Ask Jenny: How Can I Prevent Getting Bulky When Lifting Weights?

“When I have worked with a personal trainer in the past weight training has left me looking heavy and bulky, rather than achieving the lean and toned physique I was aiming for. I know you are passionate about strength training for women, but I want to know how I avoid getting bulky again?” – Lauren, Boston

Scientific evidence shows that lifting weights will make you stronger, leaner, improve your posture, increase bone density, reduce cortisol levels, increase your metabolism, increase your insulin sensitivity, and boost your confidence.

However, if fat loss is your goal, and you feel as if your strength training program is not giving you the lean and toned look you are aiming for there may be some factors that need to be addressed:

1) You are consuming more calories than you expend. My number one nutrition rule is always ‘quality over quantity’, but it is unwise to think that calories do not matter. If improving body composition is one of your goals then you do want to be in a slight calorie deficit. A common error is here following your workout with a calorie dense because ‘you earned it’. A smart nutrition plan should match your daily calorie expenditure with the correct balance of protein, carbs and fats to match that day’s activities and keep you feeling energized and satisfied all day.

2) Training does not spot reduce body fat. I have heard a number of times that training a specific muscle will help to burn the fat around it (for example, training quads will reduce fat around the thighs). I have never seen any scientific evidence to support this. Increasing muscle mass throughout the body will raise metabolism and therefore support overall fat loss. However, smart nutrition and balancing hormones can help reduce the amount of fat help in specific areas, and this is something I address with my clients (e.g. reducing cortisol can lower abdominal fat).

3) Your training program is causing imbalances in the body. So many trainers and group workouts focus on the anterior (front of the body), with a focus on quads, abs and chest. The majority of my clients come to me with a weaker posterior (back) chain than anterior, so three-quarters of their exercises are back body focussed (deadlifts, RDL’s, lat pull downs, rows, pull ups, back extensions, face pulls, etc). This also helps reduce back pain and improve posture, creating a longer, leaner shape. I also look to create shape throughout the body, for example, I balance out my wide hips by focusing on training my shoulders and upper back, which gives the illusion of a narrow waist!

If you want to start adding strength training to your holistic health routine or want to to take your lifting technique to the next level, then I would love for you to join me at Sweat and Superfoods on Monday, January 1st at 11 am in Newton (what a way to start the new year)! 

We will spend 30 minutes working on lifting technique, guide you through a 60-minute full body workout, then talk about the benefits of weightlifting for women, whilst sipping on one of my post workout Superfood Smoothies. Space is very limited due to the nature of the workout and so we can give one to one instruction to all. The workout is suitable for all levels. 

Sweat and Superfoods: Weighltifting for Women