Hello! My name is Katie Lyn. I am a writer over at Garage Gym Power. I am also a mom, a woman and an athlete. I am honored to be given the opportunity to write this guest post for Tina.
I learned about Tina’s blog at the suggestion of a friend, and was happy to discover a like minded blogger with a lot of great recipes and an interesting CrossFit journey to share.
This topic centers around a theme female CrossFit athletes encounter quite a bit, which is:
“Will CrossFit make me Bulky?”
I am going to attempt to tackle this prickly subject by exploring different definitions of “bulky” and looking at what practicing CrossFit may or may not accomplish for women. So without further ado, let me begin.
Maybe you are a gal who has been considering giving CrossFit a try because you see all the benefits gained by CrossFit athletes. Sure! They look happy, energetic, on fire for life.
Who doesn’t want that?!?
But then something happened… Maybe you were excited to join a box, and you shared that excitement with some friends or family. If you did, you likely heard something like:
“I would never join CrossFit, I don’t want to lift those heavy weights and get huge muscles.”
Or maybe you saw a picture of a female fitness model or CrossFit Athlete and thought to yourself:
“What if I start getting bigger? My goal was to lose weight to fit in smaller clothes!”
What “they” don’t want you to know
Here is a secret you may not know:
Fitness models and competitive bodybuilders follow a grueling, dehydrating and bulking routine before photo shoots and competitions. They cut fluid intake, cut carbs, drastically decrease calories and sometimes don’t drink anything a day or two before the photo shoot or competition.
They do this so their skin lays closer to the muscle so it is more visible, making them look well defined and muscular.
Catch these models or weightlifters on their day off, and they probably won’t look like the same person. Normal people have fat and water between their muscle and skin, and so do fitness models, when they are allowed to drink water and eat enough calories.
If you are worried you may end up looking that muscular, relax and maybe have a glass of water. You won’t achieve that look without serious effort.
But what if CrossFit does make you gain weight or get bigger?
It could happen!
Look at Annie Thorisdottir who was twice awarded CrossFit Games Fittest on Earth.
Or well known CrossFit Athlete Camille Leblanc-Bazinet.
Both of these ladies have well defined, muscular, and dare I say, “bulky” bodies.
Personally, I think they look great!
Even if this is not the physique you are after, you have nothing to fear. These ladies made a choice to form their bodies the way that they have, just like you have a choice and a say in how your body looks.
If you choose to sit on the couch, eating Twinkies and watching the entire 3rd season of “Breaking Bad” in one sitting, and live that way consistently, then eventually you will have earned yourself a not-so-athletic body. You may even be fat.
If you are a dedicated, competition level, CrossFit Athlete like Annie Thorisdottir, who owns a CrossFit Box, trains everyday, coaches others, and probably eats well, gets enough sleep and has the help of mentors and trainers, then you would have a physique like….Annie Thorisdottir.
My guess is the figure you are after is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
It comes down to this:
Your figure, form, body shape, physique, or whatever else you call it, is determined by two things.
1. What you want.
2. What you are willing to do, sacrifice, or to pay to get it!
CrossFit can not really “make” your body into something you did not intend. CrossFit will not “make” you bulky and muscular any more than playing tennis will make you look like Serena Williams.
If you have a lean, firm body, it is due to what you ate, what supplements you took, and how you exercised.
If you have a lot of bulk and visible large muscles, it is the same principle.
If you are “skinny fat” or just fat, guess what? You made choices that led you there too.
I actually have sat on the couch and binge watched TV series on Netflix. I don’t eat Twinkies while I do, but sometimes I am known to open a bag of chips or, heaven forbid, cookies. But it is something I do once in a while.
You know what I do just about every day? I workout. I go to my gym, and get really sweaty, lift some weights, do burpees and box jumps, and squat after squat. OK, it just feels like we are forever doing squats, but at least a few times a week we have squats.
My height and weight are proportionate. I have a little arm definition, and sorta muscular thighs, and a lot of the fat in my bottom has been replaced by much shapelier, firm round muscular bottom. I am not ‘Bulky” nor do I want to be.
But oh my gosh, when those arm muscles started popping out…I was so proud!
Another bonus of doing all those military presses, planks, push-ups and other shoulder work is that my once super narrow shoulders now have a little more mass, and I look more balanced. Think: less pear, more hourglass.
You will love CrossFit. Please believe me. It will change so many things in your life for the better. I believe it will even change the way you see muscles, and “bulky” women.
You may change your mind and decide you do want some bulk. Those muscles are your reward for hard work. They are your trophies to show to the whole world.
Let me tell you what!
What do you think looks better in a form fitting dress, mini skirt or booty shorts?
The bottom on a lady who is “skinny fat” or thin or who sits at a desk and never exercises her bum? Or the CrossFit lady who has been putting in the time at her box?
Seriously, if you want the perfect bottom, CrossFit is where it is at!
If you don’t care about a perfect round backside, well, maybe its time to renew that Netflix subscription.
There is something important I must share with you.
“Bulk” is defined differently by different folks. Some say bulky is having visible large muscles. Some say bulk is just “big” could be muscle, could be fat, could be both.
Well, no matter how you define it, bulkiness occurs (or does not) as a byproduct of three things:
1. How you eat (or supplement)
2. How you train
3. Whether you are male or female
Most women do not eat enough food, or the right kind of food to gain serious muscle.
Plus, women do not have the hormonal makeup to for serious gains. You need testosterone, and a good amount of it, to gain big hulky bulky muscles.
Fact: The average adult male has a Testosterone level of 240-950 ng/dL while a woman has only 8-60 ng/dL.
If you are female, you chances of bulking up with big muscles are not high. You would have to make serious diet changes, lift really, really heavy weights, and maybe take supplements or hormone altering substances to gain large muscles.
The “Other” Bulky
We talked about the muscular bulky, so now lets talk about the other kind of bulky. This is where you gain new muscle, but darn it, you did not lose any fat, and now you are actually bigger than when you began.
I assume if you are reading this article, getting bigger was not your goal.
Here is how it works:
What I am about to say applies to all weight bearing exercise in general, and can not be blamed on CrossFit or weight lifting specifically.
It is possible to build muscle, while not burning any of the fat that you wanted gone. It is possible.
This is where diet comes into play. No matter what sport or fitness activity you do, diet matters, usually more than the exercise itself, when it comes to body composition. The surest way to change body composition is through diet and exercise.
If you join CrossFit to lose weight and become lean, for sure you will burn calories during each WOD. But if you go home and eat enough to make up for those calories, the fat will not be lost. Your body must be in a calorie deficit to lose or use stored body fat.
I am no diet expert and I think there are several paths to success so I am not going to preach the virtues of any specific diet.
Time to Be Real With Y’all
CrossFit. Muscles. Where do I start?
OK, here is the truth. If your idea of bulky is a slim woman with a little muscle definition then CrossFit may not be the sport for you.
Sorry! But it’s true.
My idea of lean, shapely female physique is exactly that, slim, with some muscle definition.
Many women who have been practicing CrossFit for a while, and eating (relatively) carefully, eventually become lean and defined. Not necessarily huge muscles, but you may see her biceps, even when she is not flexing.
If this look is not what you are after, well, there are many other forms of exercise where you can burn fat without gaining much muscle. Just sayin’
It’s like this:
The terms “Toning” and “Sculpting” “Firming” are actually pseudonyms for losing body fat and gaining muscle. Muscles, your muscles, are in a constant state of change. They are either getting stronger by use, or smaller by not being used. Its science. Use it or lose it, baby.
The good news is:
A reasonable amount of muscle does make a woman more shapely. Working your glutes via squats, lunges and deadlifts makes your backside rounder and perkier, and just better looking.
Working the arms and shoulders by doing pushups, kettlebell swings and pull-ups leads to shapely shoulders and arms. If you have narrow sloping shoulders, building a little muscle in the shoulder can balance that.
If you have flabby or saggy under arm wing-things, building the biceps, while losing body fat, can help firm the area.
And so on and so forth
I admit, my bias is obvious. I do not think CrossFit makes most women “bulky”, I think it makes most women look lean and attractive, and I highly recommend it for all the benefits it gives a woman, including a better figure, self esteem that comes from achievement, and the happy-making endorphins that comes after you xr’d a good hard WOD.
I am curious to see what other women have to say about this topic. What do you think? Does CrossFit make women look “bulky” or lean and shapely? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Thank you for reading!