Did we fool you with this picture? Yes, that’s Beege standing there, but it’s not her arms. It’s Peege, hiding behind Beege, flexing out to the sides of her.
Could Beege get arms like that? Not a chance, unless she was willing to take steroids and lift heavy weights, using sets and reps, for hours every day. If you are a woman, it simply isn’t possible to “bulk up.” You just don’t have the hormones necessary to build big muscles.
Testosterone is the main hormone responsible for muscle mass and girth increase[i]. Men have this in abundance so it’s easier for them. Some men are bulky and strong without even lifting weights because they have such high levels of this hormone, but that gift usually comes at the expense of hair loss, which is another effect of high testosterone.
A grown woman has about the same testosterone level as a 10 year old boy, so “bulking” obviously isn’t a possibility[ii]. Women who do have the time to spend hours each day lifting weights without the drugs and steroids, do end up looking very strong, toned and defined, but certainly not big or bulky.
Every woman who has ever come to me claiming to be “bulking up” was also dealing with excess bodyfat. These women mistakenly assumed their clothes were getting tighter due to their perceived muscle girth increase, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was always due to bodyfat increases from poor nutritional habits.
Not all women store fat in the same places. Some gain it in the arms and shoulders before the hips and thighs and attribute it to muscle bulk. Others gain in the upper back and neck and feel their “traps are bulking up.” In my 25 years as a personal trainer, I have yet to hear a complaint from a lean woman who feels she’s bulking up, but have heard it from dozens of women who have excess bodyfat.
All exercise burns fat and should make women lighter, smaller and leaner[iii]. Especially exercise like the PJ Glassey Method (PGM), used at the X Gyms, will not cause any woman to get fatter or thicker[iv].
In fact PGM is specifically desiged to tone and strengthen without added girth or bulk! Why did I design it that way? Because most people nowadays (both men and women) don’t want to get bigger. That was cool back in the 80’s, but now people realize that being strong, lean and toned is much healthier and more aesthetically pleasing.
Now, if you are doing traditional training, using sets and reps, with heavy weights, it is possible to slightly increase muscle girth as a woman. If you are lean though, you won’t mind it, because those muscles will simply look and feel more toned, but not bulky. If you have some excess weight to lose however, your muscles will be pushing your fat out further, making you look and feel thicker, without the upside of seeing the definition and muscle tone improvements.
When I was trying my “bulk up” experiment using PGM, my scale weight went up only 3 pounds in 7 months but my girth measurements stayed the same because I traded fat for muscle. My arms and chest looked bigger because of definition improvement, but the girth measurements were unchanged.
If you are a woman who you feels like you’re “bulking up” then your testosterone levels would have to be much higher than the average male like myself, so unless you’re growing hair on your palms and could sing bass for the Oakridge boys, your levels are normal.
It’s easier to blame weight gain on external factors than to make the necessary changes to a nutrition program. The question I ask women who are gaining weight at the X Gym is, “Do you think exercise is fattening?” They, of course, answer “no.” My next question is, “Then what in your life IS fattening?”
If you are gaining weight or feeling like you are bulking up, ask yourself the same question because it is certainly not due to muscle size increase if you are using PGM or training at X Gym. If you can’t figure out what is fattening in your life, start keeping a food log and it will be much easier to figure out.
[i] Bossco C, et al. (2000). Monitoring strength training: neuromuscular and hormonal profile. Med. & Sci. in Sports and Exer. 32:202-208.
[ii] De Vries, H.A. Physiology of Exercise for PE and Athletics. Dubuque, IA: Brown. 1974.
[iii] Flynn, M.G., et al. (1990). Int J Sports Med. 11:433-440.
[iv] Hass, C.J. et al. (2000). Single vs. Multiple Sets in long-term recreational weightlifters. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 32:235-242.