“But I Don’t Want to Bulk Up”: Killing the Zombie of Women’s Fitness

“But I Don’t Want to Bulk Up”: Killing the Zombie of Women’s Fitness

“But I don’t want to bulk up.”

There it is AGAIN: the Zombie of Women’s Fitness.

“I don’t want to bulk up” is the excuse that never dies. It comes back again and again, no matter how many times we explain, argue, cajole, prove it to be false, or madly aggressively obsessively pursue its complete and long-past-due death. (This one really should have died years ago.) A million words have been sacrificed to kill this particular beast, yet it lives.

It is one of the most moronic statements of the modern gym era, yet “I don’t want to bulk up” refuses to go away. And it propagates itself, like some mad virus that only certain women catch but they feed it and spread it to the others, who feed it and spread it to others.

“I don’t want to bulk up” is the fear that never dies. And it’s total and complete BS.

When faced with this zombie, though, don’t bore your listeners with a slide show or PowerPoint presentation on why this fact-free fear is fallacious. (Nobody likes a PPP, not even the people who create them!)

Instead, here are 9 Things to Say When Someone Says “I Don’t Want to Bulk Up”:

1.) “There is no such thing as bulking up”

It’s called gaining muscle, and gaining muscle is a good thing. More muscle makes you stronger and more capable of living this life.

You don’t gain bulk. You gain muscle. And even if you do not lose body fat at the same time, you actually bulk down, because the mass you have will be denser. (This is the nature of muscle and fat by volume. That pound of fat takes up 4x the space of that pound of muscle.) You make yourself a more efficient package of a person. And you become healthier and more useful in general—to yourself and to this world.

2.) “No one builds massive amounts of muscle instantly”

It’s not easy to build muscle. You’re not going to walk through the door of a gym, and an hour later walk out with huge muscles. The human body doesn’t work that way.

The hard truth is that it takes most people (especially women) years and years and YEARS to gain a lot of muscle. (Unless you’re taking steroids or other such substances—and you’re not doing that, are you?) Most women have far lower levels of testosterone than men, thus making it much more difficult to build muscle. And if you’re over 40? It’s a whole different game, Sister.

Honestly, my arms and my ass took me close to a decade to build. ALMOST 10 YEARS. Think about that. 10 years of hard work to get the arms, the lats, the back, the booty. Concentrated, dedicated effort day after day for years. It didn’t happen overnight. (Believe me, sometimes I wish it did.)

Whether you’re an easy gainer or a hard gainer, building muscle is going to take time. Maybe not ten years, but definitely time of a significant magnitude. Nothing happens overnight.

3.) “If you do find yourself building what you think is ‘too much muscle,’ you can always quit”

Quit if you think things are getting out of your control. Don’t go to the gym anymore. Abandon the barbell and the dumbbells and the kettlebells. Take up running or Zumba or bowling or something that will stop the muscle-building train, or at least slow it considerably.

Nobody says you have to keep going. If you don’t like the results, quit. Those muscles will not continue to grow larger, and eventually (through disuse) your body will take back on that flabby, untoned state that you walked into the gym with.

4.) “Have you considered that you might be lazy?”

This question will not go over well with the recipient. Be prepared to run away.

5.) “Are you scared of being really hot?”

Run REALLY fast. In fact, say this one over your shoulder as you start to run.

6.) “Are you scared?”

This is an honest question. Some people are hesitant to start new things. That’s understandable. Exercise can be intense and weightlifting is hard, and both can be scary to people. So, ask this question gently and with great care.

Remember, nobody gets shamed or scared out of their fear. People do, however, get coaxed out of their fear in a manner not dissimilar to a stray cat learning that it’s safe to venture onto your porch. Put out the bowl of milk, and talk in a loving voice. Listen for the purr. Then decode the mystery for them and help to unravel their fear.

7.) “Do you just not want to work that hard?”

This is another valid question. Some folks just don’t want to do hard work, and they’re using “I don’t want to bulk up” as their excuse. It’s easier on the ego than “I don’t want to work hard.” And building muscle is hard work. Really hard work. If they don’t want to do the work, you can sort of understand that, right?

Remember, often you need to talk to people from where they are, not from where you want them to be. So, do that. Once you make an effort to accept and understand them, you might get to a place where they want to put forth the effort. Don’t beat them up. Listen to what they have to say.

8.) “Are you worried about not looking ‘feminine’?”

Some women worry that having muscles is a “masculine” look. But guess what? If you’re a woman, then you’re a woman—having developed muscles or not having developed muscles doesn’t change that. Still, some women accept a view propagated by our society that certain genders should look certain ways. If your friend is worried about this effect, take them back to points #2 and #3 in this article. They can gain as much muscle as they want or don’t want. It’s up to them.

9.) “Okay”

Seriously. If none of the above statements works to convince your friend of their erroneous assumption, you can just walk away. Unless you’re on a mission to change all the misguided opinions in the world, think about taking a pass and moving onto another subject. You’re not the Muscle Myths Explainer or the Truth Champion or even the Jackass Whisperer. You’re just you, another person with a love of training and a heart that wants to help.

Instead of continuing to sink all your effort into a cause that appears to be lost, walk away. Find someone who does want your help, and help them.

This is not a perfect list, but it’s a start! What other things might you say to a woman who says she doesn’t want to “bulk up”?