The Fear of “Getting Bulky” with Resistance Training


One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter about resistance training, particularly from moms, is a fear that it will make us get “bulky,” (i.e. that it will rapidly make our muscles huge, and we won’t like the way we look). Sigh. There’s a lot to unpack here, but my response when I hear this concern is usually: If only it were that easy to build muscle!


What Can Resistance Training Do for My Body?

Resistance training uses some sort of weight or force to challenge our muscles to work harder. This challenge can come from resistance bands, hand weights, cans of soup, and even our own body weight. Resistance training is an excellent way to maintain or (if you’re lucky) increase skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function. Functional strength training is critically important for our health, especially as we age. It can improve flexibility, posture, stamina, and metabolism; it helps increase bone density (i.e. less risk of osteoporosis); and improves cholesterol, blood sugar profiles, mood, self esteem, and sleep quality. Whew! 


We need to maintain a minimum amount of lean skeletal muscle to prevent injury and support optimal physical function. Unfortunately we tend to lose muscle over time. So when it comes to health, our concern should be having *enough* lean muscle mass, rather than too much. 


Will Resistance Training Make Me Gain Muscle?

When it comes to gaining muscle, simply put—this is not easy, particularly for most cisgender women and folks with lower testosterone profiles. Significant muscle gain won’t happen by accident and it won’t happen overnight.

Working on increasing muscle mass is an incredible investment in health. It requires intention, time, mental bandwidth, planning, consistent training, progressive challenge, adequate recovery and sleep, and a big focus on adequate nutrition, especially protein. But, once you learn the foundations and get started with a consistent routine, it will become easier.


Can I Let Go of the Fear of “Getting Bulky” While Strength Training?

Yes! While it is a misconception that resistance training will rapidly make us “bulk up,” there’s an even more important assumption to challenge here: The assumption that we should all strive to be small, thin, and without noticeable muscle! If your life allows you to invest time and energy in your training, and you succeed at gaining muscle—YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR!


We all contend with diet culture every day. In my experience, feeling strong and showing yourself that you can get stronger is one of the *best* antidotes to a culture that tells us to be less. Not to mention, when you’re building strength and muscle through your training, I can pretty much guarantee you’re going to feel great when you look in the mirror. 


How Can MommaStrong and the Loaded Series help?

MommaStrong is here to support your journey of functional strength and fitness with daily, full body workouts using both bodyweight resistance and simple DIY equipment you already have at home. And BONUS: our Loaded series (included with your membership!) is a great introduction to using resistance equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands, with online access to safe and effective training sessions.

Everyday life is often challenging enough. Supporting your body to build functional strength and overcome a little resistance will improve physical health, and can be a huge emotional and mental boost. As parents, it gives us peace of mind knowing we can keep up with our kids as they grow, get stronger, and become more active.