Picture a basketball under a thin bed sheet.
What does it look like?
Can you see the dimples in the ball? The flat indented lines that separate the parts of leather? The indented flat logo of the ball?
Now, picture a golf ball under a thick down comforter.
Can you see the golf ball?
Now, put a basketball under the bed sheet. Can you see the ball? Yes! But can you see the dimples and divisions in the ball? Definitely not.
What’s the point of this lengthy analogy?
The balls represent muscle, and the covering sheet/blanket represents body fat.
From my experience, when women are talking about “bulk,” it’s either two things:
💪 Large amount of muscle with small amount of body fat (big ball/thin sheet)
💪 Large amount of muscle with large amount of body fat (big ball/comforter)
From my understanding, “bulk,” is large muscles.
Can women build muscle?
There are a million opinions on the subject, but the two sides of the spectrum are:
👍 Yes, women can build muscle, even if they lift anything over 3 pounds
👎 No, women cannot build muscle, even if they are able to deadlift 2.5
So, what’s the truth?
Let’s quickly break down the science of building muscle, as well as whether or not this science actually occurs in women.
How does one build muscle?
There are two ways muscles structurally grow:
1. Increase size of the muscle fibers, typically done thru lower reps and higher weight (i.e. deadlifting 1.5 times your bodyweight for 5 reps).
2. Increase in the amount of mitochondria, typically done thru increased time under muscular tension (i.e. doing a high rep exercise to muscular failure, “the burn”).
From my experience, I’ve seen women lift very heavy and not build much if any muscle. I’ve also seen some women do pilates (high rep) and build a lot of muscle.
So, can women build muscle?
I’ve seen 3 types of women:
1. Women who cannot build muscle or very little muscle with any exercise
2. Women who build muscle from higher rep training
3. Women who build muscle from lower rep/heavy weight training
I would say from my experience, ½ of women fit into the “cannot build” section and the other ½ fit into the high rep/low rep (but typically not both).
The number 1 thing to avoid if you do not want to bulk up is building muscle without burning body fat at the same time.
Also, find out what your body responds best to. Is high rep training putting muscle on your body? Low rep? Increasing body fat while increasing muscle mass will push everything out away from the body and appear much bigger. In many cases the client will report not fitting into her clothes.
What you want to avoid if you don’t want to bulk up:
🚫 Eating in a caloric surplus
🚫 Physical inactivity
🚫 Not allowing the body to recover between exercise sessions
Eat when you’re hungry, and stop at the first signs of fullness.***
Walk 10,000 steps a day.
Sleep 6-8 hours and drink plenty of water.
Keep it simple, and don’t overthink it 👍.
***Stop at fullness, but never restrict yourself. If you feel any anxiety from having to stop eating, then continue to eat but still paying attention to hunger cues.