I hear it all the time from clients when they discuss their fitness goals, “I want to get firm but I don’t want to get bulky.” Believe me, those chances of getting “bulky” are slim to none without a whole lot of effort.
When you incorporate strength training into your fitness program, you will increase your metabolism effectively chiseling away at your body fat, helping you achieve that “sculpted” look, but unless you plan to lift heavy weights 5 to 6 days a week and simultaneously increase your calories (and most likely take supplements) and do this for months and years, you will not see a bulk in your muscles.
Lifting weights is effective and important to reaching your goals, Working with weights a few times a week, more so than straight cardio, will help you burn more calories and help shape your body into the lean look most desire. And not just light weight. I’m talking challenging, heavy weights too. This will make your muscles stronger, not bigger. Cardio is great to strengthen your heart and lungs, build your endurance, and burn calories, but only doing cardio tends to lead to the jiggly “skinny fat” syndrome. If you like that soft look, then that’s all you have to do. But if you, like most, want to get a toned body, and increase bone density (key to keeping osteoporosis at bay), then resistance training is key.
Getting back to the point about diet: keeping your calories to a healthy range (most women fall between 1200 – 1800 cal per day; dependent on activity and resting metabolic rate) and assuring those calories are clean while lifting weights, betters your chances to create lean body mass. Too many people think that once they begin strength training they can consume extra calories. Wrong. Unless you are specifically training for an event that causes you to be burning hundreds or thousands of extra calories per day (think of any professional sports figure), you do not need to be increasing your caloric diet. It’s that simple.
Lastly, to get bigger takes time and a lot of it. The bodybuilders you see in a gym or on TV didn’t become like that overnight, or even in a few months. Most of these people spent years lifting weights, day after day, week after week, month after month and kept increasing their calories (and supplements) at the same time. For the typical person who lifts weights 3-4 days a week, it will take 4-6 weeks before seeing a change in skeletal muscle and a decrease in body fat. You have to be patient, change takes time, and a big change takes even more of it.
Bottom line to this article… shed the “bulk up” fear, and the body fat, and grab some weights!