Addressing the notion of excessive muscle gain in women. Should you be worried about packing on too much mass?

While it’s not a common sight at most gyms, I’m sure you’ve seen women with big, bulky muscles. This is one of the reasons that has led many women to be wary of training with weights. The assumption is that any use of resistance will cause a gain of pounds and inches or that it could compromise the feminine look they’re going for.

I won’t lie to you: it is possible to get bulky if you train for it. Typically, this means increasingly heavy weights done with particular sets-and-reps schemes designed to build that kind of muscle. So it can happen, but for a number of reasons, it’s just not an easy thing for women to do so don’t let that hold you back when it’s time to hit the gym or do one of my workouts.

A little extra muscle isn’t something to try to avoid at all costs because it can help you burn more calories at rest.

FAT FACT: Here’s further motivation to start swapping fat for muscle. Claude Bouchard, an obesity researcher from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, revealed that a pound of muscle, at rest, burns about six calories per day (and a pound of fat burns about two). That means that muscle is three times more metabolically active than fat.

And if you’re focusing on adding too much muscle, you’re going to be hesitant when you train. If you’ve committed to changing the way your body looks and performs, you need to commit to the work. And you need to set yourself up for more appreciable measures of success along the way.


One of the other issues confusing things for women is the difference between weight lifting and resistance training. Here’s the answer: there really isn’t any. Weight lifting is just resistance training with weights. Though resistance training — where your muscles resist gravity — can be done with weights like dumbbells, barbells and machines, it can also be performed with bands or bodyweight. I’m a big proponent of bodyweight-only training — it’s the backbone my 20 Minute Body workouts — but weight training adds another level of conditioning and sculpting to the body that is worth its weight in gold. I’ve trained a lot of women in my career and they did multiple forms of resistance training with me…even the Victoria’s Secret Angels. Supermodels are not exempt from getting great results…and neither are you 😉49090306 - sport, fitness, lifestyle, technology and people concept - young woman with smartphone taking mirror selfie in gym

But still, resistance training is a hard sell for women who are scale watchers. This is a big problem. Let’s be clear: the scale is not the best indicator of your progress when you’re trying to get fitter and leaner. In fact, I wouldn’t put the scale second or even third on a list of performance indicators in a weight loss program. When you start a new exercise program, your muscles are typically more full of fluid as a result of acute (and temporary) inflammation. It’s not uncommon for you to see a subtle increase in weight after one or two tough workouts! Your muscles are broken down through exercise and even though continued exercise will result in lower overall levels of inflammation everywhere, this initial swelling – which may not be noticeable in the mirror – causes people to think that their workouts are failing them or, gasp, that they’re adding muscle too fast! Neither of these things is true.

In the days and weeks that follow the start of a new program, the scale may produce other aberrations that are discouraging. Hard training men, once they find their stride on a new program, may see a drop in weight that they categorize as too rapid, so they back off for fear of losing muscle, not realizing that their body has actually started digging into unseen fat stores that’s been clinging to organs within the body (this is known as visceral fat).

After a few weeks on a workout plan, women may plateau for a short time before seeing the scale start to creep up again. This is usually attributable to a simple swap: muscle for fat.

In all of these cases, even though the mirror is painting a really good picture of what their food plan and workouts are doing for them, they believe the scale first.

Better indicators – and there are a lot of ‘em – include how your clothes are fitting (which indicates loss of inches), the mirror (which never lies) and other subtle cues such as better sleep, increased energy, improved mood and just a better quality of life. Don’t be a slave to the scale. Think “waist loss,” not weight loss.

And remember: the likelihood of you adding serious mass on most fitness programs is very low. Testosterone is a key factor in the addition of muscle and women just don’t have enough of it to exact serious muscle gains in a hurry. Now, if adding muscle is your primary goal, there are ways to get it faster and I’m all for it! But don’t ever shy away from hard training because you think you’re going to end up wearing bigger t-shirts than your boyfriend!

Women have gone through my program and came out fitter, stronger and much more confident than they used to be. Click on the image below to see what they did to help them get results. The testimonials speak for themselves. All you need is 20 minutes a day.