Weightlifting: “I don’t want to get too big.”

October 21st, 2009


This is something you’ll hear from time to time, especially from women, in response to the idea of lifting heavier weights.

But here’s the deal: most people who lift weights won’t EVER get big and muscular like the bodybuilders in the picture. Not ever.

Here’s who gets big from weightlifting:

–Men under 25 who work out diligently with heavy weights. (Because of a high natural level of testosterone production.)

–Men and women with uncommon, highly favorable genetics who work out diligently with heavy weights.

–People who take performance-enhancing substances (steroids, growth hormone, etc.) while working out diligently with heavy weights.

–A few others who explicitly pursue a muscular physique through a years-long process of heavy weightlifting AND tailored diet AND careful recovery AND healthy supplementation (e.g. with protein powder).

Many champion bodybuilders fit into all of these categories. Most folks you see at the gym fit into one or none.

The moral of the story: you’re very unlikely to get more muscular than you want to be by accident, and it’s IMPOSSIBLE that it would happen so quickly as to sneak up on you.

One more personal opinion: many people — men and women — looking to lose weight and get fit would look fantastic with ten extra pounds of muscle on them, not because they’d look like Bill Grant flexing in the picture (no risk of that), but because they’d fit better in their clothes, move better, and burn more fat 24/7 with a slightly beefier physique.

Don’t you think?


(Photo via David van der Mark, used under a CC-Share Alike license.)

6 Responses to “Weightlifting: “I don’t want to get too big.””

  1. Ed illig Says:

    The specifics of a given training regimen, effort and focus, diet, frequency (i.e., every other day, 6 days a week, etc.) all contribute to actual and varying results. And yours may vary: Exactly, no one “accidentally” balloons into a body builder. :)

  2. Tim Walker Says:

    One big thing, Ed: many bodybuilders find that they don’t add much muscle unless they’re sleeping *at least* 8 hours/night. Not on average — minimum.

    One more thing: for the typical fitness weightlifter using machines at the gym: working in the range of 12 to 15 reps per set, as many do, is great for building endurance — but not much use for adding mass.

  3. Glenda Says:

    If you ever get to looking like one of these guys, we’re putting you on a stage! We could make some money! :)

  4. kathy sierra Says:

    I LOVE THIS! I worked as a fitness director/personal trainer/aerobics instructor for more than a decade in some of the foofiest southern California gyms (Sports Club/LA), and the “But I don’t want to get too big” was the one that always made us laugh. Our responses varied from: “Don’t worry, we’ll stop you before you start busting out of your Armani’s to, “If it were possible for that to happen accidentally, we would not be in business”. But my favorite came from one of our trainers who posted a sign on the “Body Back Guarantee: if you don’t like your new body as a result of working out, just stop. We guarantee you’ll get the old one back soon.”


  5. Tim Walker Says:

    Love it, Kathy! By the way, in all the time that I’ve been reading your work, following you on Twitter, etc., I never realized that you had been a fitness trainer. Did that motivate your interest in how people learn?

  6. What I’ve Learned So Far » Blog Archive » Please pardon my nerdcrush. Says:

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