FITNESS TIPS: WHY YOU MIGHT BULK UP BEFORE YOU SLIM DOWN.

“My jeans are tight.” “I’m having trouble buttoning my pants. I’m bulking up!”

fitness tips muscle densityI sometimes hear complaints such as these from new Bar Method students.  Mostly these comments come from students who are doing strength work for the first time.  They are, as they say, “surprised to see muscles I didn’t know I had.” They are clearly acquiring some muscle definition. But are they bulking up? In the long term, no. After six-to-twelve months of classes, most of them will have lost a few inches around their hips and waist and have gone down a few pant sizes.

In the short term however, yes, these students aren’t imagining it. The Bar Method really has made their jeans fit tighter. “Hang in there,” I always tell them. “After about four months, your body will start to shrink down.” I know that what I’m saying is true because I’ve witnessed this yoyo effect many times. I’m also aware that I sound a bit like I’ve got some land in Florida I want to sell them.

The truth is, there are really well-established reasons for this awkward stage, and if students knew them, they would be less freaked out by tighter-fitting outfits and more likely to stick with the workout until the ultimate results come into view. Here then is the true story of what happens inside muscles that cause them to get bigger before they shrink down. (For more on the overall body sculpting results of The Bar Method, click here: HOW TO SCULPT A DANCER’S BODY).

First, after the first few weeks of classes, muscles that were formerly not worked stop sagging and become firmer. “Within 2 or 3 months of the onset of training,” writes Tetsura Tamaki, a Japanese physiologist, “Muscle hypertrophy [growth of muscle fiber]…may be observed.” The effect of this change can be scary. Butts and thighs that had easily conformed to the shape of whatever piece of clothing they were being shoved into now start pushing back against the fabric with a shape of their own.

Second, newly strengthened muscles retain water. We use stress to strengthen them, and the resulting soreness causes the surrounding tissues to swell until things calm down. “Extracellular water increases transiently in the muscle to relieve inflammation of the muscle soft-tissues,” Tamaki says.

Third, fat becomes an issue when you’ve just started shaping your muscles. Students unaccustomed to strength work often start out with a higher body fat percentage than regular exercisers. Unfortunately, fat takes a lot longer to get rid of than muscles do to change shape. So until the fat burning component within the Bar Method workout catches up, students’ old bodysuits of fat are what get showcased by their newly lifted muscles. Yikes.

Last but not least, newly shaped muscles are tight. Think of the way your body felt the first few weeks after starting a new workout. All sculpting exercise basically consists of contractions.  Freshly toned muscles, therefore, tend to be bunchy until they allow themselves over time to become more elastic and wrap themselves closer to the underlying bone.

When I add up everything that muscles go through when they’re in the process of changing, I have to admire all the students who have the focus and faith to plow through their first few months without looking back.  The slender, sculpted bodies they end up with are well deserved.

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27 replies
  1. M. Motacone
    M. Motacone says:

    Hi. I am just wondering if anyone know if this bulking effect occurs to the same extent when one starts doing the bar method again after a month or two off? I have been doing the Bar Method DVD’s 3-4 times a week for 10 months but in the last 2 months have taken a few weeks at a time off or on been able to do the Bar 2 times a week.

    Reply
  2. Mimi Fleischman
    Mimi Fleischman says:

    Hi Michele,
    Burr says,
    “Once you’re in Bar Method shape, your body should continue to slim down, even if you take a few months off every once an awhile. However, if you initially did not take the Bar Method consistently enough to get to the fat-burning, elongating phase, you are to some extent starting all over again after your break. In that case, you’d need to do the workout regularly for at least four months before you’re over the hump.”
    Thanks for asking!
    Best,
    Mimi

    Reply
  3. Amy
    Amy says:

    I absolutely love your newest workouts!!! Are there any plans to do more? The Bar Method is so different than what I’ve done in the past and I love the results! I am an at home exerciser (20 years) and considered myself advanced, but not with your workouts. Ive seen some great results in only 5 weeks. I will not be lifting those heavy weights ever again. Poor posture and heavy weights creates a not so great looking body! I am done with my Cathe DVDs for quite some time. Please consider doing more DVDs!

    Reply
  4. Karen
    Karen says:

    I concur – I hope you will come out with additional DVDs that maybe target specific areas to work more intensely sometimes, I love your workouts!! I am 50 and in better shape from your program than I ever was with weights and gym classes.

    Reply
  5. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    Yes, yes, yes!

    I have all four of your DVDs and adore them, but do find them a little easy in general. They seem geared to beginners (which is wonderful for that demographic because we all start there!) with lots of set up time and too few reps.

    I will buy ALL DVDs you decide to film, especially those focused entirely on the legs and glutes (remember you posted that our “Bar Method butts” are our favorite body part to focus on) and those that are as tough as a live advanced class.

    I also wanted to thank you for the article. So many women do give up on all forms of resistance training due to the temporary percieved “bulking” effect. I applaud your focus on long term results (up to a year) instead of selling people on a “quick fix”.

    Thanks,

    Deb

    Reply
  6. Karen
    Karen says:

    I have noticed that after two months of the Bar Method 2-3 times a week, my upper body is much smaller and my arms are toned but my belly and love handles are not shrinking. Does this come after three months?

    Reply
  7. kristin
    kristin says:

    hi! I was just wondering if this bulking up effect happens to everyone as they begin the Bar Method? I am really quite athletic/muscular to begin with. I only want to tighten and give length to my body.

    I’ve been going to class 5 times/week for the past few weeks, and have already seen results!! Just hoping I dont start to get frustrated by bulking up too much.

    Reply
  8. Kavi
    Kavi says:

    Hi I would love to get the answer to Karen’s post above about seeing results in the upper body but not in the love handles, stomach and in my case saddlebag area. I have been going to class 4-5 times a week for almost 2 months and I am addicted but I can”t help but feel like I am doing something wrong since I clearly feel stronger but my stomach and thighs are feeling bigger.
    thanks

    Reply
  9. Amber
    Amber says:

    I, too, would like to know the answer to Kristin’s question above. I have been working out with kettlebells for several months prior to starting the Bar Method (just this week – only three classes in!) I am hoping I won’t bulk up too much – I understand how the process works but I still think I’ll get pretty frustrated if I get much bigger than I already am!

    Reply
  10. Carly
    Carly says:

    I really love the bar method but I have a good 40 pounds to lose, will this help or should I be doing something else and then bar method after I lose the weight?

    Thanks

    Reply
  11. Erica
    Erica says:

    I am a former dancer and life-long workout participant, and I love the Bar Method DVD workouts. I have been doing them 4-5 times per week for a little over 3 months. I am definitely stronger and toning up nicely, but I have gained 6 pounds. My goal was to drop 6-8 pounds. Does this happen to anyone else? Will I be able to drop some pounds eventually? I really don’t want to give up. Thanks.

    Reply
  12. NK
    NK says:

    LOVE the BAR Method! SO happy with not only the class but this wonderful studio. The teachers are amazing and so committed.

    Have been going 5xs a week for almost 3 months now and have gone down a pant size and have lost 3 inches off my waist. Very happy! However, have not lost one single pound!!! I eat a gluten free diet, no eggs, dairy (due to allergies) so eat a lot of veggies, protein (fish, chicken, beef), nuts and some fruit, mainly berries and apples. While I understand that muscle weighs more than fat, it is frustrating to not lose weight with all the hard work that I am doing!

    Help? Suggestions?

    Reply
  13. Mimi Fleischman
    Mimi Fleischman says:

    Hi NK-
    Sounds like you are doing so well! Wow! Three inches off your waist!
    Don’t worry about the number of the scale. Just continue to eat moderately, and you will lose weight! As you build muscle, your metabolism will increase and your body will become a better fat burning machine! All of this takes some time. I found that the fourth month was the big one for weight loss.
    Best, Mimi

    Reply
  14. Tina
    Tina says:

    I have been doing DVD’s for about 2.5 months at 3 to 5 times a week. I was between a size 4 and 6 and am wearing a size 4. I have also dropped 4 lbs and have lost an inch in the waist and hips. I had to incorporate a bit of cardio for fat burn and also had to watch what I eat as my appetite did increase. I am waiting to get more defined in my abs at this point, but Burr said to give it 4 months.

    Reply
  15. Erica Rodriguez
    Erica Rodriguez says:

    I am just about complete with month threebat the bar method..i have experienced the “bulking” and have been a bit surprised.i came to the bar method avoiding bulk with fear of looking short and stocky. I have lost enough inches to get compliments everyhere but no weight in lbs! Will i lose weight????? I want to be able to say “I lost ______ lbs doing the bar method”. 🙂

    Reply
  16. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Hi Erica,
    Thank you for your comment! You’ll lose weight in six to nine months if you eat moderately.
    Best wishes,

    Bar Method HQ

    Reply
  17. leva
    leva says:

    Hi, I have been doing Barre Method for 2 months and I noticed that my calfs are getting bigger. I do have big calfs to begin with so I’m not pleased with the results. Will they go eventually smaller? or what can I expect to happen to my calf mussels if continuing with Bar Method? thank you, Leva

    Reply
  18. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Hi Leva,
    Yes! Your calves will slim down over the next few months with continued practice.

    Best wishes,

    The Bar Method

    Reply
  19. Cassie
    Cassie says:

    Hi,

    I just started the bar method about a month ago. I have been doing the routine about three times a week. I’m also a runner, I do 2 days of high intensity exercises, and three days of circuit weight training. No heavy weights. I feel like my lower body is bulking up. Your article stated that this happens to people who have never weight trained or used trained these muscles. Am I defeating the purpose? and I don’t want to wait 5 months for a slim down.

    Reply
  20. I
    I says:

    How long will the bulking up period last…I eat very well, do pilates, yoga and barre and have noticed my jeans getting tighter in the hip, thigh and butt area. Getting very discouraged….

    Reply
  21. Teresa Taylor
    Teresa Taylor says:

    HI there,

    I’ve been going to Bar Method as my only source of weight loss for about 5 weeks now. My seat is lifted and my thighs are slimmer, but I haven’t lost a single pound and my belly is still as flabby and muffin toppy as ever 🙁

    Any advice for me? I eat clean and typically don’t drink but one glass of wine at night after work (if that). I know eating is not my problem, so why isn’t the weight coming off?

    Best,
    Teresa

    Reply
  22. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Hi All!

    Thank you for your questions and comments! While many Bar Method students see results right away, the bulking period can last up to 4 months. If you take The Bar Method classes or use our DVDs consistently and eat moderately, you should shed pounds within 6-9 months. For additional information on toning your abs, read this blog post: http://blog.barmethod.com/finding-and-flattening-your-abs/ We hope this information helps!

    Best wishes,

    The Bar Method

    Reply
  23. Judy
    Judy says:

    Hello – God to hear there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! I’ve been going six times a week for 3 months now, I don’t suppose that means the weight loss will come sooner? (Obviously, I’m addicted.)

    Reply

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