The Real Truth about Women and Bulky Muscles

As women, we’re afraid of getting big, bulky muscles.

We want to be sleek and toned – small, not big.

So the idea of working out can make us fear we’re on our way to looking like the Hulk. Or worse, his lopsided half-sister. For some, having bulging, rippled muscles is the goal. From most women though, I hear their dread of that happening to them.

Good news: big muscles don’t accidentally happen.

The truth is, bulking up is really hard for women to do.

Sure, our bodies are different, and some gain easier than others. And there are those examples of women who , ‘in just two years’ made massive gains and ended up tanned and flexing on a stage somewhere. But there’s something you don’t know about those women. They didn’t accidentally get that way and decide to go with the flow. “Oh well… I guess I’ll just have to accept my new muscly body”. No. They aimed for those results, pursuing them with determination and focus. They worked hard for multiple hours daily. Daily! Their rest days were a good hard cardio that still left them drenched. And they made sure to limit carbs and get in a lot of protein powders designed to pack on muscle.

We don’t bulk up with muscle accidentally.

Most of the time, we misunderstand muscles completely

After 2 years of heavy lifting (up to 30 lb dumbells), no increase size, only sculpting achieved!
After 2 years of heavy lifting (up to 30 lb dumbells), no increase size, only sculpting achieved!

Here’s the real truth about women and the risk of bulky muscles

Muscles become more compact when they are conditioned and strong.

That means the more you work them, and the stronger they become, the more firm and toned and smaller in size they become.

I know it seems counterintuitive – even false, when all we see in media is the kind of muscles that bulge. But we know we shouldn’t always believe what the media tells us, right?  This is one of those things we shouldn’t believe. Muscles are small. Sleek. Compact.

Just ask my clients who, as soon as they began developing their muscles, shrank. They shrank while they were getting stronger. That’s not just because of fat loss, either. It’s also because muscles are leaner, the stronger they are.

Sometimes ‘Bulk’ is Actually Just Fat

Especially in the beginning of one’s weight training journey, a woman may feel like she’s getting bigger. If that’s happening, it usually means that either their caloric intake is too high or they’re retaining water (a temporary issue generally), or both.

This doesn’t happen often with my clients, but when it does, it’s not because of a sudden increase in muscle mass. Good news – water retention and excess caloric intake are simple fixes.

You Can Work Out to Maintain, Not Just to Gain

Working out is not an eternal upward slant. Goals do get reached.

Once you’ve achieved your goal weight or strength or fitness level, you can change your fitness and nutrition plan to maintain. There’s no reason to continue building and strengthening beyond what you want to. It’s your body – you get to choose how you want it to look.

Kicking into maintenance mode will definitely keep you from building muscle beyond what you want. No risk of bulking up here.

The bottom line is, if you’re eating clean and working out, you’ll burn fat (which is bulky) and strengthen muscle (which is compact) – expect to get smaller.

Need some help with clean eating? Join my Facebook group The Clean Eatery for tips, community, and motivation. Also, sign up here for 7 tips about how to improve your self-discipline.

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