Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don't Tell Me My Thighs Aren't Bulking Up Because My Eyes Say Otherwise!

courtesy of Favim

There seems to be a great divide between the fitness industry and my eyesight. I would think it could have something to do with eyesight failure except that many other women have told me that their eyes have seen the same thing. Also I seem to be able to see the rest of the world with perfect clarity so more evidence it isn't my eyes.
You see I have heard on a great many occasions, fitness professionals waving away concerns that exercise and in particular weight training can make a woman bulk up. In fact I would go as far to say that there is a trend at the moment to go out of their way to send us the message that this belief is a complete furphie and that you and I can exercise as much as we want without any concern of 'bulking.'
And I would be okay with these claims except that my eyes and thighs are telling a very different story! 
Perplexed I decided to seek clarification.
Meet Nik Stojsavljevich, leading personal trainer and founder of Stoy Fitness. In short Nik is awesome. Even more awesome is that Nik is only too happy to answer our questions and help explain the science and studies behind the advice. Go Nik. 
So I said, "Nik what is the story? Once and for all can you shed some light on this myth about bulking?"
To which Nik responded:

First of all, "myths" will always have some truth to them or else they 
would never have been thought of in the first place. The only issue is 
that most people exaggerate the true story making them a "myth."
With regards to your question, sure women can look "bulkier" by weight 
training, but we have to define what "bulking" actually means and 
consider who has the potential to do this. Lets keep the following in 
1) I think we can all agree that most women will have a hard time 
gaining large amounts of muscle mass. This is due to a few things 
including the fact that their androgen levels are much lower, their 
frames are much smaller and they are usually not strong enough to lift 
the necessary amounts to make very noticeable gains compared to men.
2) Remember that bulking is usually referred to as a period of time during which someone tries to gain as much muscle as possible regardless of fat mass gained. This is very important to consider since muscle is much more dense and takes up less space than fat. Gaining 5 lb (approx 2.2 kg) of muscle will not make someone look as different as someone who has gained 5 lb with an additional 5 lb of fat. This extra fat is responsible for that bulky look, NOT the muscle. Moreover, when done correctly, a female or male will lose 5lb of fat while gaining 5 lb of muscle which would actually make them look SMALLER with clothes on. More solid albeit, but smaller to the untrained eye.
3) Without seeing what a person is eating, they might be driving fat accumulation by eating to many carbohydrates, especially post workout, because they think these will not be stored as fat. Calories are one thing, but the effects of insulin could be causing a "bulky" look, especially if you are genetically prone to high blood sugar levels and fat deposits around the waste.
4) Genetics do play a role, but few women will win this lottery. This is why we don't tend to see too many females who are built like trucks in your average gym. And if they are, you might see some other male characteristics on them as well.

So how should females train to look stronger, healthier and leaner without the bulky look?

1) Make sure to train hard and as heavy as you can with good form to complete 6-12 reps for most sets.2) Stick to large compound movements using free weights making sure to perform unilateral and dumbbell training to prevent imbalances from holding you back. Exercises such as squats and deadlifts will build larger glutes, but they will only appear larger from the side, not in front, because of the way these fibres run. Nevertheless, those who fear a larger, firmer behinds can stick to single legged exercises such as Split Squats and step-ups.3) To get stronger without gaining muscle size stick to 3-6 reps, but realize that training this way will not help you get leaner, but only prevent metabolic changes. This means higher body fat levels.4) Eat a good serving of protein at each meal. Surround that with vegetables and smart fats for most meals and keep carbs to 1-2 servings/daily of berries, apples and or starches like sweet potatoes, rice and quinoa.
More muscle and less fat should be anyone's approach to a healthy and lean looking body. Not only will it make you look LESS bulky. It will keep you healthy and strong into old age.

Well thank you Nik!! I hope you found that as informative as I did. You can hear more from Nik 
on Facebook or at his website or on Youtube or via his Tumblr blog

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