Does Lifting Weights Make You Bulky?

Neil is owner of Crossfit8020 in Portadown, he has over 16 years of experience in the fitness industry. Neil has trained for everything from 100m sprints, Ultra Endurance Cycling and Running, Rugby, martial arts and now CrossFit. His expertise is not limited to sports alone though. Neil had a successful career for over 10 years as one of Ireland’s top Fitness Models and is still the only guy from Ireland to feature on the cover of Men’s Health. Neil talks to us about the question on most girls minds when it comes to lifting weights or doing Crossfit…

Can I do CrossFit without getting bulky?

This is a question we often hear from people who are thinking about starting CrossFit, but have been put off by the images online of extremely developed and lean, muscular athletes.

Getting Huge, First And Foremost, Is Mostly About Genetics.People are either genetically blessed to bulk up easily, or they aren’t.For your average person, it depends on their body type, how they’re training, and their diet. Everybody has seen the person who eats 6000 calories a day, trains really hard, and puts on no weight, and you’ve also seen the person who only has to look at a barbell to gain muscle.I fully believe that it’s a genetic thing. Whether you’re an ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph, it depends what genetic gift you’ve been given by your parents. And aside from going back and changing your parents, there’s not a lot you can do about that.A lot of people think that all CrossFitters get huge. Sometimes when you look at them online, on YouTube, or on ESPN competing, they look really big, but actually in real life they’re not.For example, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet who just won the Games, weighs around 58 kilos. She’s currently the best female CrossFit athlete in the world, and she’s a very small female, both in terms of athletes and the general population.So No, CrossFit Won’t Get You Huge, Unless Getting Huge Is Your Goal.

You can do the work at CrossFit and work on your nutrition to try and gain as much lean muscle mass as you can, but in terms of what I believe about CrossFit, getting huge isn’t actually of any benefit to people.CrossFit is very much a broad-range sport. There’s a lot of long-distance, endurance work through to a lot of gymnastic work and heavy lifting.So obviously, more muscle can mean more strength. However, if you train your central nervous system correctly, you can be just as strong and maintain your size.If you look at the average top male CrossFit athletes, judging from the top 10 finishers across the board over the last five or six years, the average CrossFitter seems to be about 5’10″ and about 85 kilos.Again, in terms of population, that’s probably an average weight and height. These guys at the top of the sport are obviously very athletic, so I would say it’s more the athletic body type that most people are after when they go to the gym.If you’re training for looks, CrossFit is probably actually going to get you closer to what you want than what you would get if you were focusing more, say, on cardio, which tends to give you that skinny look of long-distance runners.The other extreme we see very often is the guy who bulks up too much (or tries to). They’re often actually just gaining fat and trying to convince themselves they’re in this whole bodybuilding ‘bulk and cut cycle’… most never get to the goal of actually dropping the fat and getting the lean muscular look they want.

A Lot Of Women Still Seem Concerned About Getting Really Big And Muscular.

Again, it’s important again to realise that unless that’s what you’re specifically training and eating for, it’s very unlikely to happen.For the most part, looking at my female athletes, (and we have a bigger population of female athletes than we do males), most of them are in here actually end up dropping clothes sizes, while gaining weight.What I put that down to is a shift in their body composition, so I think it’s a great thing for females as they are gaining muscle mass, and the muscle they have is denser and leaner.They’re dropping fat, and overall that’s fantastic. An increase in metabolic tissue means higher metabolic rates, so when you do burn calories, you burn them faster.But the big thing about CrossFit for women, especially for women in their 30s and 40s and so on, with menopause over the horizon, is the ability to move weight and do weight-bearing exercise. It is fantastic in terms of reducing osteoporosis and the like.Bone density becomes more of a problem for women than men as they get older, and load bearing exercise can definitely stop that in the short term and slow it down in the long term.It’s a good trade off – you get leaner, drop clothes sizes and get better long term health. Your build will likely become more athletic, but getting ‘bulky’ is highly unlikely for most women.

And What About Diet?
Now, CrossFit is not a diet program, but what you eat will have an impact on how your body responds to CrossFit. A lot of people think CrossFit does include a specific diet, but it’s really about your coach, their knowledge, how much they’ve studied nutrition & its effect on the body.You’ll hear Paleo bandied about a lot – people love to talk about it and often get a little bit obsessed with it, and it is a good diet regime. It reduces inflammation, reduces intake of refined carbohydrates, gets people eating food that will typically allow them to get quite lean.CrossFit also prescribes the Zone diet, which is basically eating macronutrients in the correct ratio, as it gives you a good chemical response and hormonal response within the body.But again, my opinion on diet and CrossFit is that everybody’s different.There’s no one diet that will work for everybody, and again if you look at the top level of CrossFit, they all follow different programs.Some are strict Zone, others are strict Paleo/Zone, then there are other top level athletes that I know and have watched who eat quite a bit of junk food – their caloric demands just aren’t met by eating broccoli and chicken.So that’s very much a personal thing, and it is something that makes a massive difference in terms of the results you can get, but it is a trial and error thing.It’s key to be working with a coach who understands diet, understands how different things affect different people, understands the goal of each client. First and foremost, are they training to look good, or are they training for performance? Then they can make recommendations.But I believe that unless the coach is 100% certified as a dietician, then they shouldn’t recommend that people absolutely should eat a certain diet.They can give advice and say this is what has worked for me, what has worked for other clients – advice on a take it or leave it basis and see what works for you, but a CrossFit coach should not be prescribing specific dietetic information.

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