If you’re a thin woman who thinks training with weights will bulk you up in a  masculine way, you have been totally led astray.

If you’re tired of looking like a stick but does not want to bulk up, I encourage you to lift heavy weights.

It’s extremely difficult, to say the least, for a woman with a naturally ectomorphic build (thin, high metabolism) to pack on bulky muscle.

Regardless if a woman is skinny, medium, overweight or obese, lifting heavy weights will not bulk her up.

If a skinny (or overweight) woman points out to me that there indeed exist women who are bulked up or have a thick appearance I simply explain:

In many cases, a thick appearance is from excess body fat covering muscle.

Shutterstock/Miljan Zivkovic

However, in the cases where the woman has practically no body fat, and you can see every fiber in every muscle, this is because she has extremely low body fat, which is exactly what she aims to achieve for contests and photo shoots.

When their body fat levels rise enough, but not too much, they have a very toned look: not muscled up, and not bulky or thick.

Excess Muscle Development

When women actually DO have excessive muscular development, they are either using performance enhancing drugs (professional bodybuilding competitions don’t do drug screens), or, they train for competitions (such as strongwoman) with the goal of lifting enormous amounts of weight.

There are tricks to appear very muscular in athletes who don’t use anabolic steroids. One is to “cut” or reduce body fat. Another way is to “pump up” the muscles with repetitive arm curls before a photo shoot or competition. Shutterstock/AXL

They aren’t concerned about their appearance; only their performance.

Genetics and eating habits also play a role. Many “bulked up” women eat three sandwiches in one sitting to help build muscle, but the “bulk” is excess calories stored as fat.

Regardless of genetics or goals, a woman will not build a lot of muscle overnight. Bulking up is very difficult to do.

Women who say they bulk up easily are very misinformed and mistake the “bulk” for body fat. I have witnessed this over and over as a personal trainer.

And especially, a skinny woman doesn’t go from skinny to bulky overnight.

If a skinny woman wants to gain weight to look “healthier,” she should imagine herself on a continuum, where one end is skinny and the other end is bulky.

As she lifts heavy weights, she will start moving along that continuum. When she reaches a point that she’s happy with, as far as no longer looking too thin, then all she needs to do is stick to a maintenance plan.

There IS a such thing as a non-bulky woman who can lift heavy weights. Look for these women at your gym.

You’ll notice that they aren’t “scary skinny,” but may be very trim, hard and shapely. They aren’t skinny-fat. They are skinny-lean-fit.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Just dance