This is a question that we come across often when discussing exercise prescription for a client. Usually the question is posed by a woman, but not always. When asked this question, usually the picture one has in her head is such as to the left. (photo courtesy of femalemuscleguide.com)
My immediate response is that it depends. This response either provokes curiosity or frustration from the client. I can understand those emotions because so much information in today’s society is readily available at your finger tips from a quick google search.
But, the reality it really does depend on the person. Factors that will determine whether lifting weights will add “bulk” to a client are: adequate hormone levels, dialed in lifestyle behaviors such as sleep and stress management, volume and frequency committed to weight training, consumption of calories to a surplus, training age (novice to well experienced in weightlifting), and genetics. Any one of these factors being non-favorable could result in minimal to no muscle “bulk” increase.
The reality is that putting on good lean muscle is very hard to do. The training needs to be consistent, with lots of volume, progressive intensity, adequate and proper nutrition, a huge focus on recovery, and even a little bit of luck. The type of training programs we prescribe for our clients are more geared towards maintaining what muscle they have already while improving body composition and general fitness. It’s not impossible, but it isn’t easy.
Of course, we have some clients that do desire to add some muscle to their body. Their training program is totally different than that of our group training program. That, is a topic for another time.