I shudder ever time I hear a woman utter that word.

Actually, I shudder and then I want to shake her until she is a limp pile on the floor…or at least scream at her at the top of my lungs.

This is what I feel like doing when I hear a woman utter the word bulky!

But usually I don’t do either. Usually I just internally roll my eyes and then say, “You won’t get bulky if you lift heavy weights.”

Trust me. You won’t.

As I tell all my clients, if anyone has tried to get huge or “bulky”…it’s me. I’ve lifted super heavy without doing any cardio. I’ve eaten more protein than any human should and I’ve taken supplements that I will never ever try again.

And trust me…I’m not big. Although I am the biggest I’ve ever been and I don’t think my photos look “bulky.”

I’m muscled. I’m “toned.” I’m lean…when I avoid pizza 😉

But I’m nowhere near bulky.

Where does this fear of lifting heavy weights, gaining muscle and becoming bulky or manly come from?

I blame the media. I blame all of us women who perpetuate it. I blame all of the men who make us feel like we should act like the weaker sex.

But I think Caitlin at Fit and Feminist narrowed it down to the true root cause of the whole problem – that society promotes a single body ideal.

All of us women grow up being indoctrinated with a single ideal of female beauty, an ideal that really doesn’t promote lifting heavy weights in the least.

As Caitlin states in her article “Body Image: The Danger of a Single Body Ideal”:

[A] slim figure with breasts that aren’t too big and thighs that don’t touch and a butt that isn’t too flat and nothing that jiggles too much — is desired with such single-mindedness that the non-cosmetic benefits of weight training are dismissed without a second thought.

So we can’t even seen how good weight training is for us because of this feminine ideal. We can’t risk becoming BULKY because BULKY means we look manly and unattractive.


Seriously, how and why did women decide that weight lifting makes them look bulky? I mean how is a lean, toned body not sexy?!? And if you lift weights that is what you will get – a lean, toned body!

I’ve never seen a woman get bulky from lifting weights UNLESS she is  a) taking steroids or b) carrying around a ton of extra fat on top of her muscle. In the second scenario, what actually makes the woman look bulky is the extra fat NOT the muscle.

Sorry, but it’s true.

So next time you go to utter the word BULKY, think for a second about whether or not the person you say it to will want to shake you until you fall limp to the ground.


How do you feel about the word bulky? Have you ever been guilty of worrying that weights would make you manly and “bulky?”

Posted on March 22, 2012, in Body Image, Conventional Wisdom - How I hate you and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Dude, I’m sorry that I missed this post until now! Thank you so much for the props, and as you don’t need me to tell you, I completely agree with everything you say here. The fear of bulkiness needs to go far, far away, because all it’s doing is keeping women from developing the physical strength that is their right as human beings.

  2. I often dream of a world where people can think for themselves (like me – ha). Like most people I have female adjectives that attract me, ones that do the opposite and ones I find neutral. These associations aren’t from what other people have told me or arrived at through logical deliberation – they are just my tastes.
    So, some adjectives (about women) that appeal are: strong (physically), athletic, defined, muscular, solid, bulky, rippling (notice there are different body types captured here).
    BTW some adjectives that bore me are: toned, slim, feminine (when applied to arms).
    I am by no means alone among men in having these preferences. It doesn’t matter if your lists are different but make them your lists, don’t adopt somebody else’s.

    PS. a woman can get bulky if she has the right genetics and trains hard though of course many women and men cannot bulk up easily at all. And there there are men who desire a woman of substantial (functional) physical substance.

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