Does CrossFit Make Women Bulky? How to, and How NOT to Gain Bulk!

Jeff Baldelli
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Does CrossFit Make Women Bulky?

There is a popular misconception that women who do CrossFit gain a lot of muscle and get bulky. There’s a common fear in today’s culture that women who get too much muscle look man-ish.

The sad part is we live in a society where women are conditioned constantly to be ashamed of their muscles and embarrassed about their strength.

Above all else, do NOT fall victim to this image-obsessed culture and think that being the strongest and fittest in the room is anything less than beautiful.

Here’s the deal: women are women, and men are men. They are just two different versions of the same human being. The way that the human body works is that women generally carry more body fat and less lean muscle mass than men.

When women build muscle (just like men), it creates an equal ratio of testosterone and estrogen. This is why you hear about women who go on testosterone having a higher sex drive, grow breasts, and get bulky arms! It’s all due to the hormonal responses that their bodies induce.

This is why women who do CrossFit get strong and buff-looking without getting too much bulk. They’re in the gym lifting heavy weights and increasing their lean muscle mass. This causes a natural increase in their testosterone levels, which leads to an increase in muscle size, strength, and density.

If all of this talk about CrossFit and the human body is confusing, then take your time to read the next section.

How to Build Muscle

In order to build muscle, we need to create a caloric deficit. This means that in order to build muscle, we must burn more calories that we consume.

After the caloric deficit is created, the body will dig into its fat stores and begin to break them down to create ketones. When your body breaks down its own fat stores, it breaks them down into ketones, which your body then burns for energy. The more ketones that you burn for energy, the more fat that the body will continue to metabolize.

The keto diet is great for building muscle because you get a surplus of energy, and the end result is the burning of more fat. It’s ideal for anyone looking to bulk up and gain more physically visible muscle.

What are Your Personal Goals

Your personal goals are certainly important in determining what kind of training you should be doing.

In regard to weightlifting or lifting weights, it would be ideal to just put on as much muscle mass as possible.

For those who want to gain at least some amount of muscle, lifting heavy weights for medium reps and going light for some high reps is the best way to go about this.

For more power endurance and lower body strength, it would be best to do a lot of lighter weight-lifting repetitions.

Your goals also affect your conditioning level. If you’re training for a marathon, you’ll want to focus on a more balanced level of cardiovascular strength training than someone who just wants to be able to run in as short of a time as possible.

The important things to remember are this: the only way to truly know what your body composition is the day you die. Those who train to gain muscle will typically burn more calories through training and have a higher metabolism than those who don’t.

If you want to lose weight, your best bet is to focus on cardiovascular exercises, such as high repetition swimming, rowing, or running.

Do the Right Type of Exercise

Contrary to what people might assume, sprinting is not the best way to get in shape, lose weight, or even burn the most calories.

In order to get the most out of any workout, exercise, or physical activity you do, you have to make sure that you’re doing the type of workout that facilitates the goals that you’re hoping to achieve.

Think of it as a pyramid. Base-level options, such as running, jogging, and cycling are leveled as the least amount of calories burned. As you go up the pyramid, you’re exercising more and more different muscles simultaneously, making it seem more difficult and activating more muscles.

The most effective forms of weightlifting and weight training are placed at the tip top of the pyramid. Exercising this many muscles at a time is the most effective way of engaging in weightlifting.

The best way to put this into practice is to take a look at the exercises in the following list. Pay attention to the rankings for each exercises level of difficulty and the number of muscles it activates.

What is it that draws you to CrossFit?

We all have our reasons, and the gym I used to train at was a very specific motivation for me. Over the years, I have met many other CrossFitters, and gradually over time, my personal reasons for participating have evolved.

Today, I mainly do CrossFit for the following reasons:

  • To expand my knowledge base
  • To be able to do things I never thought I could
  • To improve my physical health and fitness
  • To become more disciplined
  • To improve self-confidence
  • To experience the challenges of CrossFit

Even though I no longer train at the gym, what motivates you to train for CrossFit will most likely change over time. Also, your reasons for doing CrossFit will likely change depending on who you share them with.

Most CrossFitters understand that many people either do not “get” CrossFit OR think CrossFit is “too intense”. Also, if you happen to mention that you do CrossFit to a person who may have a bias against it, you may not receive an open-minded response.

So, what do you say when someone asks you why you do CrossFit? Let’s go over a few answer options:

I do CrossFit because it’s a challenge and it’s fun.

I do CrossFit because I enjoy the adrenaline rush it provides.

I do CrossFit because it gives me the opportunity to push myself to the point of exhaustion, every time.

I do CrossFit to get in shape and tone up.

I do CrossFit because I’m getting older and it’s a great way to strengthen my body so I can continue to do physically challenging things like hiking, biking, swimming and skiing.

I do CrossFit because I have a hard time finding things to do that are fun but don’t require a lot of time.

I do CrossFit because it gives me the opportunity to challenge myself physically.

I do CrossFit because it’s also just plain fun.

Note: Be careful when telling people that you do CrossFit to challenge yourself physically.

Some people take this to mean that you do CrossFit because you want to get “bulky”, or big and bulky. This is simply not true.

The truth is, anyone can get muscular by lifting heavy weights.

Is it CrossFit Good Way to Burn Fat?

Like many, you most likely wonder whether CrossFit is good for weight loss or just a trend.

Your ultimate goal will always be losing weight. However, the weights and CrossFit training will help you improve your overall fitness and lose fat as well as build muscles. This is because every activity causes your body to burn fat differently.

Simply said, your body burns calories differently at rest and during exercise. Do you wish to lose weight and get fit, then you will need to participate in both aspects of exercise.

Your body is like a furnace and burns more efficiently when it needs to burn energy. Fat burning is your body's way of supplying itself with extra fuel, be it glucose or fats. When you are at rest, your body burns fat and muscles at the same rate. When you begin exercising, your body will begin burning fats quicker in order to provide you with energy.

Neither fats, nor muscles are spared when you are exercising. Both are equally burned to provide you with the energy that you need to finish the workout. This is why people who exercise regularly tend to have the best body shape. They are no longer storing fats, but rather burning them in order to create more energy.

The end result is using fat as a fuel for the body and giving you a leaner look. There are numerous studies that show weightlifting helps you burn fats more than jogging or any other form of exercise.

Another important factor to note is that muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue and is essentially three times heavier. This means that muscle tissue weighs more than the same amount of fat. This is why losing fat does not imply you will have to lose muscles as well.

The bottom line is that you need to incorporate both weight training and cardio, such as running or cycling for optimum fitness results.

The Reality of CrossFit and the Excuses

This is for all those who "just don't have time" for CrossFit.

Decide on what that one task that is currently not really fulfilling you is, and let it go. Once you use CrossFit and are in the swing of it every day, you will quickly learn that "time" is not a problem at all.

Steps to Losing Fat

When we say that interval training for runners is the best way to improve your performance, let’s first be clear about how you’re measuring your performance. The most obvious, and common, measure is speed, but in some instances distance or endurance will be used instead.

The theory behind interval training for runners is a simple one that says that while speed is generally the most important thing needed to become a better runner, endurance is equally necessary.

Training just for speed results in what is known as power endurance, whereas training for endurance results in what is called anaerobic endurance. With power endurance, or speed, you have the strength and endurance needed to speed through the first mile of a marathon, for example. Anaerobic endurance, on the other hand, allows you to run the entire marathon, relying on your ability to keep your heart rate and breathing under control.

The most logical combination of the two is to train for both speed and endurance together, by either training in blocks (by training for speed for 2-4 weeks and then endurance for 2-4 weeks), or one at a time.

Because of the efficiency of interval training, it is the optimal way to increase your performance in any athletic endeavor. As interval training is often used in cross training, that means this form of training holds extreme value.

It doesn’t just stop at athletic pursuits, however. As we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, interval training is particularly good for fat loss. In fact, there are a number of similarities between athletic training and weight loss training.

The main similarity is the short bursts of high intensity with long periods of rest in between for both cardiovascular and weight loss training. This is why interval training is used for weight training as well as physical conditioning.

In both cases, the training challenges the cardiovascular system as well as the skeletal muscles, and in both cases the workout should be short enough to maintain high levels of energy and consistent with the purpose (fat burning with intervals for runners, muscle building for weight lifting).

Having said that, there is a huge difference between training for a five kilometer run and training for an intense weight lifting session.

The race takes much more out of you than an intense weight lifting session because you are likely using muscles that are rarely used. That is why weight lifters generally cut weight and eat less than their running counterparts.

How is “Bulk” Created?

There is a common misconception among women that building bulk (muscle mass) is something that is impossible to do. While this is a misconception, the logic behind it is reasonable.

Women are generally dealing with higher testosterone levels than men, which means that more of the weight you gain could be in the form of bulk.

It is much easier for men to gain muscle mass since men already have much higher testosterone levels in the first place. Women, on the other hand, often need to intentionally increase their testosterone intake to build muscle. What does this mean? While hormonal factors can play a part, the amount of bulk you add is also up to the amount of calories you consume.

The larger gap of calories you consume, the more big hormones are released, which causes more muscle to be built. Ideally, you would be consuming natural foods as opposed to supplements. Still, it’s important to be cautious of the amount of calories you’re taking in on top of your normal daily routine.

If you are not active enough to burn off the calories, you risk becoming overweight … the last thing that you want as a runner.

Celebrities Who Stay Fit

From Nicole Kidman to Kim Kardashian, it seems like nearly every celebrity is trying to be in shape these days. While pop culture might have a worrisome obsession with being thin, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your body and staying fit.

Today, it’s more popular than ever to promote a fit lifestyle, and many celebrities follow this trend. If you’re into looking like your favorite celebrity, all you have to do is be willing to put in the work.

There are many reasons why celebrities are in shape more so than the average person. The most obvious is that they have time to work out, and they often have access to the best and most effective fitness programs. Second, they are not afraid to admit to having a trainer, which helps them stay motivated. They also often have access to healthy, organic foods that they can eat.

While you can take several tips from the celebrities and try to follow their workout plans, remember that the bottom line is that you need to make it work for you and your busy life. Fitness gear can out the workout fun and help you be efficient with your time.

Recommendations for Bulking

You may have been trying to bulk up for a while, and you might be wondering what you’re doing wrong. With so many different methods out there, it’s easy to get stuck and confuse which ones to follow.

Unfortunately, most people stick to the same old routine of eating high-calorie foods and lifting free weights or jogging in place. These methods are boring and less-effective than other options.

In order to build muscle and become fitter, you have to look at your body as a unit, rather than just working out one or two muscles at a time. You also have to factor in different types of muscle fibers to see which ones you need to focus on.

After all, the three different types of muscle fibers in your body basically tell a story of their own.

Sluggish Muscle FIBERS

Slow-twitch muscle fibers reside in your heart and your muscles. Also known as type I muscle fibers, these fibers are designed to work at low to medium aerobic levels for long periods of time.

Slow-twitch fibres extract the least energy from your body and are not very effective at burning fat, so focus on these fibers last.

Power Muscle FIBERS

Fast-twitch muscle fibers are what you need if you want to bulk up. Also known as type II muscle fibers, these muscles are used for quick bursts of movement and are ideal for strength training.

These muscles give you explosive speed, power and power endurance. Power muscle fibers use oxygen less efficiently than slow-twitch fibres, so they burn more calories.

Balanced or “Hybrid” Muscle FIBERS

Hybrid muscle fibers lie in between slow and fast muscle fibers. Due to the physiology of these muscles, the term “hybrid” has become increasingly popular.

They can be trained with more fast-twitch methods, and these muscles lie deep inside the muscle tissue, so you can lift free weights to target these fibers, too.

If you want a method that uses these three different muscle fibers, it’s worth looking into muscle confusion. You can do this with a variety of methods like cycle training.

How to Become Lean Instead of Bulky

One of the biggest concerns for women who begin to train regularly is whether or not they will gain a significant amount of muscle mass.

In theory, creating a greater demand for food intake will cause your muscles to gain size and strength. However, depending on your gender and your genetics, how much weight you gain (if any) and its distribution (muscle, fat, or both) will depend heavily on your diet and training program.

Here are a few suggestions:

Consume enough calories. Most studies on the effects of exercise and body composition show that it won’t make a significant difference in your body composition if you are either in caloric deficit, or if you are in a caloric surplus (consuming more energy than you burn).

In fact, one 2011 study published in the journal Obesity found that while the participants were exercising, the weight loss was in the form of fat, even though they consumed more than enough calories to maintain their body weight.

Avoid crash dieting. Crash diets are known to change your body composition to a greater extent, since you lose fat and muscle at the same time.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, rapid weight loss, such as from severe energy restriction (crash dieting), results in greater muscle and less fat loss when compared with more gradual weight loss.

The study also shows that after recovery, body fat is redistributed more centrally in people who lose weight quickly. The more central distribution of fat may increase the risk of metabolic abnormalities that are linked to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Eat enough carbs. Carbs are known to play a vital role in muscle loss, especially when dieting. A study published in 2012 showed that when following diets with similar calories and fat content, insulin sensitivity worsened more on a low-carbohydrate diet than on a more traditional low-fat diet. Insulin sensitivity is a measure of how effectively your muscles can take up glucose from the blood.

When your body has a reduced sensitivity to insulin (a condition known as insulin resistance), you may experience symptoms such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. In the study, insulin sensitivity improved with weight loss regardless of diet composition, but the improvement was significantly greater with the low-carbohydrate diet.

Eat enough protein: Ensuring that you are consuming enough protein will help your muscles recover from your workouts and repair the damaged tissues.

A Quick Note

The easiest way to describe cardio is to say it’s any form of exercise that gets your heart pumping and keeps it going for a longer duration. However, most people typically think of running, cycling, and swimming when they think of cardio.

When you get accustomed to the cardio exercises that you are doing, your body will start to become more efficient at transporting and using oxygen. Ultimately, your cardiovascular system will become stronger so that you can do more during exercise, without having to rest as frequently or enter into “oxygen debt,” which means the amount of oxygen your body is using is more than the amount it is getting.

Cardio exercises are essential for anyone looking to lose weight or get in shape. For one, it tones the body and makes it more stiff. Next, when your heart is healthy, it is much better equipped to handle future weight gain or stressors…assuming you aren’t also stressing it out too much with extensive amounts of cardio.

Unfortunately, while there are many ways that you can do cardio, not all of them are healthy, and there’s some confusion between what is and what isn’t.

Cardio Exercises for Solid Health

Doing the following cardio exercises can help you to build stamina, lower stress, and boost health and well-being in a variety of other ways.

Depending on what kind of goal you have in mind, you can design your own program based around these exercises. The great things about these exercises is that they are all quite simple, which means that you can find time to do them almost anywhere.

Jogging, Running, Strides, and Sprinting.

Jogging, running, striding, and sprinting are very effective for your lower body, and they can easily be adjusted to fit your own fitness level. Additionally, they are all quite easy on the joints, although they’ll never replace joints that get damaged from years of wear-and-tear.

If you want to tone your lower body without putting that many inches onto your waist, try doing interval training with sprints. The shorter intervals will make you leaner, faster, and healthier while putting less stress on your body, because fewer calories were consumed in the process, according to one study.