Home / / Why I Don’t Lift Heavy Weights Anymore

Why I Don’t Lift Heavy Weights Anymore

By Rachael Attard, Updated Aug 18, 2020
why i don't lift heavy weights anymore

I’ve been working out in a gym for about 10 years now (but more intensely over the last 6 years). I’m a qualified personal trainer, I worked at a functional training gym that focused on strength, I did HIIT, I did CrossFit, I’ve done triathlons, I’ve done heavy lifting.

But now my training is very different to what is was back then. I don’t focus on heavy lifting and my goals aren’t about trying to squat a certain weight or do a certain amount of pull ups. This is why I don’t lift heavy weights anymore.


To put it simply, I don’t like the way it makes my body look. This is very specific to me and my ideal body shape.

Every time I go down the heavy lifting path and start a new strength focused training program, my legs become really muscular and my back becomes really broad.

The difference is so much that I need to buy new clothes as my bras and shirts no longer fit around my bust, and my jeans don’t fit around my thighs.

I’m a mesomorph body type which means I gain muscle quite easily so if you are also a mesomorph, the same thing may happen to you.

Some of you might be thinking I’m crazy and that there’s nothing wrong with having muscular thighs or a broad back. But it’s just not for me and I’m not happy like that. And being happy is important. You should never do a workout program if:

  1. You don’t like the results;
  2. You don’t like doing it; or
  3. You think you should be doing it because everyone else is.


I know there is a lot of pressure put on people now in the gym to lift heavy. I will admit that sometimes I feel embarrassed going to the gym and doing a “girly” class, doing ab exercises, doing a body weight circuit or using the really light dumbbells and doing things like donkey kicks.

I feel like people are looking at me like “oh she’s a newbie.” I’m definitely not. But I still feel that pressure.

why i don't lift heavy weights anymore

I think social media has a lot do with it – all those hashtags #girlswholift #legdays #squats.

I’ve even had personal trainers approach me when I’m on the treadmill (thinking I’m a beginner) asking me if I want help with a program. Ummm no thank you. Cardio is part of my program and I like it :) I like doing it and I like what it does for my body.

I don’t judge women who lift heavy or do crossfit – they love it so I’m happy for them! So I don’t think other people should judge me and other women because we DON’T do these things.


Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing!

Don’t do something just because you think that’s what you should be doing or because everyone else is doing it. You shouldn’t dread working out either – it should be something you actually enjoy.

If you don’t like lifting heavy weights, don’t do it! If you think Pilates is a waste of time, don’t do it! Everyone’s different. There are SO many ways to exercise and get in shape these days, you don’t have to conform to what everyone else is doing to get results and be happy.


So what am I doing now? Mostly I follow my own 3 Steps to Lean Legs Program. The workouts in here are lower intensity resistance circuits that are all light weight (using body weight, light weights or a resistance band), and also includes a mix of cardio. I like doing cardio because I actually feel SO good afterwards and it helps me keep a leaner look.

I admit that I am not as strong as I once was. I can’t do a pull up and I can’t pump out 20 push ups on my toes like I once could. But I don’t aspire to do these things. You can still be fit, healthy and in good shape without lifting heavy weights.

I’m much happier now with the way I look and feel. And I actually love doing these type of workouts. So for me, it’s a win win! My workouts have changed a lot over the years. But I honestly don’t see myself going back to heavy lifting.

I would love to hear from any of you that are in the same situation! xx

Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

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74 comments on “Why I Don’t Lift Heavy Weights Anymore”

    Anne Marie says:

    So glad I found your article. Recently I hired a personal trainer to help me slim down, lose 15-20 lbs. He’s had me do heavy lifting, which I had never done before in my life. In past training I’ve done lighter weight training, boxing, bootcamps, etc. and always had an hourglass shape when training regularly. After about a month of 3 days per week heavy lifting, my back and waist have widened to the point where my sports bras are tighter, and I can’t fit nearly all the skirts and dresses in my closet. At first I thought maybe this was my imagination, but it isn’t at all. It has made me bigger. The opposite of what I needed. I hate this bulky feeling!! I will never lift heavy ever again. I’m sick and tired of hearing that you can’t get bulky from it, because obviously certain of us can. I have always observed that about myself too. What makes me the most mad is that I went against my intuition. Don’t do this ladies!! You know your body best and if a trainer doesn’t respect that you want to do training that is different, then leave them. The idea that women can’t get bulky from lifting heavy is obviously WRONG. I have stopped the lifting. But I want to get rid of this muscle!! How else can I lose it?

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Anne Marie, I’m really sorry to hear that this happened to you :( But just know that the bulkiness is caused by muscle and you CAN reduce the muscle. Unfortunately reducing muscle takes time… When I bulked up my legs, it took 6-12 months to get them back to how they were before. So you need to be patient. Please have a read of these blog posts on how to slim down muscular thighs and how to slim down a muscular upper body. I hope they will give you some good tips on what to do now. Wishing you all the best! xxx

        Anne Marie says:

        Hi Rachel. Thanks for your quick reply! I’ve already started both the daily cardio and calorie reduction. I appreciate very much the blogs you have referred me to and I’ve read those and am applying your tips. Interestingly I also read the Victoria secret model workout one…..and that’s exactly the types of training I used to do when I was the size that is best for my body :) So back I go to that!! thanks again for your helpful website xo

    Anna says:

    Great article! I stumbled here after doing a search for “i don’t like lifting weights anymore” b/c that’s how i feel lately. I dread my strength workouts before, during, and even after. But i love to work out so much that i’m in the process of becoming a CPT. I know I should be doing what I enjoy, and I do like cardio and things like pilates. So i’m torn. I want to be strong, I want a better looking body, but I also want to enjoy what I’m doing. I feel like I’ve had “lift heavy” drilled into my head over the last couple years and can’t seem to think past it. If you want to have muscle tone, lift heavy. If you want to change to shape of your body, lift heavy. If you want to be strong, lift heavy. I’m now starting to look around and see what my options are from here. If you have anymore advice on how to choose where I can go from here, I’d love to hear it. Thanks!

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Anna, you can definitely still be strong, lean and have muscle tone with other types of resistance training (i.e. HIIT and lighter weights) rather than heavy lifting. It takes a bit of trial and error to work out what is best for your body and your goals. But it’s definitely doable! Good luck xxx

    Kate Ladret says:

    This article was great! Very refreshing, thank-you!

      Rachael Attard says:

      You’re welcome! :) xx

    Linda says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I am still on my weight loss journey I’ve lost a total of 17 pounds so far with another 18 to go. I am quite petite 5 ft 3in and since I’ve been incorporating HIIT sprints on the treadmill, 30 second all out sprints with 2 minute active recovery time my calves and legs have gotten SO BULKY it has been a nightmare. I don’t think my calf muscles have ever gotten this big, even at my heaviest my legs still felt skinnier than they do now.

    I have also been doing HIIT kettlebell circuits with a 15 pound kettlebell and it has made my usually small back just look wide and broad, a look I was not going for. I did not think this was even possible for me since I have a very narrow upper body.

    Althougth the HIIT has definitely helped me lose alot of weight, it has also changed my body in the most undesirable way, in my eyes :(

    Besides walking 10km at 6-7 km a day, what else would you recommend for me to do to lean out my body while still losing weight?

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Linda, congratulations on losing 17 pounds! That really is an amazing achievement so you should be very proud of yourself :) I’m sorry to hear that your body hasn’t changed in the way you would hope. I would give the HIIT workouts and resistance workouts on my blog a go to help you achieve a leaner look. And of course I recommend my eBook if you like those type of workouts! Good luck lovely. I hope you get the results you’re looking for xx

        Cat says:

        Rachel I just messaged you about trying to lose fat and excess muscle and wanted to add – what is the best diet to follow to achieve and maintain this? More complex carbs or high protein?

    Lauren says:

    Hi Rachel!

    I’m also a personal trainer & am a big believe that what works for one doesn’t work for another! I’m totally in the same boat..naturally muscular and bulk up…I also do best with cardio, barre, body weight, resistance band workouts, yoga…my only concern is that doesn’t losing muscle lower RMR? How do you manage that?

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Lauren, yes less muscle means a lower RMR. I manage this through diet and eating less than I would when I have a lot of muscle. When I am less muscular, I am not as hungry (obviously because of the lower RMR) so it eating less just kinda happens naturally xx

    Alisha Geenen says:

    I feel like I wrote this. I am a fitness trainer as well and I have done all kinds workouts, I did not like how I looked when I lifted. I get trainers telling me I should lift but I will not let anyone tell me, I love the way I look, I focus on circuits, light weights, barre and pilates and running ;) In fitness there is no one size fits all, and everyone has their own personal goal! Keep going for that :)

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Alisha, I totally agree! There is definitely no one size fits all. I’m glad to hear that even though you’re in the fitness industry, you’re standing up for yourself and doing what YOU want to do! Good for you :) xx

    C. says:

    How do you feel about the rebounder for cardio? Is it bulking? Does the trampoline absorb the shock and thus help avoid bulk through the calf/thigh, or does the bounce add to the impact and grow the muscle? Thank you. This is an AMAZING blog. xoxo

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi lovely, thank you so much! The rebounder is definitely cardio, but I don’t think it would be as effective for slimming down your legs as walking and running would. In saying that though, I don’t think it will really bulk your legs. It might build a bit of muscle, but so does running. I would try to walk and run if you can, but if not, rebounder could be a good alternative xx

        C. says:

        Thank you!

    Kate says:

    This was a post I needed to see – and so many more people should. I had a personal trainer who was a bodybuilder herself. When we started, I explained I wanted to slim down and tone up – lean muscles. After a year and a half, I parted ways with her as I just felt so bulky. In photo’s all I could see was bulky shoulders – like I could be in a football team! I’ve gone back to basics – more cardio, more bodyweight exercises like yoga and pilates. Another area of my training that was lacking with PT was stretching!!! And I feel sooo much better now. Plus, I really look forward to my exercise now and it’s making all the difference in keeping up with a consistent program. So glad I found you too for more workout inspiration!

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Kate, aww I’m so sorry to hear this. It seems like it happens to a lot of women! But I’m glad to hear you’re back on track now and are feeling a lot better. Keep going girl! xx

    Ash says:

    I am so happy that I found you! I also became bulky from lifting heavy weights, and its refreshing to discover a blog that addresses this issue. I want to continue strength training workouts, but I am unsure of how much weight to use. Currently, I have 2, 5, and 10 pound ankle weights; 3, 5, 10, and 12 pound dumbbells; 10 and 15 pound kettle bells; and 20 pound barbell mainly for squats and deadlifts. Are all of these considered light weight? What do you consider to be light weight for upper body, as well as for lower body? Also, would you consider walking at 3.0 mph on a treadmill (no incline) sufficient for liss cardio?

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Ash, yes I would consider these weights light, but also remember it’s the type of exercises that you do that will make you bulky. Also, yes this would be great for LISS cardio xx

        Ash says:

        Do you recommend doing only LISS for an hour, 5 times a week until I debulk my frame, or should I do less cardio and incorporate strength training, or body weight workouts? Any advice that you can offer will be greatly appreciated!!

    Bella says:

    hey Rachel iv been following your blogs/social media with admiration for some time now. I’m 20, I used to be a model and whilst i wasn’t naturally skinny,i had become very lean through my years of resistance training and dancing. However in the past 6 months, having switched personal trainer in order to tone my bum and lower half more so whilst combatting hormone related weight gain, I have created a body form I literally despise. My quads have almost doubled, and rather than a toned peach i have what just looks like a dimply/sticky out bum. To those who didn’t know me ,theres no way you’d have thought i trained 6 days a week . I don’t want to be muscly, i want to be long and lean with definition, and instead i have what can only be described as an athletes legs. This i think is due to so much weight training, despite me telling my coach I didn’t want it. Although petite I am able to lift pretty heavy and a few of my coaches tend to get carried away with what I am capable of, rather than what I actually want. I really hope you see this and respond, as I would love some advice from you. I feel its too late to reverse the muscle ‘gains’ I have made that I really don’t want xxx

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Bella! I saw you emailed me this too, so I’ll reply more extensively via email. I’m really sorry that happened to you with your trainer hun! Have a look at this blog post on how to slim muscular thighs (if you haven’t already). My advice would be to stop with your trainer for now as they don’t seem to understand what you are looking for. It will take time to slim down muscle, and all you can really do is give it time, and avoid doing any exercises that use your quads. As long as you continue doing them, you won’t reduce the muscle size. I’ll reply to you via email now! Xx

        Cat says:

        Hi Rachel!
        Thank you so much for this post! Bella’ story is exactly like mine. I went from waif skinny to stocky and bulky from a few months of weight training. Now I hate my body, don’t fit any of my clothes and have bulky arms, shoulders, thinghs and ass! I feel twice as wide and short and also found that the intensity of the weight lifting caused me to feel starving and overeat – plus left me too sore for cardio afterwards! Please please forward me the email you sent to Bella as my 30th birthday is coming up in 3 months and I will do anything to get the excess fat and muscle off to get my skinny body back. No trainer seems to understand and I don’t know how much cardio I should do to achieve the best results – especially with my bum and thighs. I am scared to get skinny fat. My email is dorffcorp@gmail.com. Please reply! Thank you xxxx

          Rachael Attard says:

          Hi lovely, I can’t find the exact email I sent to Bella. But she did buy my eBook so that’s why I would have given her more special advice via email :) If you’re trying to get rid of muscle, less is more. I would stop all heavy lifting ASAP, and focus on walking and lighter style workouts like on my blog here or eBook. In terms of cardio, try to do lots of walking every day if you can! And diet wise, the most important thing is actually how much food you eat and eating less sugar. The exact break dow of carbs and protein won’t matter too much – as long as you’re eating at a calorie deficit and also eating healthy. I wish you all the best! And I’m sure you will look amazing for your 30th :) xxx