on your frame, pound for pound.

Burn More Calories 24 hours a Day / 7 Days Per Week

Another great advantage to gaining muscle through resistance training is that you burn more calories.


Because muscle is anabolic and demands energy just to sit on your frame – even when you sleep! For every pound of muscle that you gain in the future, your body will burn 50-70 calories more per day. That means, if you add 10 lbs. of muscle through a sensible fitness program (which is very possible), you will burn 500 – 700 calories more per day. And burning more calories leads to shedding excess fat.

How Weight Lifting Can Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

Remember, shedding excess fat is about more than just looks. Your body has two types of fat: visceral and subcutaneous. Subcutaneous fat is found just under your skin, and is the type that causes dimpling and cellulite. Visceral fat, on the other hand, shows up in your abdomen and surrounds your vital organs including your liver, heart and muscles.

Visceral fat has been linked to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke, among many other chronic diseases.

If you want to reduce your risk of heart disease (and a host of other chronic diseases), the key is to keep your inflammation levels low, and avoid gaining visceral fat in your body.

Exercise is a critical component for this, as it both lowers inflammation in your body, and is one of the best weapons to fight visceral fat. For example, one study found that volunteers who did not exercise had an 8.6 percent increase in visceral fat after eight months, while those who exercised the most LOST over 8 percent of their visceral fat during that time. So, since increasing muscle-mass puts your calorie burning into overdrive, which reduces fat stores, weight lifting is an essential part of a healthy fitness routine.

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One of the Best Ways to Fight Osteoporosis

Your bones are actually very porous and soft, and as you get older, your bones can easily become brittle and less dense. Especially if you are inactive. When you engage in resistance training you put more tension on your muscles, which in turn puts more pressure on your bones. In addition, as you build more muscle, and make the muscle that you already have stronger, you also put more constant pressure on your bones.

Weight-bearing exercise is one of the most effective remedies against osteoporosis. The last thing you want to consider is to take a drug to improve your bone density, as without question, that is more likely to cause long-term harm than benefit.

I have had many clients who have amazed their doctors by reversing osteoporosis and osteopenia by lifting weights a couple times per week. So when it comes to fighting osteoporosis, stay off the meds and incorporate weight-bearing exercises instead. For example, a walking lunge exercise is a great way to build bone density in your hips, even without any additional weights.

You Have the Ability to Sculpt Your Physique

It's important to realize the difference between simple weight loss and the body sculpting so many are trying to achieve. Body sculpting is not possible with cardio exercise only. For example, if you start out with a pear shaped figure and lose weight by calorie restriction and/or cardio work alone, you will simply end up with a smaller pear shape. For many, this is not enough.

However, by including weight training in your program, you have the ability to literally reshape your shoulders, buns, arms, back, and chest. You are the sculptor and can create virtually any changes you so desire.

But don't think that the benefits of resistance training are limited to mere cosmetic adjustments -- although most will agree it does feel great to look good in your birthday suit. You see, the intensity of your resistance training will achieve a number of beneficial changes on the molecular, enzymatic, hormonal, and chemical level, which will help slow down (and many cases stop) many of the diseases caused by a sedentary lifestyle, including:

  1. Metabolic syndrome
  2. Insulin sensitivity and resistance
  3. Diabetes
  4. Auto immune diseases

Optimal health is dependent on an active lifestyle; eating fresh, whole foods, avoiding as many processed foods as possible, and addressing the stress in your life. Ignoring any of these basic tenets of health will eventually lead to a decline in health and any number of diseases. So start moving, and do remember to include strength training in your fitness / fat loss program. It is the number one way for you to remain strong, young, and independent well into old age.