Fitness Myth – Getting bulky

I’m sure if any personal trainer had a dollar for every female who said “I don’t want to lift weights because I’ll get bulky”, or “I gain muscle and get bulky really quickly”, they’d be able to retire early. Many women fear this outcome. Is it a necessary fear?  The answer is actually a little grey, not black or white…

Ahhh, Dwight's wisdom.

Ahhh, Dwight’s wisdom.

Fact 1 – Building a lot of muscle mass IS NOT EASY for anyone, but especially not for females. Why? Our hormonal makeup isn’t optimal for it to happen. Testosterone and growth hormone are critical to muscle growth, and our bodies aren’t primed for these. Rather, we’re estrogen-strong.

Additionally, building muscle requires what we’ll call the perfect storm.  It requires long-term commitment and consistency to a training and nutrition plan which is geared towards this goal. If you’re training in a lighter weight, higher rep range format, you likely aren’t lifting heavy enough to build dense (“bulky”) muscle mass.

There’s a very small percentage of women who are genetically “gifted” in this area (if building muscle is their goal). Even for this small group, it’s still an uphill battle with plenty of time in the weight room.

Fact 2 – Perception comes into play here. What’s viewed as “bulky” to one woman might be an ideal physique to another. What someone views as thin might be too muscular to someone else.  So, when perception is taken into consideration, yes, it may be possible for a woman to get bulky through regular weight training.

My personal favorite women's physique pro. This category is the second most-muscular in the bodybuilding world. While she's muscular and very lean, she still has feminine qualities (although I know many women would disagree with that).

My personal favorite women’s physique pro. This category is the second most-muscular in the bodybuilding world. While she’s muscular and very lean, she still has feminine qualities (although I know many women would disagree with that).

Other considerations at play here are the amount of body fat covering the muscles and water retention (which we can thank estrogen for), both of which can lead to a more bulky look. When body fat levels start to drop and muscle definition starts to show, a more lean physique is revealed.

One of the top ranked bikini pro competitors, who actually comes in more muscular and a little "harder" than most bikini girls. Far less muscle definition than the physique category, I wouldn't view this as "bulky", but some people might.

One of the top ranked bikini pro competitors, who actually comes in more muscular and a little “harder” than most bikini girls. Far less muscle definition than the physique category, I wouldn’t view this as “bulky”, but some people might.

Remember – building lean muscle mass is the best way to improve your body composition. Your clothes will fit better and you’ll look leaner overall. There are so many benefits to weight training, don’t avoid the weight room out of fear of gaining too much muscle!

About Ashleigh

I'm passionate about health and fitness. I work as a Health Promotion Specialist, a group fitness instructor, and also a coach for physique competitors / weight loss clients. I grew up as a competitive athlete, and have continued with this passion as a Women's Physique competitor. Research and writing is another interest of mine, which I use to share my knowledge with the general public.
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