By Taylor Robbins, C.S.C.S
Women can’t get bulky.
Yep, I said it. It is just plain fact.
You can’t gain copious amounts of muscle and have the bulky, thick look that you think you’ll have if you weight train too much. It’s physiologically and biologically impossible and obviously whenever we say a statement like that, and we’re talking science, everything is on the 70 percent rule. This means for 70 percent of people, 70 percent of the time, it’s 100 percent true. That’s to say there are outliers on either end of the spectrum, but even with outliers in this area (talking about women getting excessively bulky,) you would know because you would already have veins in your shoulders and traps just by walking the groceries to you car.
But here’s the thing (why you never get bulky from weight training) – you won’t because you have 20-40 percent less androgens than your male counterparts. Androgens are like our anabolic hormones that lead to muscle growth like testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1. You just have less of those flowing in your endocrine system, so the fact that you have less of those androgens means you don’t even have the ability to gain as much muscle as a male person would with weight training.
So you don’t have to have fear there unless you’ll be injecting yourself with these androgens (aka steroids); that would be a different case, but that’s not going to happen with most of you.
The other reason is the actual muscle fiber nuclei which enables us to be able to build new muscle tissue or build upon the muscle tissue we currently have… you have 40 percent less of those muscle fiber nuclei in your muscle fibers, so even just the cellular potential is less, simply because physiologically you don’t have the same number of nuclei to grow.
Men, depending on their training age can gain anywhere from 2-15 lbs of muscle per year. So, women having 40% of this potential should have you rest assured.
The interesting thing with women which is really cool is most of your muscle growth actually stops after 12-16 weeks of hard training. So you’re not necessarily going to see more muscle size; however, the strength and muscle gains you’re going to see after that are going to be due to neural adaptation, meaning the way our brain communicates with our muscles causes a more effective communication. So the precision of the lift, the actual contracting at the cellular level and the actual contraction of fibers becoming more efficient, means you’re having more neural efficiency. The cool thing is it’s been shown that more neural efficiency or neural drive actually leads to a more defined, mature and toned look that you’re looking to have.
You become more efficient at the movements and become more strong at them and it’s not necessarily because you’re growing more muscle fiber size anymore, so you’re not going to continue to get bigger, bulkier or more muscular, you’re just going to become more efficient at a neurological level which is just going to make all of your growth just be more toning which is awesome.
So that’s fantastic news, right? You’re never going to get bulky, ever! Hopefully you believe that by this point, so keep working hard. I hope this makes sense and let’s keep lifting some weights.
By Taylor Robbins, C.S.C.S