The Bigness Project

FROM THE DESK OF JEN SINKLER

It’s 3:45 a.m., and I’m alone in my office, crying again.

The source of my tears are a group of 40 women. Well, plus one: their coach, Kourtney Thomas. This is all her fault, really.

I’m crying because I’m watching a flexathon of bursting biceps and big grins; hands sliding over rounder, higher haunches as they describe more booty developing and increasingly defined quads; gleefully celebrating new muscle striations in their shoulders. The new ripples look like 3D tiger stripes. These women are rejoicing because they feel bigger, inside and out.

(Did I mention these are happy tears?)

The crew was selected last fall to embark on a special resistance-training endeavor called The Bigness Project. Over the course of the 14-week program, they were to try to pack as much muscle as possible onto their frames during that time.

Obviously I’m joking—everyone knows women don’t want to get muscular (or worse, the dreaded “bulky)!

But [whispering]: What if that assumption is incorrect? What if some of us really do want to look like we lift?

What if we stopped pretending otherwise, and admitted that yes, we WOULD like to look strong and muscular; gunsy, even?

After having to cap registrations for The Bigness Project after a scant two hours, we found that assumption to be flat wrong. In fact, it turns out that response wasn’t a fluke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation that all women do some sort of muscle-strengthening movement at least two days a week, and research indicates they are hitting the weight room in ever-increasing numbers.

LADIES, IT TURNS OUT, ARE ALL ABOUT THEM GAINS.

“I spend more time flexing than I ever have before in my life, and I have to say, when there’s a lot more to see, it’s much more fun,” says Hilary Glaus, a personal trainer and health coach based in Bronx, N.Y. “You can’t hide these arms. That would be a crime!”

It’s not just entertainment and gym selfies, however. Having more muscle mass is fantastic for your health; some refer to it as a veritable fountain of youth due to benefits such as:

  • More metabolically active tissue (meaning your body can handle more calories without storing fat).
  • Greater bone density (making you less susceptible to fractures or osteoporosis).
  • Stronger connective tissues (making you less prone to injury).
  • Better mental and emotional health (creates the hormonal environment to deal better with stress).
  • Increased longevity (lifting literally helps you live longer).

THE SPECIAL SAUCE

So you see muscles are for women. They can be for you, if you want them to be. And resistance-training is the means to that end.

But any old resistance training won’t get you muscles, at least not as effectively anyway.

Let me be perfectly clear. Any kind of resistance training will help grow muscle.

 

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Hypertrophy training is, essentially, striking that perfect balance between workout volume, training frequency, exercise selection, amount of weight you use, rest times, and a myriad of other factors in order to build the biggest muscle size that you can.

If resistance training is barbeque then hypertrophy training is the “special sauce.”

Decades of research in exercise science lay the groundwork for the ingredients in this special sauce. You need to choose the right exercises, you need to perform them correctly (not just technique, but how you do every repetition matters), you need the exact amount of volume to stimulate growth but not hamper recovery, you need to create metabolic stress by manipulating rest times, and the list goes on and on. But like any recipe, the devil is in the fine details.

This is both art and science. You are the art. And you employ the science.

The thing is, I’m not a hypertrophy specialist. It takes deep, unrelenting attention to keeping up with the science and experimenting with the art to be a great hypertrophy coach. I know when I’m out of my depth, so I brought in hypertrophy expert and devoted coach Kourtney Thomas to create the bigness for you.

THE MAGIC OF THE MIND-MUSCLE CONNECTION

 

With hypertrophy training, it’s not enough to go through the motions. It’s important to consciously connect with the working muscles to recruit more muscle fibers. (That mental focus on the feel of lifts is thought by many in that community to directly impact muscle size.)

“Embrace that mind-muscle connection in the gym, and suddenly, it becomes second nature to be more mindful in all of your decisions,” says Thomas. “Over time, it creeps around and takes over, grounding you in the idea that taking up space—physically and energetically—is the way to go. Bigness encourages power, owning your choices, taking control of your body and your life, and standing in that power.”

These predictions have been borne out, time and again. Witness:

Christy Richarz

After spending most of my life in pursuit of getting smaller, the idea of seeking Bigness turned out to be a life changer to me! I’m not meant to be small — I was made to be BIG. I’ve never felt more confident, beautiful, and so at home in my own skin.

Christy Richarz, 34

Utopia, Texas

@christyricharz

Erika Dickerson.

All my life I have believed that I needed to be small…in size, in weight, in my words and my actions, that I needed to take up the least amount of space possible. I have worked very hard on these thoughts over the past 14 weeks and know now that it’s OK to be BIG in all aspects. I was put here for a reason and it sure as hell wasn’t to be small and quiet.

Erika Dickerson, 37

Ruskin, FL

@edickerson1979

Kristen Buter

I’ve totally embraced Bigness — and have had so many good conversations with my 7 year old daughter about it over this time too. It’s fun to hear her say to someone at the bus stop, “My mom could do that — she’s stronger than dad!”

Kristen Buter, 36

Greely, ON, CA

@kristenbuter

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The Bigness Project has changed my life — no joke. Taking up space, being empowered, embracing growth and bigness: this program has delivered. Kourtney has put together something awesome, something that will fundamentally change you in ways that you won’t believe. I have changed my body, grown my muscles, expanded my mind and my horizons. Embrace Bigness. You won’t regret it.

Jude Crowther, 49

Gloucester, England, UK

@jcrowther9

WHO, ME?

We are, as women, used to having people up in our business in ways that range from subtle to absolutely no chill, about how we should look, act, and speak, how much we should or shouldn’t eat. Also, how much we should or shouldn’t lift.

That last one sounds like a joke, but you know it isn’t. Some people get reeeaaal nervous about the prospect of a muscular woman.

But…it is a time for bigness. It’s a time for showing all the way up in our bodies and in our lives.

How that plays out for each individual will be different. Some people are seeking a “toned” look (which shhh, secretly also just means building muscle), while others want biceps and delts for days. (Personally, I dig a “foxy linebacker” aesthetic for myself.) Still others aren’t into lifting weights at all, which means you’ve taken a wrong turn to end up here, but feel free to stay as long you like. This goal is not for everyone, and that’s OK.

It is for those ready to show up as Big as you really are, to create a physical reflection of how you already feel on the inside — or for those who would like to give yourself a physical space to grow into. Maybe you’re making art (one woman in the early group remarked that training this way made her feel creative—“as, I’m creating my body!”). Maybe you want to learn to treat yourself with all the reverence and awe of great art. Maybe you just want to support your strength goals, or try something new and different. Regardless, if you do not feel curious, eager, or elated at the idea of making muscle as an act of self-care, please pursue something that does make you feel that way.

NOT JUST FOR WOMEN

I’m so sorry, I’ve done nothing but talk to women so far! But, I have not forgotten everyone else. This program is for you, too! Totally and completely. You may share many of the same motivations above. Or, like a contingent of our ladyfriends, you may just be here to get totally jacked. Either way, the answer is dead ahead.

You’ll begin to see results quickly — within the first 14 days, after tackling four muscle-building sessions per week. By the second half of the program when we add in the fifth day (I told you this hard work), you’ll see results on the outside and the inside.

The Perks:

  • There’s no guesswork involved—each step that will help you change your physique is backed by tried-and-true methods so that you build visible muscle on your body. There’s no more spinning your wheels in workouts that don’t work the way you wantthem to and you’ll look like you lift more than ever before.
  • A better mind-muscle connection. Learn cues that will help you literally activate more muscle fibers simply by thinking about it. The intense focus and mental engagement also helps you build more body awareness.
  • Strength imbalances get buffed out by training with more of a focus on single-sided movements
  • Higher volume means you’ll necessarily have to lower the weights, and a side benefit of working with lower weights is a decrease in chances of injury.
  • A second benefit of working with lower weights is that it can be more accessible to people for whom high-intensity exercise is off limits: those with hormonal or other issues (but of course, as with any fitness endeavor, consult with your health-care professional first). Strength-training can be thought of as upgrading the software of your body, but it’s hard on the system to upgrade the software. Hypertrophy training, on the other hand, is like upgrading the hardware — it makes the software run better
  • deeply creative, meditative focus during weight training—unparalleled to other styles of resistance training, which can be more task-oriented.
  • You get to adorn yourself with new muscle in places you want to put it! The magic of hypertrophy training is in the self-care and the ownership of your path
  • Optional access to resources from nutrition titan Renaissance Periodization. If you choose that option during the checkout process, you will be granted access to a super-simple, super-effective nutrition plan customized for your gender and bodyweight. That way, you know you’re fueling your body for the work you’re putting in

THE BIGNESS PROJECT ISN’T JUST A PROGRAM. IT’S AN ONGOING ENDEAVOR THAT WILL CARVE OUT NEW MUSCLES, NEW INSIGHTS, AND MAYBE EVEN A NEW PATH.

P.S. We’re sorry in advance for how much you’re gonna want to squeeze your own muscles.

ACTUAL WEEK-BY-WEEK HIGHLIGHTS FROM BIGNESS PROJECT PARTICIPANTS:

HERE’S WHAT YOU GET!

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USER MANUAL

The nitty-gritty of making gains and developing bigger muscles through the best, tried-and-true methods of hypertrophy training. We lay it out step by step so you walk away with the knowledge specific to building muscle. Also includes information on including mobility and stability into your program to keep you supple as you pack on the muscle.

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EXERCISE GLOSSARY

Includes step-by-step photos and clear, vivid coaching cues spelled out for every single strength exercise in the program, so you know how to do every one of them correctly and effectively. (This comprehensive resource, which details 95 exercises, is an incredibly useful resource all on its own!).

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TRAINING PROGRAM

A complete 14-week program that focuses on building muscle all over, including how to use eccentrics to maximize your gains in the gym. Specific rest protocols and the use of compound sets help make the program effective and challenging.

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VIDEO LIBRARY

For those who prefer visual cues, the 20 videos of strength and how-tos of lifting in a hypertrophy program will break down step by step everything you need to know to be able to perform the movements.

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WHAT ABOUT, CARDIO???

I thought this was all about dem gains?!

It is. But being cardiovascularly fit and incorporating targeted cardio workouts into your hypertrophy routine is only going to support growth. Here’s how:

Without getting too technical muscle hypertrophy actually lowers the amount of blood flow that is available to the muscles due to decreasing capillary volume relative to the size of the muscles. Cardiovascular exercise helps to build out this network of blood-delivery vessels and increases muscle perfusion. Better bloodflow = more ability to use and grow muscle. It’s like clearing the streets for the delivery vehicles of raw materials.

 

The options in the Cardio Calendars will adjust your schedule to optimally benefityour muscle gain.

So if you’re already doing cardio and loving it, you can keep doing it and chase the pump. And if you’re not, but you want to? Don’t worry, cardio won’t steal your gains – it’ll help you make even more muscles. The Cardio Calendars lays it all out on how best to achieve a big healthy heart along with your big muscles.

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