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MOTIVATED@LAST Posts: 15,460
2/8/12 6:38 P

Thanks for posting this.

This is something that always puzzles me - bulking up is unlikely for most women (and even less likely when running a calorie deficit to lose fat), but in the unlikely event it does happen, it is so easily remedied by backing off the strength training. If the risk is low, and easily fixed if it does happen, I just don't get what all the fear on this issue is about.


CAITYJAYNE SparkPoints: (0)
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2/8/12 5:39 P

Just to say, I've gone heavy and I LOVE it. I feel like I've been wasting my time until now. I'm getting the same "look" as before but much faster. I still feel the same about bulking. I think people have different definitions of bulky. We'll see where I end up. Scaling it down if need be is going to be much easier than getting that way in the first place.

BAMBI31311 SparkPoints: (0)
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1/30/12 12:20 A

If you have limited time in the gym, and don't necessarily want to go heavy, but you want your workout to count, instead of doing single exercises, ie bicep curl, why not incorporate your bicep curl or shoulder press with either a squat or a reverse lunge. This really increases your heart rate, and makes the exercise more intense and you get more done rather than just focusing on one small body part like a bicep. Give it a try.

BUFFEDSTUFF-- Posts: 2,520
1/30/12 12:12 A

I admit I am one of those bulky chicks that lift heavy. I think it all boils down to doing whats right for you. If you try lifting heavy and you don't like the result you can always quit and move to the lighter weights or whatever is conducive to what you are trying to achieve. There is no one size fits all work with your body and enjoy the journey. I wish you well on whatever you decide. emoticon

TOTALREDO2013 Posts: 5,257
1/29/12 2:02 P

Very interesting thread. Great discussion and replies by everyone, even the women bulking and not bulking debate. Personally, I gain muscle one month of P90x I had pretty good size biceps and triceps and shoulders all from push ups and pull agree some women develop muscle faster..all has to do with body types. Not all of us are built like delicate flowers, so " bulking" can happen. I prefer athletic looks versus thin rail looks anyway.

Am interested in the book Redshoes mentioned, so added it to my reading list. Thanks!

BTW, I alternate between heavy weights low reps lifting and high reps light weighs and then pyramid training. I do it all to keep myself challenged and interested. It also helps twitch the different muscle fibers. So, variety in lifting, compound and isolation and nutrition with proper sleep, that's it.

Edited by: TOTALREDO2013 at: 1/29/2012 (14:08)
REDSHOES2011 SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 11:21 P

We have to work with our body shape- personally too many women wish for things they can't have.. I am a freelance resthome helper- I use my body as my tool of the trade-
I do what improves my body to make every day life easier- like my upperbody strength and ablities to keep up in a tough work area via cardio.. I have huge musclar legs- I needed to even up my uneven body- sometimes a person has to work against the usual rules to get better results.. I used to be a fan of les mills and crap- I suffered stress fractors doing that 3 times a week..

Fredrick Devalier writes a excellant series of books on what muscles are used and when in different exercises- I have used his information to get a better balanced body.. He shows what muscles are used and when.. He also will tell a person where a exercise is used in a workout to save energy to do them correctly.. He saved me alot of wasted effort- surfering the internet as many exercises can do the same job- I used the colour code system he uses to find the exercises that hit the most muscles at once from each of his catagories.. Not many people whom write books think the way he does- he telling us what other writers expect us to know.. Many times people don't know -especially what exercises we must never use heavy weight to avoid rotator injurys and what not to do doing deadlifts etc..
Fredrick has 2 huge educations in human Anatomy - studied dissection for three years at the Paris Faculté de Médecine and studied morphology and anatomy for five years at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

If I should thank anyone for my muscle definition it will be Frederic Delavier in person..

Edited by: REDSHOES2011 at: 1/28/2012 (23:39)
1/28/12 6:33 P


I will respond via Spark mail in order to more specifically address your questions.

CAITYJAYNE SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 4:36 P

Aah right, okay, that makes sense. I've always been under the impression that an isolation exercise is better because it focuses on that one muscle...but then, I've never had any kind of training on this.
I normally gravitate towards:
1. Bicep curls
2. Tricep extensions
3. Bent over row
4. Lunges/squats
5. Lateral raise
6. Shoulder press (sometimes)
7. Chest press or chest fly

Now I have no idea which of these are really effective....they are pretty much the only ones I know how to do, which I took from Gunnar Petersen's book "The Workout".....I also do mini circuits, so say, the first three and then the last four separately. Any input would be much appreciated!

1/28/12 4:20 P


A compound exercise is one which involves more than one joint in the movement. A bent row involves, the biceps, the shoulder and the upper back muscles to execute, a biceps curl only uses the biceps muscle to execute. A lunge with a dumbbell press is a combination exercise, two separate movements are executed in succession without a pause.

I found the link interesting but also confusing, as a male I found the "bulky" women much more interesting than the "non bulky" ones, they seemed more health and vibrant. I will admit a bias, having been a girls and women's coach for over thirty years, I prefer athletic women. In addition my years in the military accustomed me to being around fit women.

I found it interesting that when I was coaching high school girls the male athletes gravitated toward the female athletes at the expense of the previously chosen cheerleaders.

Side note: 5Kg is 11 pounds so 15 pounds is slightly more than a 33% increase which is only relevant if you are attempting the same number of repetitions with the heavier weight..

Edited by: SERGEANTMAJOR at: 1/28/2012 (16:21)
CAITYJAYNE SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 3:28 P

Sergeantmajor - I keep meaning to do some research into compound movements but I never really get what people mean by that. Do they mean doing lunges AND curls at the same time, for instance? I'd be interested in hearing more, since I have recently started doing my cardio and weights in separate workouts instead of cardio+upper body or cardio+lower body.
CMJ - I understand your argument and the whole testosterone thing, I'm not debating that. I just get frustrated when people tell me I can't get 'too bulky' when they don't know what my definition of 'too bulky' is. Back when I played volleyball in college I would lift heavy (15lb for bicep curls, which I found heavy, anyway, compared to the 5kg I lift now - not sure how they compare) and I DID 'bulk up'. You may not have looked at me and thought I looked too muscular, but it wasn't a look I really liked. I don't know if I'm allowed to post links here, but this maybe explains it better than I can.
And, Fitvalgal, when I used to do yoga when I lived in L.A., my arms looked their best - unfortunately I can't find a decent yoga class around here, so it may have to wait a few months until I move back!

FITVALGAL SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 1:13 P

Another thought - work in some yoga for Jennifer Aniston won't get Madonna arms, as she works really hard for those!

Edited to add:
BTW, I think CMJ4V13 could have made the testosterone argument without sounding argumentative...there is a difference. I happen to agree with both sides of the argument -- women who truly bulk up are rare and have to work hard at it because of lack of testosterone. But I also think I tend to get bulky-looking quickly because of my body type, whereas I covet a leaner-looking figure. So I like the idea of lifting heavier AND stretching while strengthening the muscles with yoga, pilates, and ballet moves.

Edited by: FITVALGAL at: 1/28/2012 (14:17)
1/28/12 12:51 P

Invest in a copy of "The New Rules of Lifting for Women, Lift like a man look like a goddess" to give a good perspective on the benfits of challenging weight lifting for women. In addition I am curious as to why you are doing small muscle group isolation exercises, for most people they are ineffective. A workout of full body and compound exercises will produce the results you want in the limited gym time you stated you have available. Do 6 to 8 exercises for three sets of eight repetitions if you are following the standard sets and repetitions protocol and you will have a complete workout in the thirty minutes you are current allotting.

Yes some women can bulk up however the average woman will not unless she is deliberately modifying her workouts and food intake or juicing to accomplish that goal.

FITVALGAL SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 12:38 P

Another thought - work in some yoga for Jennifer Aniston won't get Madonna arms, as she works really hard for those!

LUANN_IN_PA Posts: 26,791
1/28/12 12:07 P

"My concern is that I would get bulkier than I would like with the bigger weights"

The only way that would happen is if you have high testosterone levels... which is a bigger problem that getting some muscle...

JONESINATOR Posts: 1,837
1/28/12 12:05 P

I was not advocating you to start lifting what I can lift: clearly you can't bench press the weight I can for various training/physiological reasons. I call it wasting your time because no one except doing physical therapy should be remaining at the same weights they've been using for more than two-three weeks. The body adapts at that point, and there is no real benefit accrued, no matter how sweaty or tired you might feel - we must keep challenging the musculature to tear and repair. Further, 12-15 reps is too much; I highly recommend going down to 6-10. You'll get a bigger benefit out of it in strength returns.

Lifting 3-6 reps encourages explosive strength, while 6-10 encourages both strength and some muscle gain, while 10-20 encourages muscle mass gain with little added strength benefits. 6-10 takes the middle course and is much more effective.

As to the genetics of the situation, yes, there are variables. There are some women like Madonna with unbelievably low body fat who then look super muscular; however if Madonna would increase her body fat, she'd look perfectly normal.

I apologize for my tone, I do not mean to sound cross or rude; the sentiment of women bulking up is simply so infuriating because it's so completely false except for the rarest of genetic cases. I still advocate visiting though, and using that site as a basis for information, both on the self-image front and on the workout front.

CAITYJAYNE SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 9:56 A

Also CMJ4V13 I just re-read your post. Using those weights has not been wasting my time. I don't know where you have been getting your information from, but when it comes to lifting it's not one size fits all. I lift the weight that I can for 12-15 reps without compromising my form. If you lifted it, sure, it would probably be a waste of time, but then you wouldn't expect to be lifting the same weights for the same reps as a guy on the bench next to you weighing 100lbs more than you.

KROOT87 Posts: 80
1/28/12 9:53 A

Lift as heavy as you can without sacrificing form (to prevent injury). Go for heavy weights and low reps (8-10ish). You won't bulk up, I guarantee it.. if you want strong, toned muscles it's the way to go.

CAITYJAYNE SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 9:52 A

CMJ4V13, I have to disagree with you on some level. I hear it all the time: "women can't bulk up; stop being so silly" etc. Now, I know that we will never (except perhaps in extreme cases) manage to get as 'bulky' as men. BUT. It's such a personal thing. There are a handful of celebrities out there who I personally think are too bulky. I wouldn't want to be as muscly as they are. Maybe 'too bulky' is the wrong term. Maybe I should have said 'I don't want to get more muscular than I would like' or 'too bulky for my liking'. Bottom line, it's a personal preference, and much the same as you're tired of hearing women say 'I don't want to get bulky', I'm tired of hearing 'women can't get bulky'. We can and do. People just have different ideas of what 'bulky' looks like.
That said, I think I will go up, and make sure I don't compromise my form. Thanks everyone.

ARMSPORTS Posts: 1,310
1/28/12 9:14 A

I suggest going up as well, just make sure your form remains good. I have met very few women that gain muscle quickly...they just don't have the testosterone levels to do it. So train harder and you will achieve the results you desire sooner. The other way to look at it is, even if you gain a little more mass than you would like, just cut back and it will go away. Remember, use it or lose it! No gains are permanent, they are only there as long as the stimulous (training) is applied.

Good luck!

JONESINATOR Posts: 1,837
1/28/12 9:14 A

I'm going to disabuse you of this bulking myth, because it honestly frustrates me so much.

You, as a woman, CAN NOT BULK UP. Literally, you could lift 500 pounds with your legs and have tiny legs, especially compared to your heavier selfs and weights.

The reason is that nearly all women, genetic mutations aside, do NOT possess the requisite testosterone to build muscle in the same mass that men can. While women can be nearly as strong as man after significant training, they can never, EVER, EVER, EVER look like we can with supremely defined muscles of a LARGE size. Women can achieve very low body fats, which makes them look muscular, but the size of their musculature is miniscule compared to what I can as a young male.

Lifting heavy will absolutely do NOTHING to bulk you up. In fact, doing those light weights, no offense, has been wasting your time. You need to continuously challenge your muscles with progressively heavier and heavier weights to attain the benefit of strength training; otherwise you're just wasting your time in the gym. If you'd like to know more from a feminine perspective, should you choose not to believe me (which you shouldn't, as I'm 100% correct), you can go to Or talk to SKYWATCHERRS, or ARCHIMEDESII or ZORBS13.

FITVALGAL SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 8:56 A

My vote is go up. The fact that you're used to 3 & 5 means you're ready to be challenged. I doubt you'll bulk up from a small increase, especially if you stretch well after each session.

CAITYJAYNE SparkPoints: (0)
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1/28/12 8:47 A

So, I just joined a new gym which I love - but they only have weights going up in even numbers. Now, I normally do bicep curls with 5kgs, shoulders with 3kgs and chest exercises with 4kgs. But they don't have any 3s and they don't have any 5s!
So my options are to either lift light and do more reps, with 4kgs for biceps and 2kgs for shoulders, or lift heavier and do less reps - 6kgs for biceps and 4kgs for shoulder raises. My concern is that I would get bulkier than I would like with the bigger weights, and particularly with my shoulders, that I will be overdoing it. On the other hand, I don't want to waste my time lifting lighter than normal. I have 45 minutes in the gym, 30 of those are for weight training, three days a week. I want to get the most out of my workout...but not overdo it!

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