Poll: Are You Afraid of Bulking Up?

1SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
12/26/2008 1:28 PM   :  324 comments

Sometimes, I'm almost amazed at how often the questions come up. Women are always asking me about whether certain exercises will (or won't) make their muscles big or bulky. Some even question cardio activities like running or cycling and fear that these activities will make their thighs bigger (to which I always respond, "Have you ever seen a professional runner or cyclist with bulky thighs?") So I'm wondering: Do you fear bulking up?

Now I realize that our society's standards of female beauty include words like small, thin, lean, long, skinny, toned, and not words like muscular, strong, or solid. I also realize that for many women, looking good (often synonymous with "being skinny") is more important than being healthy and fit. And yes, we all have different body types that we can't really change—some people build muscle more easily than others, and other can't build muscle no matter how hard they try.

Personally, I choose strong over skinny. I've chosen strong my whole life. I've been lifting weights since I was about 14 years old and have never stopped. And I've always lifted the heaviest weights my body could handle, and have continued to progress my strength level by lifting heavier weights over time. You won't see me doing squats in the gym with 5-pound dumbbells (although there's no shame in that if you're starting out). But you will see me pressing 140 pounds or more on the leg press, lifting 70 pounds on the chest press, and sometimes—on a good day—even curling 20-pound dumbbells with my biceps. All the while, my body has never gotten bigger. In fact, the more I lift weights, the better my body looks and the better I feel about myself. I've never bought into the myth of bulking up. In fact, if it were possible, I'd probably choose to look more muscular if I had any say in the matter.

How about you: Are you afraid of bulking up? Does your fear keep you from lifting heavier weights or trying certain activities?


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Comments

  • 324
    Women simply don't have the testosterone levels needed to get bulky. We just get strong, lean, and awesome. :D This bulking up myth needs to go out the window because women who aren't strength training are losing out on a lot of health benefits. Especially since it strengthens our bones, as we tend to lose more bone mass with age than men. - 9/9/2014   10:37:55 AM
  • 323
    I'm with coach Nicole - the stonger the better. In addition to looking sexy, it's _useful_. I've watched people I love die from osteoporosis - wasting away - and I PROMISE myself that won't be me. I'm female, so I'll never get huge, but I build muscle pretty quickly for a woman, and I love my body for that. The man I adore seems to like it, too. :-) - 4/17/2014   5:26:59 PM
  • 322
    Yes I do want serious muscles.......I lift heavy for a reason. - 4/26/2013   1:00:21 AM
  • 321
    No, but blowing up a muscle does concern me. I have a degenerative muscle disease and inheritanced sensitive skin . But so many people have told me i need to add some weight to myself in my life that I've been trying to "beef up" for years now. I would be content with sixteen more pounds of pure muscle. - 2/28/2013   7:31:35 AM
  • 320
    I don't want to look like a competitor or anything, but I am"skinny" right now, be still have jiggle. I'd definitely love to add some muscle and "tighten up" a bit. I'm definitely not afraid to have some muscle! I am loving the new definition in my back and arms that I've been seeing lately! - 7/13/2012   10:03:55 AM
  • 319
    No way am I afraid of bulking up. I don't have enough testosterone nor do I take drugs to do it for me. I just get sculpted and toned. - 3/1/2012   1:46:23 PM
  • CIRANDELLA
    318
    Heavens, no!
    I'm afraid of bulking out, not up! - 1/25/2012   9:22:10 PM
  • TANKERTANKER
    317
    Im weird in the fact that I see strength as sexy. I am one of those who when thinner (i have 30 lbs to go) I have a lot of muscle definition. My personal view is the more muscular and toned i am the better I look. I love having my arm in a relaxed position and seeing my muscles! call me a tard .. but for me ... and my body composition ... thats what I look best at. And i would love to have madonna's muscle tone! or the girl on bodyrock.tv - super cool site if you have never heard of it! Muscle is sexy. So lift away! your body wont add more than your genetic makeup will allow! - 12/8/2011   1:36:08 PM
  • 316
    My question is not about bulking up but about giving birth. Are there any side effects to lifting weights that can cause premature births (even if you are not lifting during pregnancy) in-other-words, can it cause stress on the uterus or cervix and thus cause a problem ~ even 10 years down the road? (that is what they think is some European countries so that is why I am asking) Thanks for your input! - 12/8/2011   10:01:34 AM
  • 315
    Hey I don't look like a weigh what I do, because of my muscles. At almost 150 extra pounds, my calves and upper arms have no flab on them. I have guns and I am proud of them. My doctor says I will never be where the BMI charts say I should be beause I HAVE MUSCLES. Bulk up well who cares, healthy is more important anyway
    - 10/25/2011   3:53:00 PM
  • 314
    Not at all. Last year, I had been lifting heavy and losing the 10 pounds I always struggle with. I was thin, tight and muscular but smaller than before. It is definitely a belief to eliminate. Let's lift girls! - 10/20/2011   8:02:40 AM
  • 313
    I admire female bodybuilders - they were the first icons of fitness that motivated me to pick up a barbell and it takes a huge amount of training and discipline to achieve what they do. But, for a woman to look bulky, it's about swallowing and not lifting - the majority of us will not bulk up unless we take steroids or male hormones. I agree with you, Coach, "...if it were possible, I'd probably choose to look more muscular." Lift heavy or go home! - 9/24/2011   1:47:09 PM
  • 312
    I am not afraid of bulking up! I started weight training after a failed effort at distance running and veganism -- I felt like garbage, was never satiated with my food, and put on five pounds so fast it would make your head spin. So I went in the opposite direction: added some meat back to my diet and started lifting weights, and the five pounds came off and then some! Now I qualify as "strong for my size."

    My experience with running is that my legs did bulk up when I ran slow, a 10-minute mile or slower. But once I worked on speed and got myself into the 8-minute mile and faster range, my whole body leaned out, legs especially. Sometimes I think the problem with cardio is that people just don't push themselves hard enough.

    That's my two cents.

    But weight training -- love it! It makes me feel awesome! - 9/23/2011   2:04:45 PM
  • PIXIESTIX6669
    311
    Shhhhh...let these women think they're going to "bulk up"...it'll keep the free weight area less crowded...:P - 9/11/2011   12:38:56 PM
  • 310
    Afraid of bulking up?? Absolutely NOT!! For one thing I know that I (and most other women) do not have enough testosterone in my body to bulk up. And I won't take supplements that would allow for that much bulking to happen. However, I love lifting heavy...especially making the guys wait because I have the 30 or 40 pound dumbbells. Too funny!! I do love looking cut though, but that takes a drop in body fat (which most of us want to do anyway), and that only comes through diet, cardio and RESISTANCE TRAINING! - 9/9/2011   3:13:30 PM
  • 309
    Like most people here, I've never been afraid of bulking up. I know it's not likely. - 8/29/2011   2:51:48 PM
  • REDSHOES2011
    308
    I want the muscle deal and have not problems bulking up without suppliments.. I am a workhorse so work with my body composition.. No one will annoy me in a dark alley doing nightshifts as a traveling resthome helper with my biceps.. They will need the services of a good dentist, I aim to hurt anyone whom tries it on with me.. - 6/18/2011   1:31:59 PM
  • 307
    I am not afraid at all. I want a toned sleek body! - 6/18/2011   12:23:56 AM
  • LYNNATION
    306
    Been lifting weights for 2 years - not "bulky" as a result - but toned. Google the female Olympic weightlifters, they are generally not "bulky" either.... - 6/15/2011   1:54:27 AM
  • 305
    Nope, not worried b/c I know I'd have to lift massive amounts of weight to look like the women in those strongest women competitions. ever since I started lifting in high school for basing cheerleading stunts, I've prided myself on my strength. I take pride in my strong, defined shoulders & would rather they look that way due to strength training than being too thin. - 4/21/2011   1:19:15 PM
  • 304
    Another country heard from....lol.....yes I am one of those that bulk easily, not hummoungsly big, but I am short from shoulder to elbow so when I lift my biceps get big which makes it hard to fit into some sleeves. But I have no intention of changing even if dear hubby would prefer I didn't bulk, I'd rather be strong and shapley that skinny and flabby. Plus at 57 I want to be strong, and continue being strong. My coach tells me I'm the strongest client she has in not only the 50's but also younger ones like in their 30's.

    I may take a 14 but no one would ever guess it. Except you folks now lol...

    K - 3/9/2011   4:16:37 PM
  • 303
    I am bulky enough and the ST is making me LESS BULKY Way to go. - 3/9/2011   1:19:27 PM
  • 302
    i am afraid of bulking up....I just want to be healthy and "toned." - 3/9/2011   9:27:33 AM
  • DBO-DBO
    301
    When I first started working out seriously (at 14) I didn't want to be bulky, but since then I've learned about how much work (not to mention steroids) I'd have to do to get big enough to overcome my feminine body chemistry. Now that I know the way muscle affects the body and metabolism, the only thing I want more than a little extra muscle is a little extra chocolate! - 3/8/2011   6:15:59 PM
  • 300
    I used to say out loud that I did not want to be bulky, It was not a good look. The reality/truth was that I was just making excuses not to strength train. As I suspect some people use this excuse as well. lifting is hard work and I did not want to work that hard. Now as I get older and gravity has my address bulking up a little would be welcomed. A little bulk on the arms would be neat. - 2/10/2011   11:30:08 PM
  • HSUKING2011
    299
    I've never been afraid to go a little heavy w/ the weights and never feel like I'm bulky. I love that I have muscle definition in my arms and shoulders - it's a visual affirmation of how strong I feel on the inside! - 2/10/2011   8:25:32 AM
  • FOXMOLLIE
    298
    It is a fact, not a myth in my case that I start to bulk up before getting to my goal weight. I am 5’9” 183-194 average, size 14. Based on the BMI, my healthy weight is 168 tops. I would first like to reach that before bulking up but I find myself getting definition in my thighs, calves and arms. I would not have a problem bulking up – as long as I reach my goal weight first. Any suggestions? I really need some. - 2/9/2011   11:01:11 PM
  • WHITNEETHEYOGI
    297
    Im in the middle on this one. I really do enjoy feeling strong and building muscle and getting more toned. I feel better when my body is strong, and would chose this over being a stick woman any day.
    On the other hand, I wish my calves were smaller, and wouldnt be as muscly, but more cute than they are. They seem to prefer muscle though :( oh well thats life - 2/9/2011   4:39:29 PM
  • 296
    I would love to build up more muscles. I love strength training! I'm at my goal weight, and frankly my butt and thighs look too thin. I'm hoping the strength training will put a little bulk on my legs. - 2/2/2011   9:39:21 PM
  • 295
    Yes. I'm very afraid of "bulking up" because I've always been a bigger girl with bigger muscles, & I now take The Pill, which raises your testosterone levels & makes it harder to lose the fat on top of the muscles! - 1/13/2011   2:20:57 PM
  • PICKANYNAME
    294
    A slightly bulky healthy versus skinny ...... I choose slightly bulky healthy!!! Heck, I'd probably even choose "bulky, bulky" to replace my flabby flab!!! The legs are coming along nicely; but, I definitely need to increase my upper body strength training in order to rid myself of these bat wings!!! - 1/13/2011   10:59:35 AM
  • LOLIITA_
    293
    I'd much rather be a little bulky than be skinny and look under fed. - 1/13/2011   6:09:26 AM
  • 292
    I always thought weight would bulk me up and at my age I thought this would look stupid. Will have to check out. Thanks - 1/12/2011   7:38:00 PM
  • 291
    No as long as it was muscles I would welcome it totally !! The only thing is I wouldn't want to get muscle bound. - 12/30/2010   5:09:49 PM
  • 290
    My body builds muscle very easily - particularly in my chest and arms. I like looking muscular and fit, but I realized that many people find muscular definition on a woman unattractive. After spending some time in Europe and being viewed as something of a freak (and trust me, my muscles are NOT huge), I actually decided I didn't want to get any bigger....it hurt to be viewed as mannish and unattractive. But after some self-reflection I realized it's what I think and feel that matters - so welcome back to the gun show, everyone! - 12/30/2010   12:42:09 AM
  • 289
    Right now - I'm just big, with no muscle definition. I would rather be big with some muscle definition, because that means my body fat % is lower, and I'm carrying less fat. - 11/22/2010   12:58:11 AM
  • 288
    I could qualify as bulky and chunky. I have muscles that are hidden under my fat and they always surprize people that they are there. I have little to no definition, but my shape would suggest bulky anyways. This is because I am a large person (6 foot tall with broad shoulders) and it would be really unhealthy to try to be little. I'll stick with healthy, even if others see it as bulky. - 10/13/2010   7:42:47 PM
  • 287
    I've never worried about bulking up. I've always had an athletic body up until my injuries and gaining weight. I've never been super skinny and have a medium/large frame, so skinny wouldn't look good on me anyway. I was watching a video on the downhill skier Lindsey Vonn and the amount of workouts she does (she is my inspiration). She does a lot of strength training and isn't bulky, just strong and healthy. - 10/8/2010   7:13:11 PM
  • TWOOFTHREE
    286
    I know some blokes who think the same. I have a male friend who only puts 100lbs on the leg press and thinks I'm crazy because I lift at least double that! - 9/26/2010   3:38:01 PM
  • 285
    I really want some large muscles! I will keep lifting! - 9/24/2010   1:38:11 PM
  • 284
    I lift heavy and love it. I love the muscle I can see and the muscle I know is there under the fat I have left to lose. I'm definately not afraid of bulking up. I want to look fit and curvy.

    Like TINTOMARA I adored Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. - 9/24/2010   12:15:12 PM
  • LADY_NEMO
    283
    When I first started doing my strength training I looked into this as I was told bulking up, among other unfeminine things, would happen to my body. What I found was that the development of muscles is dependent upon the amount of testosterone a person has in their body. Everyone has some but men have about 10x more than women. This makes it impossible for a woman like myself to 'bulk up' without resorting to drugs. So, since I'm female, I have no fear of becoming bulky. I'm not building my body - it's already there I just want to sculpt it a bit. Oh and the girls those other things happen to? Turns out they didn't balance their exercise routine with an adequate amount of calories. - 9/13/2010   12:14:39 AM
  • 282
    I would love to "bulk up", as I've come to know that I will never be a "skinny" person. I've always been "solid" and people are unbelieving when they find out my weight. I am still overweight but as long as I'm building muscle, I try not to worry about the number on the scale. Lifting weights has always challenged me, and my new trainer pushes me beyond my old limits, and I love to bump up to the next level! Not even worried a tiny bit about the "bulking up"! - 9/5/2010   10:14:37 AM
  • LAURAWILLBEFIT
    281
    I'm not afraid of bulking up because of weights. I know I can control the wt. of the weights, but I am afraid that I won't lose enough fat in order to look smaller. I have bulked up in the past because I wasn't losing the fat fast enough and I did look larger because my muscles were responding to the heavier wts. I was using.
    So now I won't lift anything heavier than 10lbs. - 9/4/2010   2:36:50 PM
  • 280
    I'm using the stretchy band with the Leslie Sansone DVDs my arm muscles are getting toned without bulking up. I still have "bat wings" but I found an exercise in a magazine that uses weights and the stability ball I've also added. - 9/4/2010   1:53:38 PM
  • 279
    I have mixed emotions on this subject. I both fear bulking up, and I know that I won't get huge at the same time. I do notice that I seem to build muscles a little more easily than other women, but my whole family has higher testosterone levels and I assume that is part of it. Even though I'm kind of afraid of bulking, I lift weights and try to increase weight amounts over time. Usually I focus on number or reps instead of heavier weights though, I notice that my strength still increases, without the "bulky" feel of the muscles after. - 9/4/2010   10:13:35 AM
  • 278
    I have never worried about bulking up. My focus is on a strong, toned body and if I bulk up then that is what it is. If you truly do not want to bulk up, be sure to use lighter weights with more reps. - 9/3/2010   8:59:44 PM
  • ESTEEESTEE
    277
    I don't. I know how useful can be all that dumbells and machines from my own experience with a weight loss so I'm OK with heavy weights. Besides I like that feeling of bein able to lift heavy weights, I feel myself more capable and independent :) - 8/13/2010   1:47:32 AM
  • 276
    I just laugh when people blame my broad shoulders on playing softball starting at age 6 and volleyball around 12. I still play both (recreationally) today at 27. Guess what? My shoulders aren't overly muscle-y, although my shoulders, back and arms are well defined. My shoulders are broad because I'm built that way, same as my BOTH parents. I'm about 15 lbs heavier than I want to be, all in my midsection, but every time I work out (and I love lifting weights) it's the same - definition and more definition, not size! - 7/7/2010   1:45:20 PM
  • JERRYGURL
    275
    Oh YES! I have always been an active, athletic girl... I know what certain things do to me.. My arms and legs are monsters... lol... My sister finds it halarious and I dont... Any little thing to my arms and it starts cutting and forming in like a day and this is no overexaggeration. I DONT WANT TO LOOK LIKE A BODY BUILDER... So I just stick to not lifting with my arms! Simply running everyday already has my arms forming... - 5/11/2010   2:31:46 AM

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