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Favorite Excuse Not to Lift: I Don't Want Huge Arms

Favorite Excuse Not to Lift: I Don't Want Huge Arms

Strength training is known to tone your muscles, but many women skip it for fear that their arms will bulk up like a body builder. This is a very valid concern, but the truth is, muscle mass needs testosterone and heavy weight training in order to bulk up. Women have a much lower concentration of this hormone, so it's much harder for us to build enormously ripped muscles. That coupled with the fact that we're not lifting massive amounts of weight, so you don't need to worry about turning into the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger from a few weekly strength training sessions.

So now that you know lifting won't bulk up your arms and other muscles, I should remind you that strength training has many benefits. Not only does it define your muscles, it also makes you stronger so exercise and other physical activities will seem easier. It can also strengthen your bones, which lowers your risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. All that and it boosts your metabolism.

For tips on starting a strength training regimen,


For all these reasons, get started strength training with these six basic exercises. Then begin expanding your weight lifting horizons by doing exercises that incorporate dumbbells, machines, resistance bands, kettle bells, medicine balls, and no equipment at all. You'll become a stronger, fitter person overall, without monstrous muscles.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I don't bulk up when I strength train, but I do get pretty buff and my arms look very muscular. They aren't BIG, though. Like syako said, having that muscle there burns extra calories even when you're at rest because muscle takes more energy to maintain itself than fat does. Most women do not get large muscles from strength training unless they are training VERY intensely, eating vast quantities of protein, and probably taking supplemental testosterone. When I was fat, I did strength training and my arms initially got a little bigger, but once the fat came off, my arms were very small and had a lot more definition. Like Anonymous posted above, I think women do have a different view of what being bulky is. I wouldn't consider Jessica Biel to be bulky, either, but I know a lot of women probably would, especially compared to say, Mischa Barton (who has zero muscle tone whatsoever). Sorry, but I'd rather have shapely sculpted arms instead of two spaghetti noodles hanging onto my shoulders.
syako syako 7 years
But that "1 pound a year" is not taking into account the calories burned while weight lifting. That's just your body simply burning more calories when you're sitting on your tush at work because you have more muscles. I mean, let's say you do 30 minutes of weight lifting, that's burning about 200 calories (based on your weight and effort). So if you do that twice a week, that's 400 calories a week and if you do that all year you're actually losing 6 pounds a year just from the effort you're expanding while weight lifting, PLUS the 1 pound for sitting on your tush. I don't get why this isn't clear to everyone?
kclulu kclulu 7 years
I think bulking up is a relative term. I love strength training and I love the muscles that result from it. I personally do not feel bulky but someone else might look at me and I think that I look bulky. I also think that women in general are a little sensitive about having muscles because we think it makes us less feminine. I look at the women on the covers of Oxygen and Hers Muscle and Fitness though and think they look fantastic and I try to emulate them but I realize not everyone does that. In any case though strength training is highly beneficial for women: And I dont think FitSugar is being misleading. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule but it is scientifically proven that women don't put on muscle like men. The problem is some women don't like muscle at all, for whatever reason, so any muscle tone may feel like bulking up to them. Bravo to Firsugar to promote lifting weights for women.
laellavita laellavita 7 years
it really is all about cross training. i train 2 times a week with my trainer, do yoga 3 times a week, and do some sort of cardio 6 times a week (lots of hours logged at the gym!). when my cardio is more run-centric, i definitely slim down, but when i spin or use the elliptical, which i've been doing a lot more recently since i got injured, i noticed that my glutes, quads, and hamstrings bulked up almost immediately.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 7 years
I'm sure I can do arm exercise without adding a lot of bulk, but like other people mentioned, people's bodies are built different. And I wouldn't say I loathe Jessica Biel's figure. I just wouldn't want it for myself, nor do I think we're built the same anyway so even if I wanted to it wouldn't happen.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
As for me, weight training does NOT bulk me up. It makes me more shapely, and sculpts my body. I love weight training, and it's results. Truthfully, I think it's because of weight training that I can still get away with wearing tank tops and mini skirts (at my age), and still look like a college student. I'm about twice the age of a college student, and I still get carded when I buy alcohol. Every time.
Modus-Vivendi Modus-Vivendi 7 years
Sure but if I spent the time I would have spent weight lifting doing extra cardio instead, I'd lose even more! :)
syako syako 7 years
And I'm truly just wondering, all of you that bulk up, if you were to lift weights say two times a week (the feds recommend that to all Americans as a guideline), would you look like the woman pictured?
syako syako 7 years
10 calories a day, that's 3,650 calories a year aka you'll lose a pound a year just from having those muscles. I mean, that's not peanuts.
Modus-Vivendi Modus-Vivendi 7 years
I definitely want cut arms, but I cut back on weights when I read that the "metabolism boost" works out to only about an extra ten calories a day. It just doesn't seem worth it.
poptart-princess poptart-princess 7 years
i build muscle easily as well, especially in my legs. but what makes me and a lot of other girls who happen to have muscle and look "big" is that there's padding on top of that muscle, not to mention the muscles might also just be short. different people will tell you diet is anywhere from 60% to 80% of the equation so make sure you're really eating lean and clean, do enough cardio and S - T- R-E -T-C -H.
michlny michlny 7 years
What people don't realize is that you cannot make universal statements. Every body is different. I am very thin and very toned. I do not do a lot of weights but my arms look like I spend hours at the gym, while others I know, do TONS of arm weight exercise and get nothing. It's a product of your body type, diet and hormones.
katie225 katie225 7 years
i must have more testosterone in my system than other women, because i get bulky muscles. and when you're wearing jeans, people don't know that it's muscle, they assume i'm just fat. i had a friend in h.s. who could not for the life of her get muscles in her arms. she was so jealous of me, and i was jealous of her tiny, feminine arms. she was a field hockey player and i was a cheerleader, so i may have used my arms more, but still. the point is, everyone's bodies are different; some people get muscles and some people don't. look at serena/venus williams versus anna kornikova (sp?). i will never have thin legs, it's just not in my genes!
TidalWave TidalWave 7 years
don't do steroids and you won't get bulky muscle. it's as simple as that.
shiningeyes shiningeyes 7 years
I do a reasonable amount of weight-training to get toned, not bulky. I would love to have well-defined arms like Michelle Obama. :)
syako syako 7 years
The sheer fact that building muscle means you burn more calories throughout the day even when you're not doing anything, should be reason enough for all women (and men) to weight train. The excuses abound, but I think for most women it's more intimidation than fear of bulky muscles.
iheartkerning iheartkerning 7 years
Pamela, I've been the overweight person who strength trained. And it made me go up a size. I didn't bulk up in terms of being ripped, but adding more muscle under the layer of fat definitely affected my overall size in a way that didn't make me happy. I was gaining muscle faster than I was losing fat. So next time, don't judge. It's not nice. This is not to say I think it's silly to weight train, I know the advantages and I still continue to do it because I know it's good for me. But people have their reasons for doing it or not doing it and it's rude to judge them for it.
VolleyJen14 VolleyJen14 7 years
i've been an athlete my entire life, and as much as people say this about weight training, that it doesn't build bulky muscle, that's just not the case across the board. no, weights won't bulk someone who has a slim body type and not short muscle....but my muscles bulk very fast. anytime i've lifted, with trainers, etc, i ALWAYS bulk. the only thing that changed my body is by adding yoga or dance into my daily running routine. i've wanted to believe this whole weights don't bulk thing, but honestly, if your body doesn't respond like that, i can only speak for results and say that for people who bulk easily, this information isn't always helpful.
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
I love mixing in strength training. I feel so strong afterwards and if you follow it up with stretching, you get flat toned muscles; no bulking it up!
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