Does CrossFit Make Women Bulky? How NOT to Gain Bulk!

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Does CrossFit Make Women Bulky? How to, and How NOT to Gain Bulk!

If you have ever watched the CrossFit games or seen any of the ladies of CrossFit featured on the SubReddit CrossFit Girls you may be intimidated, inspired, envious or enamored.

All are common reactions to seeing these beautiful ladies.

The images leave us mere mortals wondering, will CrossFit make me bulky?

CrossFit Women

It is a Valid Question!

It is easy to find many female CrossFit athletes with a fair bit more muscle than a “toned” woman.

Some of these ladies are straight up BUFF, ripped, butt kicking machines.

We assure you, by the end of this short article, we will answer the question “Does CrossFit Make Women Bulky?”

This article will not only answer that controversial question, but provide guidance on how to, and how NOT to gain bulk, and discuss how YOUR personal goals matter most in answering the question as it applies to you.

Does CrossFit Make Women Bulky?

YES!! (Although it is challenging for a woman to accomplish)

And NO, not necessarily. CrossFit does not automatically make every woman bulk up instantly, against their will (or more accurately, the choices they make).

Confused yet?

The truth is, CrossFit can make women bulk up, if they allow it. There are also ways to avoid bulking, if that is not your goal.

Women naturally carry more fat, and have significantly less testosterone than men, so it is harder for a woman to gain big, bulky muscles, but it is not impossible.

Before we get into the specifics of what causes bulk, I want you to pause and reflect on your own goals.

What are Your Personal Goals

plank exercise

What is it that draws you to CrossFit?

What benefits are you hoping for by engaging in the sport? If you do not want to gain any muscle at all, I have some sad news.

CrossFit is probably not the sport for you. Every athlete who seriously pursues CrossFit will gain some muscle.

What goals do you have for your body?

Several fitness goals women have, in no particular order are:

  • Adding Bulk, having strong muscular legs, shoulders and arms
  • Reducing body fat, leaning out
  • Appearing toned while keeping curves
  • Being physically stronger and able to do things previously impossible (Like a pull-up)
  • Looking cut and defined

Do any of these goals resonate with YOU?

Once you decide what you want, you will be in a better position to decide how to get there.

Top Secret Tip:

It is ALL in the diet. Scouts honor. If you eat to bulk, you bulk, if not, then no.

Is it CrossFit Good Way to Burn Fat?


Yes, CrossFit will burn fat and you will lose body fat if you eat a calorie deficit.

A deficit means you eat slightly less calories than your body uses, causing your body to use fat as an energy source.

Nutrition is king. It is the key to losing fat.

Steps to Losing Fat

  • Find your Maintenance level calorie needs, or how many calories you need to stay at the same weight. This link offers several calculation methods for finding it.
  • Eat 20% less than maintenance level, and you will begin losing.
  • Never eat less than your Basal Metabolic Rate (the minimum amount of calories your body needs) Use this link to find your BMR.


Do not try and lose weight too fast, you will lose muscle and it is counter productive if you are losing more that 1 to 1.5 lbs every week.

If you have gone several weeks where weight loss is more than 1.5 lbs, and you are not significantly overweight, this level of weight loss is excessive. Eat a little more, while maintaining a smaller deficit.

Women doing abs exercise

How is “Bulk” Created?

Bulk has several definitions, so I will describe two that occur most often with CrossFit.

Definition 1: Bulk can mean large muscles, covered with a layer of fat, making someone appear large and solid, but not defined. AKA: Gaining muscle without losing body fat.

Definition 2: Large muscles on a person with low body fat, which some consider “cut” or “ripped”. This is where you are losing fat and gaining muscle and is the Unicorn of the fitness world according to those who can’t achieve it.

Either way, “bulk” is created by a calorie surplus, and many trainers recommend the extra calories be in the form of protein.

I have also heard (and experienced) the phenomenon of low reps, combined with heavy weight, will help those muscles grow bigger.

Recommendations for Bulking

Eat a surplus of 10 to 20 % more calories in the form of protein.

If you want a number to shoot for, aim for 1.7 grams of protein for every kilo of weight you have, daily, as an ideal amount of protein for bulking.

How to Become Lean Instead of Bulky


To get lean you need to eat at a deficit, as we stated in the area above, regarding losing fat.

Those who have a lean, toned, muscular look, but without large muscles, are usually those that:

  • Eat to maintain weight or eat at a slight deficit
  • Include just as much cardio (aka MetCon) in their workout as they do strength training.
  • Lift weights that are challenging, while not trying to lift the absolute most they can every single session.

The muscles will develop as you continue your CrossFit journey, as long as the weight you use is moderately challenging.

The fatness or leanness your body has is a function of diet, protein ration of the diet and whether you are in a calorie deficit or surplus

Try trading some carbs for protein in your diet. Watch your macros!

Record what you eat so you are not deceiving yourself. Record the workouts and weight used too. Your box probably already has you doing this, but if not, start.

A Quick Note

Give us your thoughts. What have you done that helped you bulk up or lean out?

Let us know in the comments below and share your tips for all to see.

Until next time, we will see you at the box.

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