Keeping Your Butt Small While You Lift Weights

Woman doing a squat

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It's a sad truth that many women avoid weights because they think their butt will get bigger. Unfortunately, one of the myths of strength training is not only a larger derriere but a fear of gaining more muscle.

We will begin by saying that few women have the capacity to build exceptionally big muscles at all. Research shows that testosterone builds muscle mass and strength.

The vast majority of women simply don't have enough testosterone in their bodies to gain exceptional muscle mass. But let's take this concern a bit farther and cast off your worries.

How Muscles Get Bigger

If you're worried about your butt getting bigger, you're really worried that the muscles in your buttocks will grow larger. Muscles get bigger by engaging in a long-term consistent program of weight training and doing two things:

If you're using lighter weights and doing more reps with less rest time between sets, you're not really doing what you need to do to get larger muscles.

What If Your Butt Seems Bigger?

Okay, with that said you might be thinking: "But my butt really is bigger!" You may be tempted to quit weight training and exercise altogether, but don't do that just yet. If it seems that you're getting bigger from lifting weights, don't give up.

It may be because you aren't losing body fat as fast as you're building muscle. This is actually very common when people start exercising.

What You Can Do

As just noted, when you begin weight lifting you may build muscle more rapidly than fat and either fail to lose weight or actually gain weight. This can be very frustrating! So, here's what you can do.

Double-Check Your Diet

It may seem obvious, but are you sure you're not eating too much? It's easy to compensate for your workouts by eating more than you realize, so keep a food journal to make sure you're not overdoing it. Appetite hormones often increase with exercise making this one of the most common reasons behind a scale that won't budge.

Wait It Out

Calm down and give your body time to respond to your workouts and healthy diet (you are eating a healthy diet, right?). It takes time to see results and some people won't see them for weeks or months. Now would be a great time to exercise your patience. Sorry...bad pun.

Understand Your Body

When you start lifting weights, you get sore. That soreness is actually small tears in your muscles, which is a kind of inflammation. That inflammation may even cause you to retain water.

What this means is that even though you may think you've gained weight, it could simply be water weight that occurs as your body goes through the natural changes of building muscle. Eventually, the water retention will resolve, so give it a little time.

Check Your Stress Levels

We've all been taught that exercise is great for stress reduction, but there is a caveat to that claim. Emotional stress is stressful to your body just as physical stress is, and if you add more high-intensity exercise to your stressed body, this can cause even more damage.

Too much stress causes your body to release stress hormones, including a nasty little hormone that causes our bodies to store fat. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, managing your stress, and doing other things to take good care of yourself.

The bottom line is, don't give up on exercise if you're not losing or if you're gaining weight.

There are many changes that take place in your body at the beginning of an exercise program, and you will need to let your body respond, recover, and grow stronger. During this time, it's the little things that usually throw people off track. That said, if you are still frustrated, what can you do?

Next Steps For Weight Loss

If you've been exercising for weeks and you're still gaining weight or you haven't seen results, you might consider hiring a personal trainer. A trainer can look at what you're doing and give you more specific advice about your exercise program as well as your diet.

In my experience, it often takes up to a year to really see significant changes in your body from exercise, and diet plays a huge role in those results as well. This is yet another reminder that you may need to take into account everything you are doing, not just your exercise program.

If you are someone who really does tend to bulk up with exercise, don't skip your lower body workouts. Instead, try sticking with lighter weights and higher reps (for example, around 12 to 16 reps) per exercise.

You can also try circuit training which focuses a bit less on straightforward weight training and more on keeping your heart rate elevated.

Bottom Line

If you are worried about your butt getting bigger with exercise, it helps to understand what is necessary to actually increase muscle. The muscles in your buttocks will only increase in size if you lift very heavy weights (for 6 to 12 reps) or if you eat a high-calorie diet. If you're using lighter weights you don't usually need to worry about your derriere.

Very often people are frustrated because they haven't lost—or have even gained weight—when they start exercising. If this is the case for you, patience can help. It may take a while before the pounds drop off. If you are still frustrated, take a second look at your diet and make sure you are practicing stress reduction.

Some people may need to hire a personal trainer or try circuit training instead. Whatever you do, try not to give up. When you persist you're likely to get the results you want.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Handelsman DJ, Hirschberg AL, Bermon S. Circulating Testosterone as the Hormonal Basis of Sex Differences in Athletic Performance. Endocr Rev. 2018;39(5):803-829. doi:10.1210%2Fer.2018-00020

  2. Schoenfeld BJ. Does exercise-induced muscle damage play a role in skeletal muscle hypertrophy?. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(5):1441-53. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824f207e

Additional Reading
  • Jackson, M., Fatahi, F., Alabdujader, K. Jelleyman, C., Moore, J., and H. Kubis. Exercise Training and Weight Loss, Not Always a Happy Marriage: Single Blind Exercise Trials in Females with Diverse BMI. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2017 Nov 2. (Epub ahead of print).

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."