Women’s fitness is a topic that’s full of myths and fallacies, from the simply silly to the downright harmful. From the promise that you can burn fat in isolated areas to the idea that there’s a difference between “toning,” “sculpting,” and “firming,” women are bombarded with pseudo-information about fitness that is sometimes conflicting and often simply untrue. One of the most pervasive myths out there is that women shouldn’t do CrossFit because they’ll “bulk up.” Here’s the real truth:
Having muscle doesn’t mean being “bulky”
Healthy, strong, useable muscles don’t look “bulky.” Doing CrossFit won’t give you the physique of a female bodybuilder. Only a female bodybuilder’s routine—and maybe a healthy dose of steroids—is going to do that. What CrossFit will do is give you a lean body with very little fat, strong muscles, and an entirely feminine physique.
Women don’t “bulk up” like men
Unless you’re working incredibly hard at a very specialized bodybuilding routine, you’re never going to get “guy muscles.” Because you’re not a guy.
It’s a matter of hormones.
Men have a lot of testosterone, and testosterone is what causes their muscles to “bulk up” when they train hard. Since women only have tiny amounts of testosterone, they don’t have the same increase in muscle mass. So if you imagine CrossFit for women will turn you into a female Schwarzenegger, put your fears to rest.
Women often confuse “skinny” with “healthy”
Thanks to media, we tend to think that “thin” means healthy. And while a low percentage of body fat is what everyone strives for, low body fat without any muscle is just plain skinny. Stick-thin arms and protruding collar bones may sell Calvin Klein fashions, they’re not healthy. Healthy people have muscles.
There’s such a thing as skinny fat—and it’s a lot “bulkier” than muscle
When you have a moderately high percentage of body fat and only a small amount of muscle, you may not look fat. You will, however, look a lot “bulkier” than if you increased the muscle and decreased the fat. And as your muscles get stronger and your body fat ratio goes down, you’re likely to find you look a lot less “bulky” even though you have more muscle.
“Sculpting,” “toning,” and “firming” mean losing fat and adding muscle
Women are often told they need to “tone” this area or that area, as if their bodies were made up of separate parts. Equipment manufacturers promise their products will “sculpt” your abs, “tone” your legs and “firm” your butt. The truth is, “sculpt,” “tone,” and “firm” are all euphemisms for the same thing—building muscle and losing fat. And you can’t isolate one body part to “sculpt” while the rest of you stays “unsculpted.”
It all boils down to how much muscle you have, and how much body fat is on top of it. To “sculpt” any part of your body, you need a low enough body fat ratio (20% or less, for most women) for the shape of the muscle to show through the skin. You also need a muscle which is developed enough to see.
More muscle, less body fat.
Once more: “sculpting,” “toning,” or “firming” means making the muscles bigger and stronger. It also means lowering your body fat ratio. You can’t do that to just one area—when you lose body fat, you lose it all over. And that’s a good thing.
So if you’ve been afraid to try CrossFit because you’re afraid you’ll look like the Hulk, fear no more. You won’t lose your curves. You won’t get big and brawny. You will get leaner and stronger, and your whole body will be…sculpted, toned, and firmed from head to toe. What more could you ask for in a fitness program?