Muscular Women – The Too Bulky Myth


“I don’t want to get too bulky though” This is one of the most common things I’ve heard women say when we talk about doing weights for the first time. 

And it’s a natural concern for ladies.  I’m yet to meet a women in my 17 years of personal training who has told me that wanted to develop their pecs, shoulders and arms to freaky proportions. Lose weight and tone, sure.  That’s a given.  But the fear of growing too much muscle is very real in most weight training females. 

It’s irrational though.  If only i could put on muscle as easily as women seem to think they can!! It’s hard ladies.  And here’s why.


Testosterone is your most potent muscle building hormone.  It is known as the male hormone.  Its functions can be subdivided into androgenic, or sexual development functions, and anabolic, or functions related to the growth of tissues such as muscle and bone.    We are obviously only concerned with growth of tissue here.  

The more testosterone you have the more your potential for muscle growth.  By synthesising proteins, it rebuilds the muscle fibers damaged by resistance training.

The amount of testosterone in your body is a limiting factor because you can’t build more muscle if your testosterone levels are not high enough, that’s why athletes who take synthetic testosterone (steroids) experience faster muscle growth, their limiting factor just disappeared. The amount of testosterone is limited by many things but mainly by gender.

Testosterone Reference Ranges

In Australia the reference range for total testosterone in men is 8 – 27 nmol/L or 8 to 27 nanomoles per litre of blood.

In Australia, the reference range for total testosterone in women 0.7 – 2.8 nmol/L or0.7 to 2.8 nanomoles per litre of blood.

What this means is women have roughly 10 times less testosterone than men.

Which means women have roughly 10 times less ability to synthesise protein into muscle than men.

How Frequently Do You Do Weights?

Then look at how often men lift weights compared to women.

Most males hoping to gain size, do a minimum of 4 up to possibly 7-12 weight sessions a week.

Most women are lucky to do 3.

Ladies you may not know this but most men have a hard time gaining muscle.  As a natural male you can honestly hope for 1kg of lean tissue a month over the course of a year.  

That’s 1 kg spread out over THE WHOLE BODY per month.  But even that dries up after a while as you hit a ceiling.  Then you gotta bust your ass and fight for every kg from here on.

What Really Happens When Women Look Muscular

Women like the one at the top INJECT incredible amounts of synthetic testosterone.  And that’s cool.  Do your thing.  Your life choices are yours. 

For all the other ladies out there, unless you are injecting twice a week, every week, for years on end, most women just get leaner when they start lifting weights.  

When you get leaner it means you can SEE the muscles more.  When you can see muscle you look bigger and more muscular.  Only you’re not.  

Fat takes up much more room per kilogram than muscle on the body.  When you see very lean women in person they are very small.  

Come to the gym and i’ll introduce you to some shredded women who, upon meeting, you’ll probably be like “yeah she’s not as big as she looks on instagram.  She’s kinda little”

Some Women Get Fatter When They Start Weight Training

Also I hate to say this but some people get fatter when they join a gym.  They think “i worked out today i deserve a treat” and give themselves extra food they haven’t normally been having.

If you just burned 300 calories in a weight training worout and then treat yourself with 500 a calorie treat, well,  Voila, fat gain.

They have unwittingly tipped the scales towards weight gain but of course they attribute it to the weights and muscle gain and not the food and fat gain.






I’m not saying women can’t build muscle because they can, but it is so slow and requires the most incredible dedication and effort that its just not something women from the general public worth worrying about.  View your weights as high energy expenditure sessions designed to deplete stored sugar and facilitate fat loss.  Use weights to get strong and feel strong.

There’s a host of other factors that effect this but honestly, you cant beat your hormones.  

So ladies, unless you have a penis, please stop saying ‘you don’t want to get too bulky’.  Say you don’t want to get too lean.

See you in the gym!


Personal Training – Bondi Junction

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