Hello again,  Kris from Custom Fitness here, your personal trainer in Amarillo.  Today we are talking about bulking up in regards to people who want it and those who do not. If you have questions or would like to get in touch with a trainer to begin your non/bulking routine, give us a call: 806-322-3188.

A common concern that I get from my female clients when I put resistance training or lifting weights into their program is that they will “bulk up” or look too manly. They see pictures of very huge or ripped women body builders and think that if they lift weights they will begin to look bulky like them. This, however, will simply not happen. There are many variables that contribute to hypertrophy (muscle building), and many different conditions have to be met to reach that ultra-ripped point. Let’s examine a few of those reasons.

Bulking Up Takes Ongoing Weight Increase

Muscle building is a form of adaptation. When a new amount of stress (or weight to resist) is put on the muscle, the muscle adapts by increasing the size of the muscle fibers. The more muscle fibers on the inside, the larger the muscle appears on the outside. This results in the appearance of bigger, but not bulkier muscles. In order for this adaptation to happen, more stress must be put on the muscles than there was previously.

For example, if Client A has been doing arm curls with 8 pound weights and continues to do so, she will not build muscle because an adaptation is not needed. The current muscle fibers are enough to contain that strain and can adequately lift that amount. If she increased the weight to 10 pounds, a weight she could not handle previously, then an adaptation would be needed to combat this new stress she is putting on her biceps. Her body would then begin creating more muscle fibers to accommodate the new weight.

The body will increase the size of the fibers very slightly resulting in larger biceps. If she were to continue using the 10 pounds and never increase to 12 pounds, no adaptation would occur and instead the biceps will MAINTAIN their size as opposed to bulking up further. If ANY size is added to the muscle, it would be very minimal and hardly noticeable. You don’t go from a

Adding Bulk Takes Muscle Failure

Another thing to consider is intensity. More often than not, I do not tell my personal trainers in Amarillo to work a particular muscle group to failure. That means that you go and go, rep by rep, until you can’t push yourself to perform that motion again. Your muscles have in essence, failed. That’s not good for the clients who want to just be “fit” or their goals of not bulking up. Instead, the trainers determine reps and sets based on a clients needs to attain the goals they have (thus the name “Custom” Fitness).

For example, during a typical workout, Client A who is lifting 8 pounds for an arm curl does not work to failure. Why? because we would not tell her to lift that weight until she cannot lift it anymore. If you do not work yourself until your muscles fail, an adaptation does NOT occur.  Without the adaption (muscles fibers building to accommodate weight) then the current muscle mass is maintained, not increased.

How to Bulk Up 

On the flip side to this, should a client wish to add muscle or strength, then an adaptation must be created. This means that the client should increase the amount of work being done every week or two weeks. You can do this by adding a single rep, or increasing the weight of the exercise. Let’s look at an example, if Client B wishes to increase the size of his biceps.  S/he can currently perform 10 reps of 25 pounds before his muscles hit failure.  Their weekly routine then aims to do 25 pounds for 11 reps the following week and 12 reps the week after. They gradually increase the weight and starting over from there once they hit the max weight the person can handle. This slowly introduced rise in work will force an adaptation to occur every week.  This can be observed by measuring the slowly increasing size of the bicep.  


Bulking Up Isn’t a Natural Effect of Only Weight Lifting

One last thing to know is that the female body builders who look very masculine are most likely not natural-only bodybuilders. If the tan is fake, the muscle may be synthesized byproducts as well. A common trick the body building industry promotes is the use of anabolic steroids. The steroids themselves are pseudo testosterone. When introduced into the body, the body responds by releasing a lot of testosterone very quickly.  This excess of the male hormone can cause female competitors to develop extra muscle mass along with a very masculine figure at an alarming rate. Moral of the story? Don’t take anabolic steroids or testosterone supplements!  

Will You Get Bulky From Lifting Weights?

If you are worried that weight lifting or resistance training causes you to bulk up ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I doing more work than I was last week? More reps? More weight? If not, then no significant amount of muscle building is happening. Remember? No, adaption is required if you are maintaining your current routine.
  2. Am I working that muscle group to total failure where the working muscle can’t perform anymore? If not, then there will be no adaptation or growth.
  3. Am I taking unprescribed anabolic steroids? Yes, then I should probably stop so that I don’t start looking like a body builder — unless that’s what you’re hoping to look like.

Since the majority of our exercises and private training sessions at Custom Fitness only require 8-10 pounds and rarely exceed this, bulking up should never be a concern if that is not your goal.

If you have any questions about our personal training (we can pump you up or just get you toned and fit), nutrition counseling, or group classes and programs, please contact us at: info@customfitness.biz or 806-322-3188. At Custom Fitness we are YOUR personal trainers in Amarillo, Texas. Have a great day everybody.