Will I Get Big and Bulky From Strength Training?

The short answer is NO.  Everyone’s image when they hear “strength training” is the dude with no neck and can’t scratch his own back.  You CAN get that way through strength training, sure, but only if that is your goal.

A really simplified version of the science is that strength can be gained in two ways:

  1. Increasing muscle fibers, numbers and/or size
  2. Increasing the efficiency of the existing bio-mechanics.

Increasing the muscle fibers (numbers or size), which can eventually lead to bulking up, is realistically the last resort of the human body.  By our natural design, we will use “what we have”, long before ever trying to add to ourselves.  Most people use “what they have” extremely inefficiently.  By teaching your body HOW to use itself, the vast majority of strength gains can and are achieved without needing to add bulk.  Size can definitely be added, if that is your goal, but it’s not the default path your body will take to strength.  It’s all about efficiency first.

For some shining examples of strength without bulk, look at the 62kg Olympic lifters (2012 medalists pictured).  They have necks.  They fit into track suits and look normal.  I see no reason any of them couldn’t scratch their own backs.  Each of those gentlemen lifted nearly 400lbs in the clean & jerk to win their medals. Averaging around 5’ 5” and weighing roughly 140lbs, you can’t really consider them bulky.  But lifting almost 3x their bodyweight up and over their head?  That’s pretty damned strong in my book.

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