On Weight Lifting, Getting Bulky, and Body Changes

Bulky might as well be a four letter word in the female fitness world.

Many women don’t lift weights because they don’t want to get too bulky, and many who are in the fitness industry will repeat “you will not get bulky” until they’re blue in the face. But that might not be the whole truth.

No, as a female who is strength training, you will not suddenly hulk up and tear out of your clothing. You will not become a veiny, muscle bound, faux tanned Miss Olympia just because you pick up a barbell. But what most fitness professionals don’t tell you is that yes, your body will change.

Some parts will get a little bit bigger. Some parts will get a little bit smaller. Some parts will just change shape all together. And hopefully most parts will get a whole lot stronger.  But isn’t that part of the reason why we do a fitness routine in the first place? Besides health reasons, most people work out for one reason: to look good. So if you’ve been riding the elliptical for years and your body hasn’t changed, why does it scare you that your body will change from lifting weights? Isn’t that what you want?

Wait, things might get bigger?

Yes, some things might get bigger, but don’t let that scare you. When you start lifting weights, your muscles will get stronger, if you’re doing it right. What happens when muscles get stronger? They get a little bit bigger. They gain shape and size, but when you strip away a layer of body fat over those muscles, you may not actually gain any size over all.

If you are someone with a lot of body fat to lose, you will lose that body fat and become smaller over all. But if you are someone with just a little bit of body fat to lose, you very well may notice a few things feeling bigger before you start to notice your overall size decreasing.

With regular strength training, your glutes will get bigger, giving you the appearance of a lovely, perky round bum. Your quads will probably get a little bit bigger, but with a loss of body fat surrounding your quads, your legs may actually stay the same size or even end up a little bit smaller. The muscles in your shoulders and upper back will develop, and depending on where you’re starting from,  dedicated strength training may make it a little bit difficult for dress shirts to fit correctly. But to be totally honest, while your glutes get a little bit bigger, and your shoulders and upper back also become more defined, your midsection will most likely get a little bit smaller — with the correct formula of nutrition and exercise.

It’s also worth noting that maybe your goal is to gain size and massAnd if that’s the case, bravo for you! And no, that wasn’t sarcastic. I see nothing wrong with women wanting to get not only strong, but big and strong, if that’s what they want. Just know that as a female, unfortunately you will have to work very hard to put on large amounts of muscle mass, and your food intake will play a big part in this as well. Again, know your goals, and do work accordingly!

So what does all of this mean? 

Change isn’t always bad.  If it’s strength, health, and fitness you’re after, strength training is a no brainer. If it’s physique goals you’re after, don’t be afraid of the muscle growth. Increasing the size and muscular definition of your shoulders actually creates the appearance of a smaller waist, which is what many people want. So what if your dress shirts are a little bit tighter up top? You may  need to buy a few new shirts, but chances are, your body will look better (both in clothes and out of them) with a little bit of muscle.

How much bigger is bigger? 

Don’t worry. Like I said above, you’re not going to all of a sudden bust out of your clothes. It takes most people, especially women, years of a very specific dedicated and focused program to put on any appreciable muscle mass. Your muscles will grow, but not into the hulked out strong-man visions that you’re imagining. They will grow millimeters, centimeters maybe, but even that will take time and focus. But that doesn’t mean that your overall size will increase.  Like I mentioned above, when you decrease the layer of fat over your newly developed muscles, you’ll most likely appear smaller than before you started lifting. If not smaller, than just… different (in the best way possible).

There are many women out there who struggle to put on muscle mass, and those who build muscle easily are an exception to the rule, not the rule itself. I’ve been lifting for about 5 years, but I’ve only been seriously lifting for about three. I bench, squat, and deadlift every week, and I am far from hulking out of my clothes. Yes, my muscles have grown, but I’m still wearing the same pants and shirts I was three years ago, they just fit a little bit differently now (better, for the most part).

To give you a little bit more perspective, I’ve been a pear shape my whole life.  I was blessed with the genes to give me a bigger back side and bottom half, but I’ve always been very small on top. For instance, last time I got measured for a bridesmaid dress a couple of years ago, I was a size 4 in the bust, 2 in the waist, and 8 across the hips. And to be quite honest, that 8 was a little bit snug — I probably could have ordered a 10. Talk about disproportionate!!  At this point in my life, I had been strength training for about a year, but had not made any significant gains in my upper body, as I was focused more on learning the mechanics of squats and deadlifts.

Now, two years later, with a much stronger and more muscular upper body, my proportions are finally beginning to even out. My lower body has changed shape, growing in some areas and shrinking in others, and my shoulders and upper back have increased in size, not dramatically, but enough to make some dress shirts snug across the shoulders and a couple of dresses difficult to zip at the top. So, yes, I’m getting “bigger” in some senses, but those bigger shoulders actually make me look better physically, in my opinion, balancing my top and bottom halves.

Now, am I physically perfect? No, far from it. But I can tell you with 100% honesty, that weight lifting has made all the difference in my physique, and it has made changes that I never would have seen with my old fitness habits (elliptical for life!). As a girl who has spent most of her life trying not to be the “big” girl, I understand the psychological impact of starting something that could potentially make parts of me bigger. But the best part about strength training is this: not only will your muscles get stronger, but your body will become much better at fat burning as well. So, as said above, while your muscles are increasing in size, the layer of fat around them will be shrinking, thus revealing the physique that you’ve been after.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t even be writing this blog post, because all people would be working out and training for health reasons, not for vanity. But the reality is, most of us want to look good. Most of us want to do everything we can to look as good as we can, and I can assure you that strength training is one of the very best things you can do to help yourself reach that goal.

But if your goal is to be healthier, stronger, and look great naked, I urge you to strongly consider strength training, even if you’re terrified of some of your parts becoming a little bit bigger. Even if you don’t have a goal to compete in a strong man competition, that doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from a little bit of strength. I strongly believe that all people who are physically able (thin, large, and anywhere in between) should strive for a basic level of strength in order to be able to complete tasks such as lifting your own suitcase, shoveling snow, and carrying a couple of heavy grocery bags home. Beyond that, it’s up to you how strong you want to get, and don’t worry, you won’t get too bulky.

 Readers: If you follow a weight lifting program, were you afraid to at first with fear of getting bulky? Have you gained size with weight lifting or just changed shape? If you don’t do any weight lifting, would you consider starting?

48 thoughts on “On Weight Lifting, Getting Bulky, and Body Changes

  1. Interesting. I’m a runner at heart but I’ve found that I have a weak core and that has given me niggle after niggle with trips and falls and supporting muscle groups struggling to keep me moving. I’m at the beginning of strength training which has made a huge difference to my endurance and I’m nearly niggle free – old ankle sprain and weak ligaments aside.
    I’ve not yet got to weights and yes I was avoiding them because I was afraid of the extra muscle mass. There’s no excuse now is there! Thank you.
    Oh and I’m one of those who trains to keep my body working. I’ve suffered with back pain and hip pain since I was a teenager and exercise removed the pain for longer than painkillers ever did. So I’ve kept myself marginally fit over the years and suffered with the pain occasionally. The slap in the face was my daughter running rings around me! That made me rethink how fit I was and I seriously got back into running. I’m now painkiller free for nearly 2 years. I’d rather be fit than suffer.

    1. Strength training is very beneficial for runners, I would highly recommend trying it out, even just 1-2x per week. As with the progress you’ve already seen, increasing your strength can help even more. Glad you’ve been able to be painkiller free for two years now — that is really some great progress! It’s amazing what great medicine exercise can be 🙂

  2. Love EVERYTHING about this post! Personally I was never afraid at first to “bulk up,” but I hear that almost every week from various class members, clients, and blog readers. This will be a great link to point them to! When I started strength training, I definitely changed shape. The muscles in my legs and back definitely got bigger, but I’ve dropped three sizes over five years because of the fat I’ve lost and shaping up my diet. Thanks for the good read!

    1. Thank you so much, Athena, and thank you for sharing on your blog!!

  3. I LOVE lifting! I am one of those girls who falls on the spectrum who can build muscle more easily. I joined lacrosse my freshmen year of high school and all we did was running and calisthenics and I gained 10 pounds but went down a size… However, I would never define myself as bulky. At 5’1” and only 125, I still classify as tiny 😀
    This past year I have been the thinnest I have ever been and at first I had thought it was because I started Bikram yoga and increased my running mileage. But I had to stop going to Bikram and my mileage went back down and my body stayed relatively the same. It turns out, it was because I was consistently lifting heav-ier three days a week!
    I strongly recommend to any woman looking to lift heavy to check out Cathe Freidrich (she has a facebook page!). She is AMAZING and has the most fantastic workout series. I have completed her STS series probably three times now, but her Low Impact and XTrain series are just as awesome. She does her research on training techniques and makes each workout (or series) as effective as possible. Whether you lift 3 pounds for dumbbell curls or 20 pounds, her program adapts to any fitness level! The great part too is her site (cathe.com) has tons of free features and she constantly has discounts on her dvds and digital downloads (which you can load to itunes for maximum portability). Definitely check her out 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment, and I will definitely check out Cathe Freidrich’s page and workout series! And I love that you realized lifting was actually making you smaller — it really can turn you into a more compact version of yourself, but much stronger at the same time!

  4. Great post…especially after seeing a headline on today’s morning news about spinning potentially making women (gasp) Bulky! LOL …as a reformed cardio junkie and recovered sufferer of a severe eating disorder, I was terrified that weight training would make me bulkier (I was already pear-shaped and tended toward a bulkier lower half…which has actually become quite desirable these days,but I digress…). But after years of mostly cardio and abs and seeing little to no results, August 2013, I decided to cut my cardio from 1 hour 5-6x/week to 30 mins 4-5x/week and supplement with weight training…building up to rather heavy weight training…The results? People coming up to me and telling me how great I look and asking if I have lost weight. I haven’t lost a single pound, but I look more toned and I’m slowly starting to see my pear shape balance out. On some days, I’ll admit that I FEEL bulky, but that’s just slight water retention and muscles healing after a good, solid workout. Stay the course! In the next 6 months, I expect to look even more lean, toned, and strong as the small layer of fat over the muscle melts off…and I can’t wait. Ladies, if you’re reading this, please please please incorporate strength training into your workout. You will be so glad you did 🙂

    1. Ugh, that junk from Tracy Anderson about spin making girls legs bulky puts me into an absolute RAGE. Actually, anything about Tracy Anderson puts me into a rage but that’s beside the point 🙂 Anyway, I was very similar to you! When my boyfriend first tried to get me to lift, I was convinced that my lower body was going to turn into this huge hulking mass of muscle.. Ummm.. no. Congrats on having so much success, I love hearing your story — thanks so much for commenting!

      1. haha agreed on the Tracy Anderson rage response. She comes across like a dim wit and is capitalizing (or should I say, monetizing) on women’s fear of getting fat and/or bulky. Shame on her for not being a girls’ girl. Anyway, love your blog and will certainly comment on further entries, as they are always awesome 🙂 xoxo

  5. I feel like women fear getting “bulky” when that takes so much work (and steroids)! The benefits far outweigh the risk of “bulk”!

    1. They really do — I’m glad you agree! Keep spreading the message 🙂

  6. This post reminds us of what a long way we as women have to go in terms of body image. The idea of any man fearing to become “too bulky” would never happen! It’s sad that so many women (myself included) have obsessed over trying to be the “perfect” shape, rather than focusing on what shape is healthy and fit. The more women (such as yourself) embrace being foremost healthy in whatever beautifully unique package that comes in, the more we can all begin to toss away this “bulking up” fear.

    Let’s all free ourselves from the elliptical and welcome some sexy muscle definition! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, and I agree, this is so common in society. I think most women have had this fear at some point. And you are so right — we all have beautifully unique packages, we just need to be a little more proud of them!

  7. Love this post. I love lifting and I feel so much better by being stronger.

    1. Thanks, it is such an addicting feeling, isn’t it?

  8. I’m a woman who loves lifting too, like most people who have commented. Not only does it help your body get stronger, but it helps you mentally as well. I have found that I am more confident and proud of my achievements week after week as I see the weight increase. Sometimes it can take time to see the results on the scale or in dress size, but there’s something to be said about seeing the weight plates get heavier and heavier.
    When I first started, I was nervous about gaining weight in my shoulders and arms. As a former competitive swimmer, my shoulders build fast and aren’t exactly dainty. But for the reasons I mentioned above, I’ve gotten over that. Naturally I started to be proud of the muscle, and I’ll admit it feels damn good when you’re in a weight room surrounded mainly by jacked men and they’re giving you props for how much you can lift.

    1. You are completely right — even before you start seeing physique changes, the accomplishments with weights are addictive. For some reason, I find weights and PRs far more satisfying than say, a PR on a run or something. I guess that’s why I’m not a runner 😉 And YES for guys being surprised by how much you can lift, I’ve even been told I’m intimidating! Ha!

      1. I was a distance runner for over 30 years and never picked up a weight b/c I didn’t want to get bulky. But I had many injuries. Now, at age 54 I am lifting about 2 to 3 days a week and running more than I have been able to in the past 6 years. My body is changing and I can’t say I like it. I am bulkier in the shoulders and arms and shirts I used to wear don’t fit. I was afraid this was from lifting but after reading this blog, I will continue to lift. I’m working on losing my pear shaped stomach, that I didn’t used to have. (:

  9. Although I am not nearly as much of a weight lifter as you are, for most of the people around me I lift more than the majority. I will never forgot when I was in Mexico a few years back after some serious weight lifting (I was doing P90X at the time) for me and I looked great and felt great. My version of great isn’t what other people think is great. I know I could work insanely hard and have a flat belly but, I have accepted that I am not willing to do that and my body holds my weight there. I am not large or small. I am just me. Anyway, back to Mexico. I had all these great dresses packed to avoid the heat in the evenings and to look stunning and BAM not ONE would zip up! These were dresses I had in my closet when my body was weak and flabby and they fit then so I was sure they would fit now. Nope! At first I freaked out. I freaked out for probably a year or two to be honest. I changed my entire workout to not lift much with my back because I became extremely sensitive to my “mammoth back.” After those few years of backing off at the gym and being pretty unhappy with feeling weaker AND talking to my amazing circle of friends who are all into being healthy (especially my wonderful best friend) I decided to take my back on with some lifting again.

    My body has been changing all over again and I am OK with it.
    I am the reverse of you, as you know. My upper body in dresses is a 12 but they hang on my lower body. I don’t have much of a hip on me and my calves are essentially non existent. My body makes me laugh some days but after accepting that this is how my body is shaped and listening to amazing people in my life (you) I have come to realize I love my body. So many people tell me how strong I am at the gym and I don’t even feel like I am lifting a lot because I compare myself to other people who are much more dedicated. I try not to compare myself anymore and am pretty darn happy. I love my body. My body carries me and protects me. My body is, well, mine.

    1. This is a great example of how we are all so unique, and we all can’t expect to look exactly the same, no matter what program we do! And I know you’ll appreciate this — I had to go buy a new dress on the day of New Years Eve because the one I planned on wearing would not zip at the top! We all know my chest hasn’t gotten any bigger — my lats have kind of taken over my world at this point, haha. Anyway, I love your sentiments on loving your body because it is yours. So true, and more women need to feel this way!

  10. my body has definitely changed since i moved from distance running to competitive powerlifting – i’m one of those people who puts on muscle/mass pretty easily with heavy lifting, so my shoulders and back have developed significantly. i personally love it – i love feeling strong and feeling powerful. i have had women ask what my “secret” is to my muscle definition, and i’ve also overheard women comment on how “manly” i look. i loved the long, lean body i had as a high-mileage runner; i equally love the more hourglass-shaped, delts and tris for days look i have now. in both instances my body was working optimally, if only for different goals.

    1. I personally LOVE the look of a female with strong, defined shoulders. I guess it’s subjective though, because I know that some people do think women look “manly” in that case, even though that seems so ridiculous to me. I especially love the people that ask how you got your arms, and then when you say heavy lifting, they come back with “but I can’t do that. I don’t want to get bulky”. ???

  11. I have never worried about looking bulky. But now I am ‘bulking’, I am worried about getting bigger & fatter. Never bothered me before & I know I will be on a cut after, but it is playing on my mind a bit.
    I love my muscular shoulders and back and legs. Bigger is better i say!

    1. Interesting perspective on this! I have never been on a “bulk” per se, but I can definitely see how it would mess with me psychologically. As long as you keep your eyes on your end goal though, you can get through the tougher periods, and you know you’ll be happy with the results when it’s all said and done!

  12. Love this post, Steph! Not many people talk about the fact that you can indeed get ‘bulkier’ when you lift – but it can be a good thing. Before I started lifting, my proportions were similar to yours. I had a scrawny upper body (seriously, I could wrap my hand around my whole upper arm!) but big hips and an ass (well, nothing like they are now, but still big proportionally). I always felt so self conscious in my body and I found clothes shopping to be a nightmare. I wanted to be small all over, so I spent my life seemingly devoted to that.

    Until I started lifting. I then found that I could change the shape of my upper body. By developing a bigger back and shoulders, I finally looked proportional. I had a waist for the first time in my life! Of course, this didn’t happen by accident – I was very purposefully trying to add mass. Now I am much bigger than when I started, but in a good way. I am happy with the way my body looks, and have lifting to thank!

    1. Thanks Tara! I remember getting confused and scared when I first started lifting, and I just wish that someone had said this to me! Yes, some things will get bigger, but they’ll look better — just trust me. And for what it’s worth, I think you look absolutely amazing. The power of weights is really a wonderful thing!

      1. Aww thank you! ❤ I think if someone had told me I would have gotten bigger but looked better I would have laughed and run screaming in the other direction!!

  13. So true about the dress shirts! I’ve had that problem for years… I have a small chest and a flat stomach, so if a shirt fits fine in those places, it’s awfully tight in the shoulders and upper back. And if I buy a looser shirt to fit the shoulders, well, it looks like I’m wearing a bag. My way around this is a lot of tank tops and cardigans 🙂 But still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love feeling strong and healthy. Plus, I notice that strength training has only made me a stronger, more balanced, and better horseback rider.

    1. I’m glad someone can relate to the dress shirt thing ..I hardly ever wear button down shirts because of it! I’m with you — tank tops and cardigans are my daily attire at work, anything that can stretch around my shoulders and upper back is ok with me!

  14. I always ask my clients, “What do you mean by bulky?” because just as you said, changes will happen. With those clients who already have a low body fat percentage, I make sure to tell them that their muscles may get more defined, but they won’t turn into a body builder physique overnight (and quite frankly would have a hard time doing so ever). With any luck your message here is becoming a more widespread one.

    1. Thanks Becki! And that is a great question to ask your clients, I think so many people have this pre-concieved notion of how lifting will make them bulk up. It’s important to let them know that things will change, but that’s ok!

  15. Love the post! I used to do the elliptical every other day for an hour, followed by a bit of what I now consider “light” circuit training. I was average and staying that way. 8 months ago I started working with a personal trainer, incorporating weightlifting into my routine twice a week. And frankly, I kind of got hooked! It’s much more exciting to challenge yourself with heavier weights. My body has definitely changed–I tried on my capris from last summer and no way am I fitting in them. I can back squat with 135lbs, squat press close to 400lbs, but I can’t fit into a size 8 pair of pants. Oh well! I prefer strong to thin. My arms and shoulders and calves look great in a sundress, I guess I will wear those until I get time to shop. 🙂 for now I will continue with weights (4x a week now!), I’ve added yoga 3x a week, and I have never been more proud of what my body can do!

  16. This is such a relief to read. A year and a half ago, I went from having no exercise routine to working with a personal trainer and strength training about five times a week. I dropped a lot of weight, and none of my clothes fit because they were so baggy. Then, as I began getting stronger, I noticed the weight creeping back, and now some shirts, pants, and dresses are feeling tight, in exactly the places your mentioned (shoulders/chest, glutes/quads). I maintain a pretty healthy diet and have kept up with my exercise routine, so I’ve been feeling discouraged about my clothes not fitting. Your post helped give me a new perspective. Thank you!

  17. I want to get bigger quads and i have added an extra leg day to my regimen. I t takes a long time ti see progress 😦

  18. I want to slim down my legs and I’m getting conflicting information from various sources. Some say I need to run a lot and not do any strength training for legs at all. Some say leg exercises won’t bulk my legs up. I have naturally muscular legs, I think. But I have been doing a lot of weighted squats, lunges and dead lifts for the past six months. Although I see more muscle definition, my leg sizes have stayed the same. I stopped doing weighted leg strengthening exercises but I don’t want to stop doing pylometric exercises for my legs because I’m working to improve athletic performance (tennis). I’ve been told I need to run a lot, but I have dont that in the past and I found out it was really bad for my hips and foot. Jump rope doesn’t cause injury though.
    Sorry for the long winded message, but do I need to give up leg exercises (even pylometric) if I want leaner legs?

  19. I was over 400lbs. I got down to 300lbs and started weight training. I was never afraid of getting bulky, lol. The hardest thing for me is not seeing the results of 2 years of weight lifting/powerlifting. I have too much excess skin. It gets depressing when I look in the mirror but I just focus on my strength and not my looks. I’m a very strong woman and it feels empowering!

  20. Hi… im not sure you will reply since this is an old post.. but just taking my chance here…. I ended on your page while googling topics about whether other females have experienced the same thing i did – i started weight training about 6 months back and i started slowly from training full body 3 times per week to now dividing my upper and lower body muscles, training each muscle twice a week…. while i have noticed my legs getting tighter and stronger (and im loving the results too), my upper body have become noticably bigger…. and i dont mean the breast’chest part of the upper body but as a whole… (arms, shoulders, all…) and i am not liking it at all… its making my body look disbalanced… ive always had a hour glass figure.. (not necessarily a tiny waist but my shoulders and hips were always proportionate) and ive always disliked a V shape body but nowdays, i seem to be having one… i feel huge on the upper half of the body.. my question is, should i stop or at least decrease training my upper body? i love weight training.. and i love the feeling whenever i increase the weights on my barbell…. but i dont want this big upper body…. how do i shrink my upper body back to the normal size it was before? is it the excess fat that is making me look bulky or is my upper body muscles just prone to increase easily? really hoping you reply…

    1. Hi there! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment/question. The thing is, with weight training, you will build muscle, which will cause a change in your body shape. You can control that to a certain extent, however. It is entirely possible that you’re feeling “bigger” due to body fat that is resting on top of the muscle, but it’s hard for me to say that without working with you in person. One thing that I will ask is what type of rep scheme are you using? If you are aiming for strength but not mass, you CAN (and should!) keep lifting heavy, but keep the reps low (think 3-5 reps per set). For building mass, you want to be up in the 6-10 rep scheme per set). That being said though, as you are building muscle, your body will change and probably won’t go back to the “normal” size you were before. That doesn’t mean it will keep growing larger, but as you get stronger your body will continue to change. Try the lower rep scheme and take a good look at your food intake as well — it can be very difficult to eat on a deficit during weight training, which is what you need to decrease body fat. Lots of factors here, but please don’t give up on the iron!!

  21. I have the same issue as as Pretty limbu above. I have always been a cardio head. more recently, (last 3 years) i’ve lost 65 pounds and have incorporated resistance training, bootcamp and weights. I have gone to new levels within the last 6 months, even hiring a trainer to help me with lifting etc. I enjoy being strong and fit, but since i still have some body fat to lose and i do look toned, i still feel bulky! its driving me nuts! for the past 2 weeks i haven’t done much upper body aside from push ups, and dips to help stayed toned because i am starting to feel self conscious about how i am looking. i feel lost and not sure if my body type supports what i am doing. i am more the athletic type body. even when i was at my heaviest i wasn’t sloppy, just thick. now that i lost the weight and been lifting i just don’t feel small anymore. help!

  22. Hi, I started lifting weights about 8 months ago with the goals of getting stronger, but I also want to lose fat… after having two kids I’m just sort of lumpy all over and, while a year of dedicated cardio helped me drop a lot of weight (15 lbs), I still had that “lumpy” look. Then of course, the second I stopped my cardio, I gained every pound back, plus another 5 (that took less than a month – how frustrating!). I’m sure part of it is my diet, but I tend to eat fairly healthy and only @ 1500 to 1700 calories per day. That just doesn’t seem like enough to make me gain so much weight, so fast?

    Anyhow, that’s when I discovered weightlifting. AND I LOVE IT. Way more fun than peddling my bike or running laps around the neighborhood. When I started lifting 8 months ago, I could barely do 5 “girl” pushups. I’m now able to do 3 reps of 10 “guy” pushups and have made tremendous gains in how much weight I can lift on various moves (squats, curls, press-ups, etc.). And that’s great! I feel awesome and strong and healthy! But here’s the rub… I’ve gained 11 pounds from where I started. Sure, maybe I’m a quick muscle-gainer… but the scale is hard to stomach sometimes. So while i try not to let the scale get to me too much, I take body measurements every couple of months. Talk about some strange changes! My hips have lost about 2″ (dropping me a full pant-size), but my thighs have gained 1″ and my waist at the navel has actually gained 1.5″ — yikes!! One of the places I want to lose most is my stomach/waist area (thank you, babies), but for some reason I’m not losing anything there… worse, I’m gaining. But I’ve lost in other places, like my arms– holy cow, I’ve lost 2″ around my biceps and my arms look simply fabulous… finally getting that sculpted look to them.

    So I guess this is my question to you: In your article you talk about how you’ve been weightlifting for years… did you see positive body changes fairly quickly or did it take a year or two of serious lifting? I know there’s really no way to target fat-loss, but did you notice some fat areas were more stubborn to lose than others? I love lifting (I do it on average 3x a week, on a day, off a day) and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon… I’d just really like to have a slimmer waist some day.

  23. Hi. I began to weight train again in January- mostly so I could be fit to shovel snow. 5 years ago, I went through severe adrenal fatigue and I lost a lot of my muscle. During the stress, I lost a lot of weight. I could see ribs! I’ve never been able to ever. It scared me because my mom lost so much weight before she died. I had been struggling to get to 140+ lbs, because for my height and frame, I do think it is reasonable.
    So, a month in to the body weight training, I started feeling fat. My arm muscles were defined more, as were the curve of muscle in my thighs. My butt felt stronger and was a bit higher. I noticed muscle visible on stomach.
    However, I see more jiggle areas on legs, arms, stomach. Skin is a bit loose. From research I understand that this is fat cells breaking down or changing. My pants felt tighter.
    In the articles I read, it said you gain after a few weeks, then a few week later you slim down.
    What I love about your article is that you had years, not weeks to have good changes.
    I really believe that many of us just working as maintenance and not a full-time gig have things happen at different times. It depends on our body, genes, and , like me being under adrenal stress that is taking a long time to resolve, recovery takes longer.
    My shoulders are still a bit bony. I am feeling changes in upper back. I am taking training slow and steady.
    I have always had a hourglass figure shape. Training makes my upper body and lower body look wider. Up close I think it makes me look too plump, but when I look at a distance, I look like a shapely, sexy chickie.

  24. I took about 10 months off from my wedding from lifting. Up until my wedding I lifted twice a week and we very happy with my body. I was also eating less due to stress so I was looking how I wanted to look my big day. I am 5’2 and weighed about 115. After the wedding I took a break from lifting and continued to do my cardio but did yoga as well and also wasn’t eating a ton (in other words, I don’t usually snack and ate a minimal amount for lunch, so that could also explain why I liked my body then. I then started to gain weight. Normal weight. I would say 120ish is my norm. Went on vacation to Italy gain a couple more then I was like ok, gotta get back to weights and began doing it 2-3 times a week. I eat very healthy minus the weekends and I am now up to 130lbs. The highest I have ever been which is extremely discouraging to me. Everyone else says I look fine, including my husband who says he doesn’t notice, but I notice. My clothes are a lot tighter, and clothes I would have worn in the spring doing fit me. My pants are tighter along with my shorts, but I don’t look bad. Is it possible to gain over 10 lbs in muscle in 4 months?! granted a couple lbs may be fat, but am I making this up?!

  25. Great article. I struggle a lot with watching my weight go up on the scale through muscle building. I am now at 64 kg at 169cm. Would have to convert to US metric. My legs got quite bigger and my back too. But everything feels much more toned with much less cellulite. I will never be completely without. But I think weight lifting is super addictive. I love feeling strong and it is just an amazing feeling. I would recommend it to everyone. And I love seeing fellow female weight lifters. It is encouraging that more and more women are doing it.

  26. I thought it was the opposite?? That you should lift heavy weight for only a few reps?

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