Why Would You Want to Get BIGGER?! — The Bigness Project

I have been asked this no less than three times since starting the Bigness Project two weeks ago. It is funny to me that people do ask that question though. They’ve even said things like, “You’re pretty muscular already.”. Ok. Cool. Thank you! It took six years and probably upwards of 1000 hours at this point to get there. Anyway, that’s yet one more tangent for one more day.

“Why do you want to get bigger?”

It’s a valid question, given the environment of women’s fitness. The concept of doing a program with the goal being bigger muscles is still had for most folks to grasp. The goal is never bigger. It is, and seemingly always has been, smaller at all costs. ESPECIALLY in the months leading up to your wedding. You’re supposed to try to get as small as physically possible. The smallest you’ve ever been in your LIFE, right? While that whole bag of bullshit is an entirely different topic for a different day, today we’re focus on Bigness. The Bigness Project Re-Opens for a limited run TODAY (May 2).

So that begs the questions:

What even IS the Bigness Project?

What the hell is hypertrophy?

Don’t you do CrossFit? That doesn’t sound very functional.

Why on Earth would you want to do that?

Let’s tackle these one-by-one, shall we?

What even IS the Bigness Project?

The Bigness Project is a 14-week hypertrophy program, designed by Kourtney Thomas and published (and tested) by Jen Sinkler. The goal is to make your muscles bigger. Because muscles are decorative. In order to do that, you have to train a little differently. It consists of lifts with higher volume reps, lower weight sets and lots and lots of tempo. Many of the movements are things that we don’t often (if ever) see in a CrossFit gym. Calf raises, chest flys, curtsy squats, sissy squats? For 4 sets of 8-10 reps with only 1 minute in between. There’s a lot of focus on single body part isolation. Yes, that means there’s a quad day, a hammy/glute day, a back day, and even the infamous chest day.
(photo credit: The Bigness Project)

What the hell is hypertrophy?

Glad you asked. Hypertrophy (hy-PER-tro-phy) is ‘the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells’. With CrossFit, we’re mainly focused on increasing work capacity. Becoming more efficient so that we can get the most work done in the shortest period of time. What happens to your muscles is the natural bi-product. Hypertrophy training doesn’t really care about being efficient. You WANT to feel your muscles working. The muscle-mind connection is a major part of the Bigness Project. Actually concentrating on feeling the muscles you want to be working, working.

Don’t you do CrossFit? That doesn’t sound very functional.

You’re right. A sissy squat is not a functional movement. And yes, I do CrossFit 5-6 days a week, and I have for the last 6-7 years. I was actually just informed that since 2014, I’ve done 586 hours of CrossFit (not including the ones I didn’t log in for). CrossFit is about functional movements, overall strength, well-rounded athleticism, and maximizing power output (move weight far, fast). This training is not that, and here’s the thing: that’s fiiiiiine. Listen, CrossFit is awesome. Obviously I drank the Kool-Aid. We do have a habit of throwing shade at every other training methodology that is out there, and turning our noses up at every goal other than ‘GET FUCKING FIT AS FUCK AND WIN ALL THE METCONS’.

So yeah, I am adding the Bigness Project and all of it’s isolated movements for the purpose of making them bigger in addition to my CrossFit training. Bigger muscles have the potential to be stronger muscles than smaller muscles do. It’s that simple. I love being athletic, and ‘chasing fitness’, but I also like what the addition of muscles does for my physique. Don’t get it twisted, the Bigness Projects isn’t NOT about changing up your physique. On another note, one that I didn’t even realize until I started the program: My CrossFit training is going to HUGELY benefit from this program. Why? There is no room for compensations. I have a lot of imbalances. Primarily the left side of my body, my glutes, and my hamstrings don’t really like to do very much. My back tends to make up for that. With explosive movements, like the ones we see in CrossFit, it’s easy for us to compensate for those imbalances and still get the work done. Still get the lift. Still PR. By forcing myself to do all of this isolated, tempo, and bilateral movement work, I’m FORCED to address those imbalances without the help of my trusty compensations. This will 100% benefit my CrossFit training long-term.

HOW Do You Do This While Still Training CrossFit?
I’ve basically just been adding it as a session before class on the days I’m doing it. Depending on how your gym schedule is, if you have an open gym time available, that’s prime time to hit your Bigness Day. Another option would be an AM Bigness session (maybe before work) and your regular PM CrossFit class, or vice-versa.

NOW, this is IMPORTANT. I learned something real quick after just two weeks of doing both:

  1. You need an extra rest day, and probably more rest than you think.
  2. You need to eat more food.

The program is relatively high volume, and I noticed at the end of week 2 that I was feeling pretty tired. My muscles were definitely fatigued. It’s really important to pay attention to how you’re feeling. Rebuilding happens during rest. If you’re constantly breaking down between CrossFit training and the added volume of the Bigness Project, you’re not leaving much time to rebuild…and BUILD those muscles. My typical schedule is CrossFit 6x per week, with 1 full rest day. Through the duration of the Bigness Project, I’ll be adding a second full rest day, knocking CF down to 5x per week. As I go on, I may even add a third day off of CF. My priorities will have to shift for the next 14 weeks. That’s OK.

The other important thing to note is that my intention during metcons has changed. I’m not concerned with Rx-ing every weight, but rather moving quickly with intensity, to benefit my body composition more than my strength as I continue with the hypertrophy goals.

You will NEED to eat more food. If you’re doing the full program, you’re adding 5+ hours of training to your week. No, it’s not super intense CrossFit but you will break a sweat and you ARE doing more work. Plus, in order for muscles to GROW, they need a SURPLUS of food. You straight up need to eat more.

Why on Earth would you want to do that?

Kourtney Thomas, writer of The Bigness Project

We’ll start by being super honest: I’m getting married in September and I want my ass to look good in my dress. Sue me. Summer is coming and I would like hamstrings with a little pop, quads that look like I lift, and again….an ass. I come from a long line of string bean legs. We’re all long, pretty lean, and there is not a junk in anyones trunk. We’re all back to thigh. It takes me forEVER to build glutes and as SOON as I stop whatever it is that a I’m doing…that bish atrophies and says farewell faster than you can say ‘I need bigger pants’. I need specialized programming to build those muscles (partly due to genetics, partly due to those previously mentioned imbalances). So, the aesthetic part is there. Then there’s the fact that it’s just straight up fun to switch it up and try something new! Constantly varied, right? We don’t isolate muscles in CrossFit, why not do that for a little while? And honestly, as I keep telling people about the program and getting those shocked questions about ‘why would you want to get bigger?’ it sort of makes me want to get bigger. Enough already with this ‘the only goal you’re allowed to have is to be smaller’. Enough.

*I want to make sure that I point out that I’m not skipping the arm days because I don’t want big arms. I have big, jacked, arms and shoulders. I really enjoy doing pull ups, and push ups, and dips, and curls, and presses, and flys….and I LOVE benching. I will do that shit for fun, and muscle develops quickly on my upper body and does not atrophy very fast. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to work that hard to get pythons and a ripped up back. My lower half, on the other hand…is another story. I don’t enjoy those movements, so I don’t do them unless forced to. I’m leg-weak, so I need specific direction. If the same were true for my top half, you can bet your ass I’d be doing every bicep curl the program demands (hell, I still might. But for right now, my focus is my getaway sticks).

I had some questions for Kourtney Thomas, who wrote the program. Below are her answers to some of the most common questions about this here Bigness Project.

Kourtney Thomas, CSCS, has been a personal trainer and endurance running coach for six years. After a mostly inactive life, she discovered a passion for running and turned it into her profession. Kourtney spent two years training clients and athletes of all ages at a facility before starting her own business. She now coaches clients online, empowering them through strength training, smart cardio, and mindset shifts. She enjoys bicep curls fueled by cake and riding her Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe. Her motto is “Big Arms, Big Life,” and she lives that daily alongside her husband, dog, and cat, outside of Colorado Springs, CO.

It still seems to blow peoples minds that a woman would sign up for a program to get bigger. Why do you think we’re so scared?

“In a word, conditioning. We grew up with mothers, grandmothers, and even some generations beyond that, who were obsessed with losing weight, the latest diet or exercise craze. And often, messaging from the weight loss industry, which has told us for decades that we need to be smaller, leaner, to be worthy. It’s hard to break out of that, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Testing the waters of getting bigger bodies is a process, and a process that goes much deeper than just how we look in the mirror. It’s scary to start down that road.”

I think that folks minds go right to body building competitions and hulk-like humans when they hear “big muscles”, what’s a more realistic type of result that folks can expect?

“You’re right, in a lot of cases. (Again, that has something to do with conditioning, and how we perceive muscles on women!) The reality, though, is that a competitive bodybuilder’s physique takes YEARS to build. It doesn’t happen overnight, or even over a year, let alone only 14 weeks. Folks can expect to put on muscle, varying from some pretty big gains for beginners, to perhaps more slight, but still measurable gains for those of a higher training age. We have observed that even for those who have been training for a long time, if they’re new to hypertrophy specifically, there were noticeable gains to be made. Basically, expect muscles to pop, but expect to really connect with them, and your whole body, in ways you never have before.”

What is it about hypertrophy training that excites you? 

“Uhhhhh…everything?! I love it all. I love every. Single. Thing. About hypertrophy. I love how it makes me feel physically. I love a training session from start to finish, long, slow sets, totally in the muscle. I love the process of change, of growth – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Personally, I find everything about hypertrophy to be a super-fun time. I get excited about new workouts, about trying different variations and combinations of exercises in my training. And I definitely get excited about seeing how my efforts display on my frame. I’ve been doing this specifically for a few years now, and I still love it just as much as the first day I tried it. What can I say, I’m a true bro-ette :)”

Tell me about the conversation with Jen Sinkler when you two decided to team up to bring Bigness to women everywhere.

“Ha, well, it all started with my arms! Seriously, we were sitting around the fire at the Radiance Retreat last year, and Jen was just like, “I love your arms. I want some arms like that. Can you get me some arms?” And I was like, well, thanks, and sure. And that conversation continued into how we thought that more women might be into hypertrophy, and how powerful it is, and the rest is history!”

How can a CrossFit athlete who focuses on functional fitness and maximum work output benefit from this type of training?

“The more muscle mass you have, the more you can do with it, the better you can make it perform for you. Going through a hypertrophy training phase is likely going to give you a chance to work on some of the areas that might not be getting as much attention in your CrossFit workouts, it’ll challenge your body in different ways, and it could give you a chance to dial back from that maximum work output while still supporting your fitness.”

What is your hope for the bigness project? In a perfect world, what would the people who complete the 14 weeks get out of it in the end?

“A whole lot more than muscles. To me, it’s always about more than the muscles, more than the training. That’s the entry point, that’s the fun stuff. But it’s also the stuff that’s going to open your world to so many possibilities you never dreamed of or realized were possible. At the end of 14 weeks, I’d love for every person to feel amazing in their skin, physically, yes. With bigger, broader muscles wherever they have chosen to build them. But also come out of it with greater confidence, and bigger, broader voice in the world.”

What’s your favorite movement in the Bigness Project, and why?

“Literally any kind of biceps curl. I think we all know why :)”

I already do CrossFit, and I don’t want to stop my gyms programming and classes. Can I incorporate the Bigness Project into going to CrossFit?

Totally. I was just talking to the fabulous Julie Read about this. Depending on your gym’s programming, and how frequently you’re doing CrossFit workouts, you can certainly incorporate Bigness workouts. The accessory work, like direct biceps and triceps stuff, is a great supplement. Shoulder stability stuff, like rear delt work and rows, are also great. Some of the additional glute work, like mini-band work, banded donkey kicks, frog pumps, is always good for rounding things out. Where you’d have to be mindful of how you implement is in adding a lot of additional upper body pressing and lower body pulling work, as that’s typically covered pretty well in CrossFit programming. It’ll depend on your body and your unique situation, and you’ll absolutely want to pay attention to volume and fatigue and recovery, but there’s definitely potential to have success with the two together.”

The Bigness Project Re-Opens TODAY (May 2)!
It goes up in price on Friday May 5, so I wouldn’t wait if you want in.

If you decide to join me and my friend Taylor @SheThrivesBlog in a quest for bigness, let me see what you’ve got going on by using the hastags

#ladybulk !!

We can’t wait to see you all getting that PUMP ON!

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