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Will Lifting Heavy Weights Make Females Bulky?
By: Matt McManus

The short answer to the question above? No. The long answer comes down to three main factors.

1) Hormones
Testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for muscle growth. Healthy males produce 2.5-11mg of testosterone per day, while females produce just 0.25mg per day (ten times less!). Because of this, the vast majority of females simply do not have the genetic potential to gain huge quantities of muscle mass without anabolic supplementation. Hormone levels also vary greatly within genders. This is why a female shot putter puts on muscle faster than a female soccer player. Different athletes are genetically predisposed to be good at different sports. The shot putter’s propensity for adding muscle mass quickly and easily makes her good at sports that are dependent on strength and power. The soccer player’s leaner body type allows her to have success in sports that require huge volumes of running. Each is going to respond to strength training differently based on their genetic predisposition. So when a soccer player comments that she doesn’t want to lift heavy because she doesn’t want to look like a shot putter or bodybuilder she needs to understand that, while she may gain some muscle mass, her genetics will prevent her from ever getting to the level she fears. 

2) Diet
Aside from genetics, it is impossible to gain weight without a caloric surplus, no matter how much you train. In some sports (football, powerlifting, track and field throwing events) excessive weight can be beneficial to sport performance. This means these athletes are frequently trying to gain weight, reaching a huge surplus of daily calories by force feeding themselves even when they aren’t hungry. While lifting will provide the stimulus to build muscle, eating is what causes these athletes to gain weight. As long as your diet stays in check, so will your bodyweight and muscle mass gains.

3) Outside activities
On the other end of the caloric surplus spectrum is the amount of calories an athlete is expending in training sessions. Lacrosse and soccer players, for example, burn a tremendous amount of calories because of the amount they run in practices and games. This makes it difficult for those athletes to reach the caloric surplus necessary to gain muscle mass. On the flip side, bodybuilders, powerlifters, and shot putters expend very few calories outside of strength training sessions, allowing them to use all of the massive amounts of calories they take in to build muscle, rather than fuel them through long bouts of conditioning.

Quite simply, two athletes can do the exact same strength training program and get vastly different results on the scale depending on their genetics, diet, and what the rest of their training regimen is composed of. 

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