Building Brawn Without The Bulk
By Jackie Edwards
Building strength is an amazing gift to your body, bringing versatility to your day-to-day life. The health benefits are well established, from strengthening your heart to defending against osteoporosis. However, bodybuilding labors under the stereotype that picking up the weights will make you a broad and beefy, muscular figure. In reality, to get that figure there are some very specific and easily avoidable steps you have to take.
In this article, we’ll look over the various aspects to take into consideration when building strength but with one eye on a particular body type. If you don’t want to get bulky, the most important aspects are how you conduct your exercise and nutrition. Specifically, recognizing the need to motivate yourself to eat properly.
Before we get into the meat and bones of what constituent parts go into a bulky body and how to avoid it, we’ll take a look at the science and genetics behind how your body takes shape. One important aspect to remember is gender. Female people typically have less testosterone than men which is important for building a bulky physique. So, as a woman, it will be naturally easier to avoid a highly muscular body. For men, the range differs considerably, and it may be easier for some than others to stay lean whilst building strength.
When considering what exercises to perform, there’s a basic formula to remember. Big muscles + low-fat = bulkiness. This isn’t hard and fast; many impressive and bulky-bodied athletes have high body fat and achieve the look they desire. However, low body fat essentially allows muscles to be seen as there’s less of a layer between the skin and muscle.
Essentially, you need to eat a very specific diet and do specific exercises to achieve a bulky body. The act of weightlifting won’t make you bulky on it’s own. When it comes to the actual exercises you perform, remember that big and obvious muscles aren’t necessarily equated with strength. Strength comes from your core and large muscle groups, such as the muscles in your thighs and back.
To achieve strength gains in these areas, consider doing the classic powerlifting exercises – squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press and row. All with a barbell. Perform medium to high weight reps – don’t go for failure, as you’re more likely to become bulky if you’re pushing your muscles to expand and grow to their maximum limit. Grow sustainably.
When you’re powerlifting, there are a few basic rules to follow. First off, protein is king – you don’t want to overload your body, as it can cause issues with your kidneys. That being said, if you’re following a sustainable bodybuilding routine, you need to ingest protein to help your muscles rebuild after the rigors of exercise and to grow. Scientific studies have suggested up to 3.1g protein per kg mass for bodybuilders to build and maintain your gains.
Protein is also useful for maintaining your immune system which can suffer from down periods following exercise. It has also been shown to benefit your mental health and sense of wellbeing and motivation, which is a key factor in fighting the urge to eat junk food.
Enjoy Some Cardio
For many years, cardio has enjoyed a reputation for giving you the best weight loss and a recent study has shown that aerobic exercise helps weight loss. For someone looking to build strength, you can utilize cardio on your rest days or in conjunction with resistance training. You can reduce your body fat this way, giving you a more toned – but not bulky – appearance. Furthermore, cardio will tone areas of your body that are involved in your chosen form. If you take up swimming, for example, you’ll be given a full body workout.
The other benefit of implementing cardio along with your weight lifting regimen is that your heart and respiratory system will be boosted, acting as an enabler to your powerlifting side and giving you the extra push you need to hit your goals.
A Word On Mental Health
Exercise has a wonderfully therapeutic effect on the mental health of many people and you may well find that you feel a sense of greater mental well being through your exertions. However, it is easy to get hung up on body image when you’re trying to achieve very specific goals and lose perspective of where you are. The situation is serious enough that there are counseling services for body image targeted at weightlifters who have built an adverse body shape. Make sure you look after your mind, too, and don’t get too hung up on your goals!
Building strength is a great process bringing with it a litany of great physical and mental health effects. Despite the stereotype, you don’t need to get bulky to build great strength, and by watching your exercise patterns and diet you’re sure to do well.