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Will Lifting Heavy Weights Make Me Bulky?

After Years of Exercising, This Is the Workout That Changed My Body

When I started working out with a trainer a few months ago, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but if there's one thing I am certain of, a barbell was never part of the equation. Yet here I was, standing in front of one with my trainer off to the side asking me to do deadlifts. I was equal parts perplexed, scared, and thrilled. In all my years of working out, heavy lifting was something I had never done. Like everyone else in my life, I hopped from trendy studio to trendy studio for my workouts, and though there was a weight room at my gym, the idea of picking up a barbell on my own seemed terrifying.

I looked down at the 65-pound steel bar and then looked up at my trainer Austin (a few times in a lame attempt to stall). With no knowledge of or prior exposure to lifting, I was also dealing with the real fear that I would possibly drop this thing, along with myself, in the process. Sensing my fear, he talked me through the steps repeatedly with the right amount of encouragement, until I grabbed the damn thing and remarkably pulled it off — "with ease and perfect form," he would later tell me. I surprised myself; I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. Austin added weight to the bar at a quick pace, which I think even surprised him.

Looking back, I am not sure why I stayed away from a barbell for so many years. Sure, I wasn't exposed to it, but I also never allowed myself to even explore the idea. When I heard SoulCycle was coming to my city, I was in the very first class. When the new TRX studio moved in down the block, I couldn't wait to try it! But lifting? Nope. Despite my firm belief that women are strong AF, there was a part of me that thought of lifting as a man's world, or at least the kind of world where you go when you want biceps as big as your head. And if I am being totally honest, huge 'ceps weren't what I was looking for.

Double the deadlifts, double the fun (that's me on the left and Austin, my trainer, on the right).

The kicker here is that it has has changed my body in a way that I never could have anticipated. I have lost more weight over these last three months than I have in the last few years. I am stronger and faster in just about every other workout in my life. And most recently, during a beach vacation, my partner commented on my butt. It was higher! Perkier! Lifted! Rounded! I went into heavy lifting with the very wrong idea that it would add bulk, yet here I am feeling my absolute best and more confident than I have in a long time. Even more importantly is the understanding that this confidence had less to do with how I look and everything to do with how I feel.

The thrill of doing something new mixed with a real sense of accomplishment has given me an exercise high that I have not felt in a very long time. Instead of being terrified of a barbell, I now give my trainer grief when we aren't lifting. Through this process, I have come face to face with my physicality in a way that has never happened. There's also a real sense of pride from seeing more weight being racked up on the bar and learning what my body is capable of handling. But more than anything, the inner confidence that I have built from this latest step in my fitness journey has helped me in all facets of my life and continues to surprise me on an almost daily basis.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rima Brindamour
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