Strong is not Big and Big is not Strong

It’s a big misconception that if you train to be strong you are also training to be big.

I get this all the time.

“Be careful with that powerlifting stuff. It can f*ck up your physique.”

“What’s the point of lifting heavy if I don’t want to gain muscle?”

“I lift with light weights and high reps because I don’t want to get too bulky”

Let me say this loud and clear:

Training to be strong is not the same as training to big.

Actually, they are VERY different.

Strength is all about increasing force production. Hypertrophy training, on the other hand, is about creating damage to a muscle so that the body has to repair it and subsequently, it grows to be bigger.

Training for strength:

– 2-6 reps on main movements
– High load / low(er) volume
– Compound movements (Squat, bench, deadlift, lunge, hip thrust, OHP, etc)
– 1-2 exercises per muscle group for accessory moves
– Neurological adaptation leads to strength gains
– Typically full body routines
– Higher rest periods (3-5 minutes for main lifts)
– Goal: feel like a fucking badass

Here’s an example of what a strength-focused workout looks like:



Training for muscle gain:

-8-12 reps, sometimes higher (studies show muscle gain even with higher reps—thereby invalidating the idea that women should lift light weights for 15-30 reps to “tone” their muscles.)
-moderate load/ high volume
-Lots of isolation work (curls, extensions, lateral raises, bodypart splits, etc)
-Specific exercise selection to target the 3 aspects of hypertrophy: mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress.
-Chasing “the pump”
-Body part splits (back/ bicep day, leg day, chest/tricep day)
-Lower rest periods (30-90 seconds)
-Goal: Get big muscles

Here’s an example of what a hypertrophy-based workout looks like:


Training for strength is a game changer for women.

If I had a dollar for every woman who ever told me that they don’t want to lift weights because they fear getting bulky or looking manly, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now. I’d be on a beach enjoying a drink while booking my afternoon flight to some obscure country you’ve never heard of.

Lifting weights is GOOD for women. Why?

Physiological reasons include increased bone density, joint strength, faster metabolism, achieving a toned figure, more energy, etc.

But here’s where it gets really exciting. Lifting weights is good for women for psychological and emotional reasons too.
-Feeling like a badass
-Increased confidence at home and work
-Feeling strong enough to protect yourself and your family
-Feeling empowered to push your body past limits you never thought possible

So, as a woman, how do you reap all the physical and mental benefits of lifting weights without gaining “too much” muscle?

You train for strength.

Here are a few of my favorite strong ladies that are definitely NOT bulky.

 Amy Dix– personal trainer, lover of obscure vegetables. Weighs in at 120lbs. Can deadlift more than your mom.

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Morghan King– Olympic Weightlifter (6th at Rio 2016). Weighs in at 104lbs. Can lift more than double that over her head.


Ladies: just because you’re lifting heavy weights in the gym does not mean you will bulk up.

And fellas: just because a girl is lifting heavy weights in the gym does not mean she WANTS to bulk up. So keep your comments to ya’ self, will ya?

20 FREE workouts to blast fat and get strong:


You shouldn’t have to guess if the program you’re doing is right for your goals. That’s why I created the Lean & Strong Badass Blueprint which has 20 free workouts to build strength, confidence, and blast fat. Just enter your info below and I’ll drop it in your inbox in less than 60 seconds. 

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