Strong muscles don’t make you look bulky- too much extra body fat does. There’s one phrase I hear women say A LOT when it comes to fitness…and it really bugs me.
“But I don’t want to get bulky.”
This is a phrase usually used as an excuse to not choose a challenging set of dumbbells, to not turn the resistance up on a cycling class bike, to not try a new challenging workout…you get the picture. Its an excuse to NOT try something that may be a bit challenging. I do get the reasoning behind it, even though its **completely wrong.**
Here’s an example: you happen to catch a glimpse of the Crossfit Games on ESPN, you see these SUPER buff, super fit women lifting crazy heavy weights and you decide then and there that you will never try Crossfit because you don’t want to wind up looking like a body builder. I get that.
Photo from Reebok Crossfit Games
But heres the cold hard truth- these girls who are super muscular have been working on building up their bodies for YEARS, they were most likely athletes in high school and college, and they literally breathe fitness and focus on building muscle every. damn. day. They also eat A LOT (like unbelievable amounts!) to maintain said muscle.
So, in short, if you try Crossfit you won’t look even remotely like these girls. It would take a total lifestyle overhaul and many years to get to that level, and for many women a body like that just isn’t possible at all. Period.
It has been proven time and time again that building muscle will help you burn more calories throughout the day. To actually change the shape of your body, to achieve the fit look you are after, to get lean sexy abs- you have to lift weights. AND on top of that, as you get stronger, your body will need a heavier weight to continue to make a change. You don’t need to go crazy and choose super heavy weights though- just something that is challenging for YOU.
Turning up the resistance during an indoor cycling class isn’t going to make your legs huge either- quite the opposite! The harder you work in class, the more calories and fat you’ll burn, and if you are eating right, eventually those thighs will get leaner and more “toned” looking.
One thing to be aware of though post workout: when you work your muscles, they usually swell a little bit, giving you the immediate appearance of a big bicep or a bigger hamstring muscle. This is temporary- it just means you worked the area really well and blood is rushing to the area to help rebuild the muscle! So don’t let temporary muscle swelling keep you from weight training!
One thing to note that I think people often don’t think about- if you build muscle but don’t clean up your diet, you’re body will eventually look bigger. Fat is what makes you look bulky. So if you start weight lifting but don’t lose body fat, you will start to look thicker, and you wont achieve that strong lean look you are after.
Muscles won’t make you look bulky, too much extra body fat does.
Your best defense against “bulk” is a healthy, clean diet and portion control paired with weight training and regular exercise!