The first thing that people (especially other women) told me when I decided to start doing CrossFit was: “make sure you don’t get all bulky like a man. That is not attractive.” I’m sure that is not something that just happened to me. One of the biggest fears that people (women in particular) experience when deciding to join CrossFit is getting bulky. I’m sure that the fear comes from seeing all those internet videos of muscular CrossFitters lifting heavy barbells. Most people relate lifting weights with looking like the 90’s Arnold Schwarzenegger; however, that is rarely the case. Today I want to explain to my fellow CrossFiters (and those still on the fence about starting CrossFit) why lifting heavy weights will NOT make you bulky.

Having lean, strong muscle is good for you

There are health benefits to having lean muscle. Having strong muscles will protect your bones and strengthen the tendons and ligaments, so your risk of injury decreases. In addition, building up your muscles will increase your resistance and endurance, which in turn will have a general impact on your health. In fact, studies have shown that strength training can decrease your risk of heart disease. Having lean muscle will also make every day activities easier because we will generally have more endurance and be stronger, next time somebody needs to open a jar of pickle they can count on you!

What lifting heavy weights will do to you

Most of us start exercising with a goal to lose weight. We just usually go about it the wrong way by focusing in a lot of cardio and neglecting the weights. I said we go about it the wrong way because lifting weights will actually aid you in your fat-burning goals. When you lift heavy weights, your body will start gaining lean muscle mass which increases the number of calories that your body burns during the day; even when you are not working out. In addition, lifting weights will shape your body. Most people want to have toned, defined muscle; that will only be achieved by lifting weights.

Where does the bulk come from?

It is true though, that sometimes, when a person starts a new workout regime they experience some weight gain and their clothes might feel a bit tighter. The reason behind it, more often than not, is related to their nutrition not the weight they are lifting. For a person to gain muscle, he or she needs to be in a caloric surplus. If that is not the case, then your body will not support muscle gain. However, having a surplus does not mean that we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want it. We have to eat nutritious food that support our goals and there is a limit to the extra calories we should be consuming daily. Unfortunately, most of us excuse poor eating habits because “we workout” and that is where the problem comes from. We feel “bulky” because we are gaining muscle without losing fat.

What we need to do then, is make sure that we make smart, healthy choices that support gaining muscle and losing fat. Remember, a pound of muscle takes a lot less space than a pound of fat. Gaining muscle by lifting heavy weights and eating the adequate amount of calories will help you lose more fat, while helping you look leaner. If you want help learning how to eat to support your goals and deciding what is causing you to feel bulky, talk to any of the coaches at Celebration CrossFit, we will be happy to help you.

by coach Keren