Lean Muscle vs. Bulky Muscle – Is There a Difference?

by | Oct 24, 2022

How to avoid building bulky muscle

If you walk into a Planet Fitness and take your headphones out …

You’ll hear whispers of a common fear permeating the gym floor.

The fear of the bulky muscle.

Nobody wants it.

It’s kind of like the black jelly bean.

Keep that bulky muscle away from me!

I want that lean muscle.

Gimmie those green and red jelly beans.

I remember the first time I started lifting weights …

I was lean and slender …

And I really just wanted to tone.

But my trainer made me lift heavy and I’ll never forget what happened …

I picked up the weight, put it down, looked up into the mirror and …


I was bulky AF.

My neck disappeared into my chest and my arms looked like tree trunks with no definition. My belly somehow grew uncontrollably.

I was infected with the bulk.

Ok … none of that actually happened.

In fact, when I first started lifting I was overweight and trying to starve myself lean.

I was afraid to fuel my body appropriately so I ended up skinny fat.

Building muscle is the key to sustainable results.

Eventually, I realized the importance of building muscle and have been trying for the past decade to build more.

It’s worked to an extent and yet I still have areas like my chest which are frustrating as hell to grow.

The jelly bean analogy is actually a terrible one.

Black jelly beans are real …

Bulky muscle is not.

It’s a myth.

A better analogy would be the boogie man.

Bulky muscle is like the boogie man.

If you’re afraid of it … you’re afraid of something that doesn’t exist.

Muscle is muscle.

There’s no such thing as lean muscle vs. bulky muscle.

Anyone who tries to promote such a thing as lean muscle is just trying to make their program sound better than it actually is.

Now, an individual can get bulkier or leaner

But the difference is in body fat.

The idea of bulky muscle originated from bro science.

Gym bros who never wanted to pay attention to their nutrition decided to start calling their fat gain a “bulk.”

“Bro-bro, look at how jacked I’m getting! I’ve gained 10 lbs in the last month!”

Sorry, my guy, like 8 of those lbs are fat.

Even still, when a bro goes on a bulk and gains a bunch of fat (with some muscle) … the muscle they build is just muscle.

It’s not bulky muscle.

The fat they gain is what makes them look bulky.

Don’t want to look bulky? Don’t gain fat.

Pretty simple.

However, the fear of building muscle continues to plague people from achieving the bodies they desire.

Once again, we can observe this on the gym floor of your local Planet Fitness as we see a battle over pink dumbbells and a bunch of random ass combo movements like reverse lunge to DB curl.

When we interview these individuals (after they’re done filming their IG stories with an inspirational quote about how they didn’t want to go to the gym this morning but did it anyway) then we understand what they’re trying accomplish …

I want lean muscle tone!

Ummm what the fuck is lean muscle tone, Deborah?

What Deb means is she wants to get leaner.

She wants muscle definition.

She does not want to be infected by the bulk.

What she fails to realize is that her lack of muscle definition is due to her lack of muscle. Period.

And she’s certainly not going to fix that with pink dumbbells or side lunges to overhead press.

She needs muscle. She needs to eat to build muscle and train to build muscle.

It’s not lean muscle vs. bulky muscle. It’s just muscle.

I get it, I get it … Deborah doesn’t want to get bulky in the process.

Which won’t happen unless she gains a bunch of body fat. Which isn’t necessary.

She also doesn’t want TOO much muscle.

Good luck trying to build too much muscle.

Women can realistically build about .5-1lb of muscle per month.

And that’s if they actually train hard enough and recover well enough and eat smart enough to accomplish that.

It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen quickly.

Gaining 5 lbs of muscle would help Deborah out tremendously.

Not only would she look better, but her metabolism would be in a better spot as well.

She’d be able to eat more without gaining fat.

She’d be improving her hormone profile, health, and longevity.

It would take her 5-10 months to accomplish that.

So are we really worried about getting bulky or are we simply afraid to lift more and eat more?

If you can get over that fear and actually commit to the process of eating and training with the intent of building muscle …

Your whole world will change.

It will be the single greatest gift you give to yourself this year and beyond.

Don’t believe me?

Just try it.

What’s the worst case scenario?

You decide you don’t want to look better, feel better, have more confidence, get stronger, and be a better role model …

Cool. Then you can stop.

No harm, no foul.

Sometimes a simple risk analysis is all you need to make an obvious decision …

Worst case scenario – you decide you don’t want to do it anymore and stop.

Best case scenario – you improve your metabolism and hormonal profile, you get stronger, look better, feel better, and have more confidence.

Seems like all the asymmetry is to the upside.

Ready to build some muscle?

Me too.

Interested in 1:1 Coaching?

And let me know that you’re interested in the 1:1 signature coaching program.

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