Top Reasons Heavy Weights DON’T Bulk Up the Female Athlete

Worried this will be you?  Don't be.
Worried this will be you? Don't be.

If you’re a lady, chances are you’ve taken some time to consider the most common concern surrounding our CrossFit workout regime: “But what if I bulk up and look like a man with all that weight training?!”  Well, the good news is, you AREN’T GOING TO.  And here’s why…

Here are some excerpts taken from an article by Tim Kontos, David Adamson, and Sarah Walls on this much debated topic.  In a nutshell, here are a few of the top reasons why heavy weights DON’T bulk up the female athlete.

1. Women do not have nearly as much testosterone as men. In fact, according to Bill Kreamer in Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men.  Testosterone is the reason men are men and women are women.  After men hit puberty, they grow facial hair, their voice deepens, and they develop muscle mass.  Because men have more testosterone, they are much more equipped to gain muscle.  Because women do not have very much testosterone in their bodies, they will never be able to get as big as men.

2. The perception that women will bulk up when they begin a strength training program comes from the chemically-altered women on the covers of bodybuilding magazines. These “grocery stand models” are most likely pumped full of some extra juice.  This is why they look like men.

3. For women, muscle is developed through training but not in great volume. This is essentially bodybuilding without testosterone.  Since the testosterone is not present in sufficient amounts, the muscle will develop, but it won’t gain a large amount of mass.

4. Heavy weights will promote strength, not size. This has been proven time and time again.  When lifting weights over 85 percent of your 1RM ( a weight you can only lift once), the primary stress imposed upon the body is placed on the nervous system, not on the muscles.  Therefore, strength will improve by a neurological effect while not increasing the size of the muscles.

And, according to Zatsiorsky and Kreamer in Science and Practice of Strength Training, women need to train with heavy weights not only to strengthen the muscles but also to cause positive adaptations in the bones and connective tissues!
5. Bulking up is not an overnight process. Many women think they will start lifting weights, wake up one morning, and say “Holy sh__! I’m huge!”  This doesn’t happen.  The men that you see who have more muscle than the average person have worked hard for a long time (years) to get that way.  If you bulk up overnight, contact us because we want to do what you’re doing!

6. Bulking up is calorie dependant. This means if you eat more than you are burning, you will gain weight.  If you eat less than you are burning, you will lose weight.  Unfortunately, most female athletes perceive any weight gain as “bulking up” and do not give attention to the fact that they are simply getting fatter.  As Todd Hamer, a strength and conditioning coach at George Mason University said, “Squats don’t bulk you up. It’s the ten beers a night that bulk you up.” (Or the weekly chocolate cravings, for that matter.)  This cannot be emphasized enough!  If you’re a female athlete and training with heavy weights (or not), you need to watch what you eat.  Let’s be real-the main concern that female athletes have when coming to their coach about gaining weight is not their performance, but aesthetics.  (Except in CrossFit, of course! 😉 )

To be quite honest, most of what is currently being done in global fitness clubs to help female athletes define their bodies is not working.  It’s not helping these women get lean and strong, and it is definitely not helping improve their athletic performance.  Maybe it’s time to consider a change!  A change like CrossFit, perhaps, which is focused on overall strength and conditioning and promotes useful skills which are completely transferable to real life.  Contrary to the ineffective light weights currently being used in most Globo Gyms, the heavy weights used in CrossFit offer many benefits for women, including improved body composition, stronger muscles, decreased injury rate, and stronger bones (which helps prevent osteoporosis).  So get in here for your daily WOD, try lifting some heavy weights and controlling your diet, and stand back to watch this logical, science-based solution make the difference to our female bodies that we’ve been looking for!

FYI if you recently registered for My Fran Time and have received an error message or did not receive the email to activate your account, the problem has been fixed.  All accounts have been activated!

Today’s Workout:

Buy InCrossfit warm-up

WOD – The Gymnast’s routine

This workout is not for time – work on technique and strength – seek refinement not haste :)

Over the course of 30 minutes, accumulate (in ANY ORDER) the following:

  • 15 muscle ups (girls jumping or progressions – bottom of rings at shoulder height)
  • 15 pistols per leg
  • 20 handstand pushups (ideally no kipping for guys, girls head to one abmat and can kip)
  • 30 toes to bar (or kte)
  • 10 cartwheels (each way)
  • 5 (heavy) turkish get-ups per side

All Zones: scale all moves and reps as needed

Cash Out – 1k jog or run


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