One thing I have learned over the past 5 years of being a personal trainer and working with many women online, is that there is a misconception about women getting bulky.
I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again that women can’t can’t bulky, so you shouldn’t be scared to lift heavy weights.
But this isn’t true, because:
I have experienced firsthand what it’s like to get bulky. I felt very uncomfortable in my body when I was bulky, and it was also very difficult to find any fitness professional who understood that I didn’t like having lots of muscle.
So I want to tell you a bit about what happened to me and how you can hopefully learn from my mistakes!
In my early 20’s, I didn’t have to do much exercise or worry about what I ate, and I stayed pretty slim. But after a while, my unhealthy lifestyle caught up on me, and I found myself bigger and pudgier than I liked.
I joined up at a gym with one of my girlfriends and I remember feeling sooo excited! I was 1000000% determined. I set goals of getting abs, getting in the best shape ever, and running the 10km Bridge to Brisbane race.
I started out going to classes – all the regular ones like Body Pump, Body Attack, boxing and spin class. While I was walking on the treadmill one day, a personal trainer (PT) named Cassie started chatting to me. She convinced me to do a few free personal training sessions with her, so I agreed.
I loved my first few PT sessions and Cassie promised me that I would reach my goals much faster with her, so I continued training with her 3 times per week. She knew I wanted abs so we did lots of core work, and a bit of cardio to help with my 10km runs. We did lots of other things too, such as HIIT and weight lifting.
Things started out great. We trained super hard and I felt like Cassie really cared about me. She put lots of thought into my training and gave lots of attention to my technique. I learned a lot!
After the first few months, I lost the pudgy look and lost some weight too! My clothes fit better than they ever had, I had baby abs, and I felt super fit! I was so happy.
After a while, I noticed my clothes fitting tighter. I had always worn nice crop tops and tight singlets to the gym. They were getting so difficult to put on and it was like my back was wider. I also used to wear shorts to the gym but they were getting uncomfortable because my upper thighs were now rubbing together. SO I started wearing tights instead.
I talked to Cassie about it and told her that I was getting bigger. She said that it was just because I had gained muscle but still had some fat to lose. And that increasing muscle would help me lose fat, and then I would slim down. I felt relieved!
Cassie increased the intensity of my training. I started lifting heavier, having less rest, and adding super high intensity exercises including sprints. After each session I was exhausted but I knew I was working hard and I was determined to slim down.
To my disappointed, I kept getting bigger. I was feeling so bulky. I saw a photo of myself with my girlfriends and I was wearing a dress. I remember looking at my legs and thinking that they didn’t look like me. They were so much bigger than I remember them being.
I told Cassie that I was looking and feeling bulky, and wasn’t happy with my body anymore. She told me that women can’t get bulky and that it was a myth. Women’s testosterone levels are not the same as men, so weight lifting doesn’t have the same effect on us.
Lastly, Cassie said that having muscle was a good thing and I should try to keep increasing it. I said that I want to try and trim down the bulky muscle but she kept telling me that this shouldn’t be my goal.
All I really wanted was to feel comfortable in my body again. But Cassie didn’t seem to understand.
I had become friends with another PT at the gym named Sarah. I had a chat to her about the way I was feeling and to my surprise, she told me the EXACT same thing as Cassie! She said that women can’t get bulky and that I looked great.
I was at a bit of a loss about what to do next. I knew something had to change though, so I stopped training with Cassie. She was disappointed, but not as disappointed as me. Even though I was strong, I was feeling so unhappy with my body.
A lot of women say that “it’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel.” But for me, how I feel has a lot to do with how I look.
And a lot of women train to feel strong – I think that’s great! But I wanted to train in a way that made me look good so I could feel good.
Instead of hiring another personal trainer, I decided I was going to exercise on my own. One of my best friends Nicole joined me, and she became my workout buddy / workout tester.
I tried a lot of different workouts to see how they affected my body. And I started really listening to my body. I know it sounds cliche. But previously, I was training to the point of exhaustion and training even on days when I was extremely tired from lack of sleep. I learnt that this wasn’t good for my body.
I’m also a sucker for research, so I researched a LOT! There seemed to be lots of other women with the same problem as me, but no solutions. I needed to dig deeper.
I decided to study personal training. I loved fitness and I wanted to learn everything I could about it. And at the end, if I could help other women, that would make it all the worthwhile!
I studied at the Australian Institute of Fitness. And I got my Certificate III and IV in personal training and group fitness training.
While I was studying, I started observing all the other personal trainers to see what type of exercises they did. And I noticed that they ALL trained their clients the exact same way! Some women were bulking up like me, whereas other looked great.
After months and months spent on research and trial and error, I discovered that how your body responds to exercise, depends on your BODY TYPE.
Heavy weight lifting made some women look amazing because of their body type. And it made others bulky because of their body type.
While working as a personal trainer, I saw the training programs that the women were on. ALL of them were about lifting heavy weights and doing Crossfit style workouts.
And the results from women lifting heavy weights were varied. Those that were naturally skinny (the ectomorph body type) got great results and looked really toned, but stayed slim.
The mesomorphs lost some body fat and toned up, but looked really muscular.
The endomorphs just got bigger.
When I thought about it, no personal trainer had ever asked me “what is your body type“…
I know you may not have heard about the different body types, so let’s dig a little deeper! And if you want to find out your body type, you can take my free body type quiz!
Endomorph body types are generally curvier and shorter. They have trouble losing weight, but can gain it quite quickly.
One of their main traits is that they can get bigger and musclier very quickly with exercise, because they naturally already have muscle. This is often my main complaint from endomorph women, and a lot of personal trainers don’t take this into account or just neglect the endomorph woman’s fears.
I know endomorph women can sometimes feel unlucky, but they have some amazing benefits! They have a huge potential to change their bodies, and make drastic physical differences. And in shape endomorphs can look beautiful, womanly, with a stunning hourglass figure.
Endomorphs also have really great strength and endurance, which the other body types can struggle with.
It may be a little harder for endomorphs to get in shape, but the rewards are greater and they can have truly amazing figures!
Mesomorph body types are usually in between endomorphs and ectomorphs.
They can build muscle easily like endomorphs. But one of their main traits is that they can lose and gain weight quickly.
If a mesomorph is not careful with diet and exercise, they can become overweight and unfit. But if they eat well and exercise consistently, they can generally lose weight and get in shape without too much trouble.
Mesomorphs can change the shape of their bodies quite easily, so they need to be careful that the type of training they are doing is suitable to what they are trying to achieve. Heavy weight lifting WILL cause you to build more muscle. If this is what you are trying to achieve – that’s great! If not, just keep this mind and adjust your training.
I’m a mesomorph body type :)
Ectomorph body types are very tall and slim. They don’t have much muscle and find it difficult to put on muscle or any weight in general. It is very unlikely that you will ever see a bulky ectomorph.
If ectomorphs don’t eat healthy or exercise regularly, they can go one of 2 ways. They can get even skinnier. Or, they can become “skinny fat”, which is a term used to describe someone who looks slim in clothes, but a bit flabby in a bikini.
Even though ectomorphs have genetically slim bodies, it’s still important to eat healthy and exercise regularly for general health and to look fit and toned.
If you want to know your exact body type, you can take my free body type quiz! :) You’ll find out what your body type is, and how you should be training and eating to suit your body type.
I completely changed my workouts to suit my body type (I’m a mesomorph by the way), and the results were amazing. I slimmed down to the size I used to be, and I managed to build muscle so that I looked toned without being bulky.
My friend Nicole and I were now regulars at the gym. Girls had started coming up to us and asking me to train them instead of other PTs! I knew I was doing something right :)
So I started working as a personal trainer. And while most other personal trainers did the same old heavy weight lifting routines, I was the only one who trained my clients differently.
I listened to exactly what they wanted to achieve, and made a plan to suit them. I only trained women, and most of them had the same goals as me – to be toned but not bulky.
My clients got AMAZING results! I was so happy and felt like I had finally achieved what I wanted. I was helping women with the same thing I had struggled with. And I had found out how to stay fit, active and healthy, without any fear of getting bulky.
After seeing how happy my clients were, I decided to create my own workout and nutrition program for all women who want to get toned and lean.
My program is called 3 Steps to Lean Legs and there are three different versions of it, one for each body type. (I want you girls to be able to get the best possible results!)
3 Steps to Lean Legs combines the right type of resistance training with cardio and it also has a complete 8-week nutrition plan. This way you can be sure you’re eating healthy while you train :)