Will Lifting Weights Cause My Butt to Get Bigger?

Woman doing a squat
Getty Images/Kevin Kozicki

It's a sad truth that many women avoid weights because they think they'll bulk up. First, very few women have the capacity to build huge Incredible Hulk-like muscles because they don't have enough testosterone in their bodies to do so.

How Muscles Get Bigger

Muscles get bigger by doing two things:  Lifting very heavy weights for about 6-12 reps - That means you can ONLY do that many reps with the weights you've chosen - and eating a high calorie diet.

  If you're using lighter weights and doing more reps with less rest time between sets, you're not really doing what you need to do to get larger muscles.

The Culprit

Okay, with that said, maybe you're thinking - But my butt really is bigger!  You may be tempted to quit exercise altogether, but don't do that just yet. If it seems that you're getting bigger from lifting weights, it may be because you aren't losing body fat as fast as you're building muscle, which is a common probably many people experience when they start exercising.

So, here's what you do if you feel like you're not losing weight:

  • Wait - Calm down and give your body time to respond to your workouts and healthy diet (you are eating a healthy diet, right?). It takes time to see results and some people won't see them for weeks or months. Now would be a great time to exercise your patience. Sorry...bad pun.
  • Double Check Your Diet - It may seem obvious, but are you sure you're not eating too much?  It's easy to compensate for your workouts by eating more than you realize, so keep a food journal to make sure you're not overdoing it.
  • Understand Your Body - When you start lifting weights, you get sore.  That soreness is actually small tears in your muscles, which is a kind of inflammation.  That inflammation may even cause you to retain water, so sometimes you may think you've gained weight, but your body is just going through the natural changes of building muscle.  Eventually, that will go away.
  • Make Sure You're Not Already Stressed - Stress puts a lot of, well, stress on your body and if you add more high intensity exercise on top of it, that just causes even more damage to your body.  Too much stress causes your body to release a nasty little hormone that causes our bodies to store fat.  Make sure you're getting enough sleep, managing your stress and doing other things to take good care of yourself.

The bottom line is, don't give up on exercise.  It can do all kinds of things to your body at the beginning of an exercise program and you have to let your body respond, recover and grow stronger.  Don't let little things throw you off track.

If you've been exercising for weeks and you're still gaining weight or you haven't seen results, you might consider hiring a trainer.  A trainer can look at what you're doing and give you more specific advice about your program and give you some advice about your diet.

In my experience, it often takes up to a year to really see significant changes in your body from exercise and diet plays a huge role in those results as well, so take into account everything you're doing, not just your exercise program.

 

If you really do tend to bulk up, don't skip your lower body workouts, but just stick with lighter weights and higher reps, say about 12-16 reps per exercise.  You can also try circuit training which focuses a bit less on straightforward weight training and more on keeping your heart rate elevated.

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