|Arnold trained for the pump, but you don't have to|
When doing resistance training with moderate to high repetitions, the body will increase blood flow to the target muscle. This makes the muscle look bigger, feel harder, and possibly cause some veins to become more noticeable. As a result, women may think they are bulking up. Do not confuse the pump with actual muscle gains. Also, if you avoid training like a bodybuilder, you won't get as much of a pump.
7. Post-training soreness = increased muscle awareness
When people first start an exercise program, it is common to have some muscle soreness. The soreness can make a woman more aware of her muscles and mistakenly feel that she is bulking up.
8. Seeing muscle because of fat loss
Properly done weight training combined with proper nutrition is fantastic for body fat loss. As a result, many women may see muscle that was previously hidden by body fat. Because they're not used to seeing muscle, they may think they're getting bigger when in fact they are getting leaner.
9. The first 5lbs
Strength training expert Pavel Tsatsouline has pointed out that it is common for people who never trained before to gain about 5 pounds of muscle in the first month of resistance training. However, this does not continue month after month unless one is specifically trying to do so. It is also important to note that five extra pounds of muscle is a good thing. Muscle is a very metabolically expensive tissue that requires extra calories 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Genetic makeup and body type also play a role in muscle building potential. While women rarely have to worry about bulking up, some will gain muscle more easily than others. Women who do have a more muscular body type and do not want to gain more muscle should focus on the training nutrition recommendations given earlier. In addition, it is important that we all are thankful for the body we have and train to look and feel our best without comparing ourselves to others. I'll expand on what to do if you truly are genetically geared for muscle gain in a future post.
Ladies, I hope this has put your mind to ease about bulking up. Now, pick up a barbell and start building a healthy, strong body!
Reference: Chek, P. (1997). Equal, but Not the Same: considerations for training females. Correspondence course.