We receive a lot of health and fitness questions at Strong Figure and honestly this is one of our favorite things. We really want to hear about your concerns, your questions, and most importantly, your struggles. We base all of our content off of the feedback we get from you!
One topic that we have addressed repeatedly is the “problem” that, lifting weights is making me “bulky.”
I put “problem” in quotes because I am not entirely sure what the questioner means when they say bulky. What does bulky mean? Are women complaining about muscle or are they complaining about body fat? Or some combination of the two?
I have always just assumed “bulky” was a combination of getting bigger due to the fact muscle grows before fat disappears. Yes muscle burns more calories and this will lead to eventual fat loss; however, this does take time and this does take more time than it takes muscle to grow. But I am digressing, this is something we have written plenty about and if this is your issue than you can check out any one of these articles for more help:
- You’ll Get Bigger Before You Get Smaller
- Why You’re Getting Bigger and Not Smaller
- Why Under-Eating is Making You Gain Weight
But recently I have started to read between the lines in some of these questions. I think there are a large number of women out there who just don’t think muscle on women is attractive.
First of all, it is.
Muscle is very attractive. But let me first go into my sociology rant (sorry, I teach sociology for my day job).
Attraction is largely constructed by societal norms. Meaning, attractiveness is not necessarily a universal phenomenon. What might be attractive in one society is not attractive in another.
For example, in Uganda, body fat is considered attractive and the heavier a woman is, the more desirable she is considered to be.
A recent trend in Japan has women purposely paying to make their teeth crooked; whereas, in America we pay quite a lot of money to have our teeth straightened.
In Mauritania, stretch marks are considered beautiful. In America, women cover their stretch marks and consider them anything but beautiful.
There are many similar examples but the basic point is, society constructs what is beautiful.
And insofar as this is true, our society has constructed women to be weak, passive, and subservient to men. Muscle is not weak. It is not passive. And it is not subservient. So muscle on women cannot be attractive. Many women and even some weak minded, controlling men still believe this to be true. But why?
Well for starters we have been taught this. Women and men both are taught every day what women should look like. We are exposed to hundreds and thousands of advertisements daily that show us exactly what attractive should be. And most of those women are stick thin, yet somehow large breasted?
But it gets worse.
Men are taught to be dominant and if they cannot “control” their women, we use terms like “whipped” and worse. No man wants to hear these words. This impacts young men the most. They believe they need to be the powerful and decisive person in the relationship. Imagine you are one of these young men and everyone and everything around you is telling you to control and dominate your woman. Are you going to pick a powerful, strong, smart, confident woman to try and conquer? Likely not. You will pick just the opposite. And young women learn this lesson quite quickly. Have you ever seen a young female pretend to be stupid? Ask yourself, why is this? It is because stupid is easier to dominate than smart. And submissiveness is attractive — as we have constructed it in society.
But there is more to this story. As it turns out, there are some physical traits that have almost universal attractiveness. Symmetry is considered attractive in almost every society. Athleticism and good movement is also considered attractive in virtually every society. Healthy skin color and the lack of ruddiness or yellow pigment in the skin is also considered attractive all over the world. All of these universals have one thing in common — they all center around health. Health is universally attractive.
We have evolved to be attracted to the mate that would produce the healthiest offspring. Well guess what? Muscle is healthy. And if healthy is attractive than that means muscle is also attractive.
I am not a crossfitter but I know plenty and live with two. Crossfitters are attracted to muscle. Crossfit women think women like Stacy Tovar and Kristen Graham are attractive.
Crossfit men think the same thing.
Why is this subset of American society so much different? There are likely plenty of reasons, but let’s revisit some of the ones that we have already addressed:
1) One of the primary ways our conception of attractiveness is formed is through media. And where most of society is exposed to general advertising being the hallmark of beauty, crossfitters are exposed to an entirely different beauty ideal.
2) A reason why many male crossfitters are attracted to women with muscle is they are not weak themselves. Remember, one of the primary reasons that men might be attracted to weak is they have this societal pressure to dominate. But if said men are not weak themselves, the strength of a woman becomes less of a barrier in this quest to dominate.
Now clearly it is a wrong and awful thing that men try to dominate women, but the sad fact is, this is how we have constructed gender in the good ol’ USA.
So back to the point of this whole rant: Women–if you are indeed worried about gaining too much muscle, perhaps you need to revisit why you feel this way.
Final note: it is very very very very very difficult for women to acquire an inordinate amount of muscle. Simply, lifting weights will not likely ever get you to this point that you fear. I am under the assumption that you are not eating 5,000 calories a day, taking artificial testosterone, and anabolic steroids.
So by all means lift weights. Lift HEAVY weights.
If after reading all of this you decide you really want to be sexier and gain lots of sexy muscle, then make sure you sign up for a subscription. We will have an upcoming post on how to gain muscle.
This Week’s Strong Figure Conditioning Workouts:
As always, these conditioning workouts are meant to supplement a strength training program. Lift heavy and then use the conditioning for extra fat burning, speed work, explosiveness, a metabolic boost, and heart health.
What’s your best muscle gaining tip? List it in the comments below for a chance to be featured in a future post!
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