Cushions & jumpers… an analogy to female bulking

Lifting weights leads to huge biceps, traps and quadzillas. It creates an uncanny resemblance to the incredible hulk and develops the ability to tear clothes at the slightest squeeze of a muscle

Anyone can easily add 10, 20 or 30lbs of muscle in a few measly months by simply eating more protein and lifting a few weights. In fact just walking into the free weights room and looking around has been shown to increase glute size by 20%….

…This is of course complete garbage but unfortunately what many believe to be true. A few little pointers before we get into a really *cough cough*scientific analogy

  • Testosterone is a key hormone to building muscle
  • Women produce much lower levels of testosterone than men
  • Most men (there are exceptions) find it seriously difficult to add even a few lbs of muscle in a year
  • Muscle is so much harder to build than fat is to lose

Three key factors that are essential for building muscle:

1. A calorie surplus

2. A training plan designed to manipulate volume and intensity with exercise selection focused on muscle development

3. A desire and commitment to build muscle — it’s freaking hard as hell to build muscle!

From experience through training many women, few have stated they feel bulky. Why is this?

Short answer is that it comes down to calories.

  • Consume more calories than you expend and expect to gain weight
  • Consume fewer calories than you expend and expect to lose weight

Even without lift a finger…never mind a weight… you will gain weight by eating too many calories. Now if we add resistance training in to the mix then some of this weight gain will come from muscle.

A really really scientific analogy

You are wearing a jumper and decide to push cushions up it. What happens? You become bulky. Now lets say the jumper is your subcutaneous fat (fat that lies underneath your skin) and the cushions are muscle you added through:

1. Resistance training

2. Eating too many calories

Because we are in a calorie surplus weight gain is inevitable. For simplicity sake lets say this gain is 100% muscle. All we have done is added muscle underneath our fat…. Cushions and jumpers.

On the flip side, if we consume fewer calories than are expended and lift weights there should be no added body weight. So if there is no added body weight then one out of two things has happened:

1. Maintain current muscle mass and lose body fat.

2. Increase a little muscle mass and lose even more body fat.

Either way we lose body fat, become leaner and look much better.

Bottom line is that nutrition is a huge factor. Lifting weights will not cause bulk provided you are not exceeding your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). If you are exceeding your TDEE then you can’t expect much more than to add weight.

If you find your pants are becoming tighter then delve further into your nutrition.

A few years ago I worked with a client and she was stressing that her work shirts were becoming a little tight across her arms and was becoming quite upset by it. She was convinced it was down to resistance training and wanted to change up and do cardio only. Delving further into her nutrition we found that weekends were becoming a little more excessive in calories, manly through alcohol, than her weekdays.

To cut a long story short I set her a six week challenge. This challenge was to change one thing, and this was her calorie intake. Nothing changed with her training she simply removed the excess from her diet.

Before her training session on the fifth week I was working in a closed room and she came bouncing in. I remember it vividly as it was quite a dramatic entrance and one of those moments where you are really unsure whats happening or whats about to happen. Without saying a word she extended her arm to reveal a quite solidly defined tricep. Her mood gave me all the answers I needed but she proceeded to tell me that not only were her work shirts feeling much looser but she was absolutely elated by her new found definition.

There are of course always exceptions to the rule and I have worked with a few females that have become more developed in certain areas. This is mainly down to genetics, which can’t be changed but can easily be resolved through half decent program design. These changes haven’t been visual from an outsider’s viewpoint but more so from the clients own perspective and feel.

Like with everything, we are all unique and we need to play around with what works for us as individuals. However don’t be put off by the false conception that lifting weights causes bulk.

Too many calories cause bulk!


· Controlling calories intake to dictate weight gain/loss

· Lifting weights to increase metabolism

· Lifting weights to improve body shape (muscle shapes, fat is shapeless)

· Lifting weights to improve strength, confidence and become a badass

· Lifting weights because it’s much cooler than prancing around on a cross trainer ; )

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