Bulky Muscles and Women – Part Deux

I have been meaning to do a follow-up to my original article for sometime now. The delay was simply because there were other things on my plate I felt were more important. However, nothing puts a fire under you like people talking smack in forums about things they seem to be misunderstanding. I realize I create very polar reactions in people. I honestly find that to be an important trait and am fine with it. For the sake of yourself though, you might want to think twice about skimming and actually read what I write, ask questions if need, and then start getting up in arms (if required). My point is, if you don’t like the work, or even me, at least get it right.

Incoming Links

Everyday I get hundreds of incoming links of people landing on my collective sites. I still get 400-500 people a day to my old site alone. Between all my sites I average 4000+ individual visitors a day. There is a percentage of regulars and the rest find there way through a link or organic search. Meaning they type in something like “body fat pictures” and my blog post about Body Fat Percentage With Pictures pops up.

Every so often, I notice a high flux of incoming traffic (I consider this over 200 visitors from one link) to a post. I can’t help but look at see why this traffic is coming in. Yesterday, I had saw a link come in from popular fitness forum. It started off simple enough, a person posted the link up for conversation about my article (Defining Bulky) and people replied with their opinions of what they think is bulky. Over the past year I randomly get links in from forums, blogs, etc about this article. It is interesting how it will go down depending on the forums. Generally, if it is in a training/fitness forum, they are pissed at me or the people who think that Jessica Biel or Angela Basset are bulky.

If it is a beauty/make-up/”mommy and me” type forum, they always agree and are thankful “someone finally said it.” It’s interesting to say the least.

To Clarify

I want to state a few things that were misunderstood due to people not reading (post and comments) or not asking for an elaboration. Most of this was covered in either the comments or the post itself.  It’s amazing how defensive people get and will jump to conclusions because of the title of a post. If you want to really know how I feel, ask me.

The selection/survey options

I answered this in the comments, so if you had read or asked a question you would have seen it. Here it is again, the response to why I gave the poll I gave.

I did other (smaller) surveys that showed fitness models and elite athletes and the response was overwhelming. They automatically thought that was too much. I do get the point about those being the only available options, but I also choose women that are very often talked about as looking too manly or carrying too much muscle.

There were also write in options and comments that were left. Overwhelmingly women wanted “tone, but with no noticeable definition or muscle.” They just don’t want their skin to jiggle, that is about as deep as it goes for most. I can also speak from working with actresses a lot recently, that it is a technique, it is not a easy one, and is not just based around genetics.

On an additional note: You cannot accidentally achieve the body of a female taking steroids. You can accidentally achieve the arms that are shown below in the following section.

It Wasn’t About My Opinion, But If You Ask…

If you read the article you should notice I state – “What I consider bulky doesn’t matter.” It isn’t about me, it’s about what the client wants. It’s about opening up communication and making things easier for you to get what you want. The truth is any trainer who actually works with the general population (not just athletes) knows this is a constant area of conversation and concern. Articles like this get the conversation started and help to define (the best you can) a base point of what bulky is or isn’t. If I wanted to just “stir the pot” I can assure you I wouldn’t choose this as a topic.

Who Cares Anyway?

Sorry, but nothing expresses insecurity more than how some men and women get about this topic. I could get into a big diatribe about gender roles, women not being objects, etc. The truth is you can look however you want to look within the realm of your own limitations. You can be fat, skinny, muscled, dominate, submissive, sweet, or a jerk. It’s all in your hands. The lifting girls sure are quick to call out the barbies, and that is backwards bulls**t if I ever saw it. Sorry, but some women don’t give a damn about doing a squat and never will. More room in the weight room ladies, and less wait time. Your happy doesn’t have to be others. You hating on women who just want to do yoga and look like Jennifer Aniston is no better than the things you are about to read in the next section.

Eye Of The Beholder

Again, I don’t care but you should know something. When the NY Post runs an article titled “Are Madonna and Kate Working Out Together?” and these are the comments, you need to understand the reality of the average person.

Bulky Female Arms?

100% real comments left about the above picture.

I bet they both bitch-slap their men with those strong arms. No wonder they can’t keep their men!

-The veins on Madonna’s arms and hands are the product of 20+ years of steroid abuse.

-No wonder John left her, she has more muscle than he does!

-HEY! Man arms, just what every women in America wants, to look like a dude in the mirror. Kate needs a NEW DO soooooooooooooooo badly. Bet she wishes she would have stayed insignificant like the rest of us huh?

-Its called growth hormone and is the rage with many stars and wannabe stars.

-Yah they have great arms.
If you wanna be held by a woman with manly arms.

No thanks, not for me.
I like my women to be female.
Yep.

-I ALWAYS THOUGHT KATE WAS BUTCHY!

And you think my poll was skewed to favor what exactly? You don’t get it (when you are in it) and that is the problem. To make sure it’s understood, neither of them have any noticable amount of muscle, it is just lighting, arm positions,  and lower body fat levels. The point isn’t that they are bulky, the point is about the public’s perception.

When I was younger and first saw a picture of a women that looked like this I thought “Nah, that isn’t my thing. Little too much.” When I saw this I thought “That’s some freaky stuff!”

I am pretty much the most open-minded person you will meet. I don’t care if your white, tan, gay, straight, fat, happy, or sad. The things I care about are loyalty, heart, intent, and general good nature. If you have those things, you are alright by me. Everything else is the snowflake you are. I have always had this attitude, but that didn’t mean I was used to seeing women that looked like that. It wasn’t a hate thing, but it was a unusual thing for me.

How did you feel the first time you saw a women with noticeable muscle definition? Can you remember? What about the first time you saw an interracial couple? A woman in pants? Two men kissing? Did I go to far? To some people, women having muscle and looking strong, makes them uncomfortable. In all societies, we like our gender roles and we are uncomfortable when they change.

I remember when I saw Angela Basset beat the s**t out of Laurence Fishburne in the back of that limo in “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” I thought to myself “That is one of the baddest women I have ever seen.” I also thought “Man are those arm jacked!” That was what my untrained, unadjusted eye saw. When I look at her arms now, I think “Hmm, she has a lower body fat and nice (but small) amount of muscle.” She is still a bad ass.

For a lot of you, you have to think there might have been a time you felt a similar way as some of the people in those comments (hopefully minus the blatant ignorance). The more you see defined and strong women, the more your eye adjusts and with it your mind.

The Art Of Flexing

A common argument I get is “these women only look bulky because they are flexing.” I agree, to a degree. For the women who are just really low body fat and also have a lower amount of muscle, it is usually the flexing only that is an issue.

If you don’t carry a pretty low level of body fat and you have a moderate amount of muscle in your arms, you just look thicker. When you take away the flexing the women go from being “too muscled” to being “too fat.” The moment you start adding lifts to your training program as a woman, you are going to alter your look. In the upper arm, for example, when you start “stacking” the front and the back of you arm, you create a top-heavy look. If you don’t intend to get really, really lean (a level most can’t maintain) you might not like it.

You can see an example of what I am talking about below. Even Jamie Eason(2), at pretty low body fat levels, still has larger upper arms. Most women do not want these types of arms. While you may look lean and built flexing, it can look awkward in softer clothing, like a dress. You have to remember the softer aesthetic that is trying to be created by a women in a dress.  The women in the first set are drug-free lifters. The women in the second set of pictures are popular actresses never accused of eat disorders.

Commonly thought as bulkier/thick arms
Commonly more desired arms for females

It isn’t going to be a perfect comparison, but those are varying body fat levels, with varying muscle.

Some People Are Always Going To Feel This Way

Being the majority of the population is attracted to the opposite sex for reasons of classic physical and emotional reasons, you have to realize this isn’t going to change for most people. All cultures have their own gender roles and classic lifestyles. We are used to visually and emotionally seeing physical strength in men. I personally like idea of women with strength physically. I personally think women at higher body fat levels can look great too. It’s different for every person and in the end, it doesn’t matter what I think. The only thing that should matter is what you think.

All unique and beautiful in their own way

If You Don’t Like, It Change It

If you are a trainer or a fitness enthusiast and are tired of women and men having these views, educate them. I hate to break it to you, but most women don’t like to pump iron. Most men don’t want to think about women pumping iron. The majority is ruling, but, it doesn’t have to be that way. I can think of a lot of things the majority has been wrong about.
I know with my work that there are women who have wanted to get stronger and wanted muscle, but didn’t do so because of what others thought. If this is the case for you, that is a problem. If you don’t want it, that is other people’s problem.

You want to play Lara Croft or Sarah Conners in your world, then don’t think twice about lifting up a dumbbell. You think Jessica Biel was badass in Stealth or dig Michelle Rodriquez in Girlfight? Awesome, the more power to you. If you want softness and “tone” then you are going to have to be smart about how you lift. Notice I didn’t say you can’t lift. You just need to know what you are doing. I have you know that I have my “no muscle” girls do heavy deadlifts just like the boys. This is a lot like the stuff I talk about in the Make My Body Hot audio download. You don’t have to be afraid of weights, but you do need to know how to use them if, and only if, this is a concern for you.

So, this is round two. What do you think? What do you want?

If you would like more on this topic, check out The Topics – Even More Bulky Truth on my membership site.

Before starting any new diet and exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise and/or diet changes with them before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. I do not claim to cure any cause, condition or disease. I do not provide medical aid or nutrition for the purpose of health or disease and claim to be a doctor or dietitian. This is merely an opinion blog. Read full disclaimer here - http://www.leighpeele.com/disclaimer

 

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38 Comments

  1. Sarah

    Awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome. You always say the things other don’t say and your regular readers thank you for it.

  2. Nancy Cooley

    Thanks for some perspective. What gets me is that Kate and Madonna (I’m pretty sure) don’t lift a single weight. I know Madonna’s routine is lots of cardio and power yoga. So her arms look that way because of low bodyfat and yoga/cardio, both of which are very acceptable for women and pushed in all the magazines. So the hating has nothing to do with some stereotype of a steriod pumped bodybuilder and more to do with insecure men and brainwashed women who see a muscle on a woman and go “no way” no matter where it can from.

  3. Lily

    Grrr those comments make me so mad! I am not mad at you Leigh and I get what you are saying, but it still makes me mad how small minded people are and downright mean!

  4. Amanda Helms

    Wonderful follow-up. Thanks also for the reminder that “Your happy doesn’t have to be others'”–wonderful line, and excellent point that sometimes we just have to let others be as they are.

  5. Thrasher

    yay!! I am so happy you are bringing back this topic! Yay! I’m so happy you are bringing back this topic. I know for me, I have gone back and forth on how I want to look, and the biggest mental block I had to face was my own. I had to decide, for myself, what Do I Really Want? (totally stole this from Leigh btw) and what I want is a low bodyfat, less muscly arm look, but I also don’t want to look like you can break my arm by snapping it in half..sort of an in between. When I get my bodyfat down to a pretty normal range, I feel great, and I fit into the clothes I love. But I had to get the fat down in order to do it, and yet I still was able to be strong enough to do my own pullups – it was ideal for me, and I was happy. I’m working to get back there, and then I might decide to change it again and go further down in size. But I love that these is even being discussed by a woman, because it does cause such intense, polor reactions. LOVE the discussion!

    • Leigh Peele

      Yeah I don’t think you will ever see me promote heroin sheik, there is the middle ground.

  6. RG

    What about health? It’s weird to look at movies from the 70’s when everyone was just smaller. Smaller bones, less muscle on both men and women. I would think that longevity would be higher for more muscle and bone mass up to some point. Since we start to lose both in our 30’s, the higher we start and the more we retain, the better, right?

    I understand that you’re giving us actual negative comments, but most men in real life aren’t focussed on makeup, jewelry, dresses, shoes, and I suspect that in a bare-sleeved dress my biceps aren’t where their eyes go when I’m not looking. Most men claim that women do all this for each other, not them. If pushups will make my rack bigger but give me bigger arms, I think they’ll take it. Are there studies on the distinction between what people say they’re attracted to and what they actually date? Is physical attraction the chief component and do we tend to date the “10”s in our view or those most like ourselves? Don’t things like energy, creativity, personal happiness matter far more? And aren’t these all benefits of being in good shape?

    • Leigh Peele

      RE: Health – I think based on research, while we don’t have a definitive answer, better health is going to be gauged in more of what you do and what you eat, versus the actual muscle. Meaning that taking part in challenging weight barring or bodyweight exercises, eating a balanced diet, and keeping active in general is going to be biggest markers. With those things you should also avoid atrophy as we age.

      If you look at someone like Gwyneth Paltrow, diet dysfunction and lack of weight challenge might have played a serious role in her early diagnosis with osteopenia (thought to be a precursor to osteoporosis).

      Are there studies on the distinction between what people say they’re attracted to and what they actually date?

      Yes, and it is more physically and visually driven by men. Men operate on more of a visual sensory than women. Things have been built up the way they are due to evolutionary and environment based social activity. The women who provide the best look for childbearing are going to always be at the lead of the pack.

      Is physical attraction the chief component and do we tend to date the “10″s in our view or those most like ourselves?

      It’s both. Classically we are going to roam with our corresponding numbers if you will. What we identify with, we will always try to date within that range. For example, a guy who identifies himself as a 5 in his mind might daydream about a 10, but would rarely attempt to date one. Generally they are going to try to date 6-7’s (through their perception). You will rarely find guys who are dating partners deemed “lower” in a rating scale. Where as women commonly date all over the scale range and are more emotional (per hard research/what is classic).

      Don’t things like energy, creativity, personal happiness matter far more? And aren’t these all benefits of being in good shape?

      Of course these things are in important. What we are discussing though is the majority. I can introduce you to really good hearted guys who care see about more than looks. But, the looks issue is still an issue for them and will always be more for the guys than it is for women based upon their physical makeup.

      You also have to remember what rings the bell for one guy is different from another. If a guy was raised in an environment where is was around tougher girls with strong attitudes, he is likely to gravitate towards that for the rest of his life because it is what is most familiar. He is more likely to pick a girl with a tougher physical character.

      If you have a guy who grew up around nothing but very thin/frailer women who love to shop and don’t like to sweat, on average he is going to desire women more of that appearance.

  7. Jeff

    Leigh, the problem I see is that most women don’t challenge themselves enough and I bet that your deadlifting “no muscle” girls still lift a decent amount of weight for a decent amount of reps/sets per week compared to the “norm” of a lazy, non-exercising American.

    Most trainers are railing against the fact that women are using “I am afraid of getting bulky” as an excuse to do NO (ZERO, ZILCH, NADA) weight lifting and that is wrong.. Weight lifting has so many positive HEALTH effects that the stereotype NEEDS to be broken. You can always scale and train for maintenance once you get “too bulky” and that is likely to happen ONLY if one lifts consistently. Most women don’t. It’s a problem that just doesn’t happen often.

    Additionally, the “too bulky” look is often a result of too much bodyfat. I bet most women would like their arms if they kept the same amount of muscle they have now and lost the fat over it…weight training would help preserve that muscle…in addition to strengthening bones, improving nutrient partitioning, improving athletic performance, improving daily quality of life, etc etc.

    I see your point, though. But how often – REALLY – do women have this problem? I really, really really doubt that most women who don’t like their arms are women that have them because they have been lifting weights too much. It’s likely because they’re carrying too much bodyfat.

    If your clients are truly coming to you and saying “Leigh, I just have too many muscles and I just want to get smaller! Help me!” than you certainly have a different client base than I do. Although, I must admit that that population DOES exist, and, while small, must be addressed as having legitimate concerns that require a different approach. Fine. I just bet that this is an extremely small population, and that many women are prone to mis-classify themselves are being a part of it, and subsequently spend too much time doing stupid workouts and following stupid diets.

    • James

      Leigh did discuss the body fat issues and all the reasons women think they are bulky, but are not in her pervious post.

    • Leigh Peele

      Leigh, the problem I see is that most women don’t challenge themselves enough and I bet that your deadlifting “no muscle” girls still lift a decent amount of weight for a decent amount of reps/sets per week compared to the “norm” of a lazy, non-exercising American.

      One of my recent models (fashion)5’9 and 110 pound was deadlifting 140 pounds in wide stance before we parted. Like I said, it’s about what you do that matters.

      Most trainers are railing against the fact that women are using “I am afraid of getting bulky” as an excuse to do NO (ZERO, ZILCH, NADA) weight lifting and that is wrong.. Weight lifting has so many positive HEALTH effects that the stereotype NEEDS to be broken. You can always scale and train for maintenance once you get “too bulky” and that is likely to happen ONLY if one lifts consistently. Most women don’t. It’s a problem that just doesn’t happen often.

      While I agree, you can get health benefits from non-external weight bearing exercise. I don’t think weights have to be in your program, but I think progression does. Most women aren’t taught how to really challenge themselves with bodyweight conditioning. We also have the option now of suspension work and that ups the ante even more. In my ideal program I would have a mixture of both, but I don’t think you have to have weights in order to be healthy.

      Additionally, the “too bulky” look is often a result of too much bodyfat. I bet most women would like their arms if they kept the same amount of muscle they have now and lost the fat over it…weight training would help preserve that muscle…in addition to strengthening bones, improving nutrient partitioning, improving athletic performance, improving daily quality of life, etc etc.

      I see your point, though. But how often – REALLY – do women have this problem? I really, really really doubt that most women who don’t like their arms are women that have them because they have been lifting weights too much. It’s likely because they’re carrying too much bodyfat.

      I discussed that in the previous article, among other things that lead to the illusion of bulky.

      If your clients are truly coming to you and saying “Leigh, I just have too many muscles and I just want to get smaller! Help me!” than you certainly have a different client base than I do. Although, I must admit that that population DOES exist, and, while small, must be addressed as having legitimate concerns that require a different approach. Fine. I just bet that this is an extremely small population, and that many women are prone to mis-classify themselves are being a part of it, and subsequently spend too much time doing stupid workouts and following stupid diets.

      I have a large range of clients. This isn’t just about my clients, this is about what is said to me at dinner parties, in waiting rooms, and what I read in the magazines. If you don’t think this is a concern for women, you aren’t talking to enough of them are they are nervous to relay it to you.

      • Jeff

        Leigh – thanks for taking the time to comment on my post. I read your first article, but it was a long time ago and I do see you addressed some of the issues there, my bad.

        Thanks also for the perspective on what clients tell you vs tell me. I am sure I get a very different “line” from my female clients because I am A) male and b) a coach in a strength and conditioning facility with a heavy strength/sports emphasis. Good to hear the “other” side and I’ll definitely be aware of this in future conversations.

        Love your blog.

        • Leigh Peele

          I am glad you posted/asked questions. I wish more people would do that than assume I meant something I didn’t. And you know, you find less problems with this when you do work in a S&C facility because there are A) normally no machines and B) lack of bodybuilding style templates. Women don’t get big arms from prowler pushes, med ball slams or farmer walks 😉

          So yeah, I doubt that fits at all in your target and where you work. For those that find themselves going or working in commercial gyms, its a whole different ball game.

  8. Jeff

    One more thing re Madonna & Kate: one snapshot in time reflecting either of their lighting, angle of camera, dress, makeup, hairstyle, tan (or lack thereof), body angle, body position, hydration levels, glycogen levels (not to mention Photoshop) can have a huge cumulative effect on their appearance. People should be mindful of this when evaluating physiques.

    • Leigh Peele

      Again, discussed in the article here and in previous article. This isn’t about photography and lighting (though it has been discussed before). This is about the mental perception and sociology of the situation we are dealing with. Like I said in the post, if you don’t like it, change it. As a trainer you can open up the conversation more with your female clients and talk about what they want and what they don’t want. Why you are doing what you are doing, etc.

  9. Janis

    I think the people in the comments need to read BOTH of your articles right Leigh 😉

    Great follow up, love these conversations.

  10. Lori

    I’m a gal who thinks the muscular look on women is very sexy. That said, when I say “muscular” I’m referring more to the Jamie Eason and Jillian Michaels and not the female body builder look. I think that’s a bit extreme and not feminine. I think folks like Jamie and Jillian still look very feminine with their physique. I’d love arms like theirs, but unfortunately at the moment mine look more “bulky” because I still have a higher body fat percentage.

    Of course I’m also writing from the perspective of a married gal, so I’m not all that concerned about what other guys like or don’t like. My husband seems to be just fine with it. 🙂

  11. Jasox

    You obviously don’t know anything because those women are on drugs. Put not steriod using female lifters and you wont see that. I can see a woman squat 220 and not look “bulky.”

    • Leigh Peele

      As I stated in the article, drug-free. Even if they weren’t drug-free, that type of look can be achieved without drugs.

  12. Karen

    Another great article Leigh. Congratulations on the viewer too! It must be crazy to have that type of audience. How much do you get to this one blog?

  13. RG

    Obviously as with anything, there are conflicting studies out there, and I’m not “in the profession” so I’ve probably focussed on the studies that fit with my own personal experience and culture. Specific sexual assets varies by cultures, some of which prefer more bodyfat and in specific locations, versus small feet or long necks etc. Physical fitness in the form of energy, flexibility, fluid movement is valued across cultures. If you like to shop and not sweat, you have to be able to move across the shopping mall and reach for things.

    I wonder if our experiential disconnect is because fitness is a “marker of youth” so if you’re asking 20-year-olds, they won’t mention it because the women who are inflexible or slow are few and far between. Personal experience says that a 35-year-old who does cartwheels and runs a few miles without getting winded gets noticed by more than nice, personality-driven guys; the fit male doesn’t seem to give a rat’s behind about my bulky arms. They appreciate it as they’re watching me do it, they appreciate the radiant skin and lingering hormones after I’ve worked out. If I thought that bigger arms would get me less male attention, I’d be doing bicep curls every day.

  14. Meghan

    Hey Leigh,
    Great article,as always. I guess im a bit out of the loop as to why this came up again,and so PASSIONATELY 😉
    In any case, i was just wondering if you could make an eyeball guesstimate at Jamie Eason’s BF percentage in the picture you posted above?
    I love love LOVE her look….. kind of consider her body as my personal “ideal” (might have a bit of a girl crush, too) 🙂

    And i know you have covered this before (in the make my body hot series) but i just wanted to throw out a reminder to some out there, that many women end up with the so-called “bulkier” look as a result of just simply shedding alot of body fat! Especially for those who may have been carrying around ecess wieght for an extended period of their lives….. Once they chip away the fat, a more muscular look can be revealed, whether that look was the origianl intent of the dieter or not! This was definitely the case for me……turns out, as an athlete, i actually lket hat i LOOK like an athlete now.

    Thanks for all of your great wisdom

  15. Kim

    Good points. It is really about looking at the look your client wants, regardless of what you think. In a Waterbury article it talks about with most women don’t need to train with heavy bicep curls and side bends – basically there are certain areas most women don’t want to add muscle. I think there is truth to this. Again this goes with what Leigh says as everyone is different and train for your goals but I think even in women’s fitness magazines a lot of the programs don’t take this into consideration.

    If most of my girlfriends ended up with bulging biceps and tree trunk quads they would not be happy!

    Expanding this series is of interest – especially with how you would go about things.

    thanks.
    k

  16. Valerie

    Thank you for posting this information again! I like you were super clear (as I like to be) that there is no judgement. If you like to be ripped or athletic looking, that’s great. If you want it be “toned” that’s great. I do believe all women benefit from weight lifting but not all programs will help them achieve their goals. When a prospective client says to a trainer “I don’t want to get to muscular”, I find it disrespectful for the trainer to simply say “that can’t happen”. Instead, this is the opportunity to find out what that might mean to the client and what is her goal. Goals have a way of changing once you get started. Let the client feel heard. The most important thing is to feel fit and strong. That comes in many different shape and sizes.

    Thank you for being so articulate!

    Valerie

  17. Mary

    Speaking only from personal experience, I gain muscle quickly. The only time I “Bulk Up” is when I’m lifting and don’t watch my diet, or am over weight, then I’m huge. I personally like to see women with strong arms…they look lean, not bulky.

  18. Mary

    I also agree that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyones attraction factor is different . Another reason to focus on how it is you want to look, and not what others tell you to be.
    Great articles, Leigh.

  19. Stacey

    “How did you feel the first time you saw a women with noticeable muscle definition?” It was Cory Everson, about 20 years ago and I thought I wanted to be like her! However I never had much of an appetite and I was intimidated in the weight room in high school. Tried every few years to bodybuild and last year I finally started going to the gym on a regular basis, lifted as hard as I could and I ate as much as I possibly could and I finally put on some weight….a tiny bit of muscle, lots of FAT, which was how I found Leigh’s site & books – wondering what went wrong when I thought it would be so EASY if only I ate a lot and went to the gym! Wish I’d read your article on realistic muscle gain before I started… Anyways, can’t imagine what people will ever say if I ever figure it out and *do* some muscles, when I was thin (105, 5’7″) everyone called me anorexic, even though I wasn’t. I don’t think a woman can “win” so I guess you have to go for what you want to look like! Sadly getting bulky has not been as easy as I hoped! Funny how many women fear it!

  20. Zach

    I completely agree with you 100% that every women has the right to train however they want in order to look however they want, and they should train how they want to look, not how others want them to look. However, from a guys perspective, I must say that girls who don’t have any muscle look pretty disgusting. If all a girl wants to do is have a low body fat, they might as well become anorexic, as anorexics have even less body fat than professional figure models. the reason professional figure models, like jaime eason and pauline nordin, look ridiculously good is because of the muscle they have. if a girl wants to look attractive or have a powerful, well-functioning body, they should care more about building muscle. Here’s a great post by Tony Gentilcore summarizing how men feel about women and muscles:

    http://www.tonygentilcore.com/2010/07/best-ad-campaign-ever/

    Here’s a perfect quote from the post that I think every non-testosterone-deprived guy would agree with:

    “At a time when women are constantly told by mainstream media and douchehole celebrity trainers that lifting anything heavier than three lbs will turn them into Chewbacca, and that eating celery sticks is a treat, this is definitely a breath of fresh air. I mean, I’m so sick and tired of seeing models with no ass, no muscle, and no shape being touted as the ideal “look” for women to aspire for. Why not just get a 2×4 and put a dress on it?”

  21. Emily

    Thank you Zach for bringing Tony into the mix! I just finished reading his blog about this very same subject. Thank you Leigh. My husband sent this link to me as I was just ranting last night about the word bulky and how it is thrown around way too much for me. I realized that when women think bulky, they really are thinking muscle. But muscle is beautiful. I have completely transformed my body in two years just from changing my eating habits, lifting weight, limiting my cardio to 1-2 week and focus on the positive…me. I have gotten more compliments this past year than I ever have…and my fitness class that I teach at my dance studio is packed. The women I work with want to be healthy and want to look good. When did this start for me? When I saw Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. I fell in love. 20 years later, I have those arms. can do chin-ups. I can do a pull up..or 2 or 3. I want to be strong. My husband loves the way I look and the men in the weight room respect what I do to achieve the healthy body I have. I am definitely looking forward to reading more of your posts. Keep up the good work!

  22. Rayca

    I think you’re wrong about men not liking to think about women pumping iron. I’ve been lifting weights (better than most men I’ve been around) for over 20 years and I can tell you they have stopped their workouts just to watch me “perform”. I’m 58 years old now and they are still watching and quickly looking away when I catch them. I guess they probably are thinking I’m a “bad ass.” …lol Thanks for your post(s) though. I’m trying to understand why I’m so soft now instead of hard. I was thinking it was because I’ve gone vegan but I think I’m carrying much more fat. BTW, I LOVE the bigger, bulkier look on me. In a dress or shorts or whatever. I don’t have any problem being a girly-girl with muscles and like I said, I still turn heads at 58 years old. I’ve got style….

  23. Alisa

    I am so glad someone is finally realising that the perception of bulky is subjective! I think everyone has a right to look how they want and to be honest I am a woman who wants to have the “no muscle” slim arms, nothing wrong with that, nor do I think there’s anything wrong with people who want more defined arms. I hate it when trainers say I won’t get bulky because they don’t even know what I think bulky means!

    If you have any advice on the general type of exercises I should be doing it would be great. Currently I rely on my diet (no sugar, low processed food, kind of paleo but low fructose) Also I do some interval training spinning once a week.

  24. Bryn

    In the last week, I’ve been told by two different men in different circumstances that my arms looked “manly or like a man’s (yep, I’m a woman).” The first comment was said as a criticism, and at the gym, which makes me laugh. Shouldn’t men prepare themselves they may run into women who are toned/built at the gym? The second comment was more as a running commentary, the unfiltered type that spews from peoples’ mouths when they have no ability to sensor themselves and walk around the world entirely unaware that most of us only give appropriate comments air in the world.

    I will admit these comments bother me. I am not lifting to get big or to appear “manly,” but rather lifting is a way to battle chronic depression. I literally give myself a break from horrible thoughts for two hours a day by loading up on weight that I can only lift if I focus all of my energy on the movement. This is my escape from incredible pain, and so I am not willing to stop…even if I offend the gender norms.

    I really hope that anyone reading this will reconsider the interior reality of another over the judgmental stance that we all (hey – me included) jump to. To say my arms are “manly” is inaccurate. Both of the men who commented on my arms do not have as much definition as me, so perhaps their comments reflect more on how they feel about their own “manliness?”
    When women are kept soft and low in musculature to allow the men in our world to feel strong there is something incredibly wrong with the definition of male identity. Not all men are strong, but that doesn’t make them bad or wrong or emasculate. It just makes gender roles more flexible, and it allows us all to be who we want to be and to live a life that is true to who we are as individuals despite the gender roles we’ve all been acculturated to believe.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. What should a fit woman look like? | How I Lost 20lbs
  2. The Best of 2010 | Leigh Peele
  3. What's Up, Leigh? | Leigh Peele
  4. Bulky Muscles and Female Training | Leigh Peele
  5. Bulky Women | Vita Brevis

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