By Justin Schollard
Alright ladies, this one’s for you. I think I may have heard this LITERALLY one million times “I want to try CrossFit but I’m afraid I’ll bulk up”. I know, I know. Society has done a number on the psychology of attractiveness and therefor the mass perception of what the ideal female body should look like. Not a day goes by where we’re not barraged with tiny women in their bikinis, underwear or skinny jeans. I must say that from from a clearly observation standpoint these standards are mainly upheld in the eyes of other women mind you. Men seem to be a little more forgiving on the matter, especially the kind of men you’ll meet at a CrossFit gym.
Functional strength and conditioning (CrossFit) is not meant to be a platform for bulking or putting on mass. In fact, most great strength and conditioning coaches will warn against getting too big. The reason for this is athleticism and the constant effort to improve it. This all culminates to what we in the functional strength and conditioning world consider to be true fitness. Not just the ability to look good in a pair of jeans but actually being strong, fast, agile, powerful, explosive etc. All the hallmarks of the athlete, and if in the process of transforming oneself into this athlete you happen to put on a couple of pounds of muscle then so be it! Its your body’s natural, organic adaptational response to training properly and consistently. Your appearance should be a consequence of your fitness and the benefits getting under a heavy barbell a couple times a week far outweigh the aesthetic down side of a little muscle. In fact that extra muscle might be the very thing that burns off the extra few pounds you been trying to shed for 5 years.. Hmmm, how ironic. Embrace the barbell ladies.
In his book “Spark” author John Ratey, MD Illuminates the point that on average women loose about 1% of their bone mass per year after age 30 and 2% per year after age 60. Putting them at a much higher risk for osteoporosis than men. Dr. Ratey writes about a study that was conducted where a group of women in their 60s who all claim to not workout were measured for bone mass and then put on a 6 month 3 x week resistance training program. After the 6 months on average all the women had a increased their bone mass by .5% Thats a 1.5% swing in 6 months! The bottom line is that strength training goes way beyond just looking strong. It’s about long term health and well-being. Strength isn’t something that just happens or that you either have or you don’t. Its a practice and a skill. Neurological as much as physical. It teaches us how to manage our stress response to the weight that we’re lifting and push our selves beyond what our brain tells us is the limit. It gives us confidence and a sense of power over life’s unpredictability.
It takes years to build a true foundation in strength based of industry standards of what is considered “good”. For example: being able back squat twice your body weight. Don’t worry most of us will never see those kinds of numbers but it gives you a sense of what some of people are working towards. The point isn’t whether you’re actually that strong or will ever be that strong but rather if you’re actively trying to improve your body’s condition through consistent and progressive strength training even if that means you start to see a muscle or two show in your thigh.
A new dawn is approaching. As more and more women around the world ditch the ballet bootcamps and pick up barbells the antiquated image of the ideal feminine body fades away as the next generation of the recreational female athlete emerges. Why should this be reserved only for men? The damsel in distress days are coming to an end as women of all types and sizes engage in the art of strength training and appreciate its benefits. We’re not talking about body building. Mass for the sake of mass is something else entirely. We’re talking about the tacit self control and stress management that one develops after years of countless sessions under a heavy barbell. Not necessarily for vanity although that does come as a result of hard work, but for the confidence of knowing that if someone or something gets the best of you it wont because of a lack of strength.