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Exercise to feminise a biologically male body?


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Hi everyone, I apologise in advance if this is in the wrong area but I couldn't find an exercise and diet area in any of the gender-queer or non-binary sections. I am currently identifying as a cis male, but I have been having confusion around my gender, I am possibly non-binary or trans. 


Recently, I have been seeing a councillor and we have been discussing body dysmorphia and fear of exercising. I am sure many people here have felt similar, so I am asking for your advice. How do you take care of yourself without feeling as though you are gaining muscle or becoming more masculine? Even though I have not come to a conclusion about my gender, I know for a fact that I do not want to be masculine or build muscle in my upper body. 


Are there any sports which are seen as trans female/ non-binary friendly? Those that would help to give a feminine body and what not make body dysmorphia worse? 


Thank you in advance for any relpies, and again i apologise if this is in the wrong section. 

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  • Forum Moderator

MtF trans-person here, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. My body is different from yours and getting a little more different every day. Though I guess that goes for everyone to a certain extent.


Well, let's see. I know of people who got together with a physical trainer and found a routine that gave them the results they want. I've been exercising regularly for about eighteen months now on MtF hormones and I've tried any advice I've come across (after running it past my physical trainer because I don't want to hurt myself). That's actually important. Before you start on anything, get someone responsible to show you how so you don't wreck anything you'll need later. Success is rarely a solo endeavor.


Thing one: Squats. You don't mention your age here. My observation is that younger people get better results. Genetics play a role as well. Squats, lunges and leg lifts are supposed to get the butt to do its thing. I have had no luck in this department besides doing roughly all the squats (between 80 and 360... egad, is that really 360... OMG I'm a glutton for punishment). My backside is still pretty masculine. My thighs and lower legs look nice though. Thing to note: I hate squats. I do them anyway.


Thing two: Abs. I've had more luck with this one. Crunches, obliques, that stacking thing (I'm sure it has a name)... it all engages your core. Oh, planking. Planking is good too. A strong core is like wearing a corset all the time. I've had more luck with this one. I've nearly got a waist.


Thing three: Pectorals. This is a pretty minor buff, but anything you can put behind natural breast tissue makes them look bigger. I've had limited success here, but again I'm older and on MtF hormones. Those make it harder to build muscle tissue.


Thing four: More reps, not more weight. My friend Ray would disagree with me here, but she's... She takes some explaining. She's like 4'10" and a former body-builder. *I* think she looks nice, but I don't want to be that buff. Also, I've seen her press more than I weigh. So unfair. Anyway, I want to build lean muscle instead of ballooning up so I make it a point to do more repetitions during my sets and gradually add weight. I'm losing fat and starting to build a little muscle. I've got some definition at this point, but only if I'm flexing. Again, I'm on MtF hormones here. If you're not, you'll want to be careful about how much work you put in.


So yeah, that's my wisdom on exercising. You mention that you don't want to put more mass on your upper body, so I'd concentrate on leg work and cardio. Walking, stationary bike, etc... all gets your heart rate up so you burn fat without putting on much muscle where you don't need it. I do twenty minutes on the rowing machine ... then weights for an hour to an hour and a half ... then finish up on the stationary bike, but my goals are a little different from yours and I'm trying to stave off muscle loss. I didn't have much to start with, though my wife has started calling me her Amazon. I kinda like it.


That's what I've learned anyway. Most important point is to consult a professional if you don't know what you're doing. I've hurt myself... doing yoga of all things... and I hate losing the time it takes to heal. Hope some of that helps!



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Thank you for so much information Jackie, I really didn't expect someone to put in so much effort to the post. I will try out the lower body exercises such as squats and stationary bike! I already walk lots to and from university, so that's a great plus! 


Good luck on your journey, hugs back. 

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I agree with Jackie.  She picked the main area of focus / exercises.  More reps, less weight. Lots of body weight exercises, you don’t need a gym, coupled with HIIT cardio will create a lean body, without hulking out. Watch what you eat and stay within maintenance levels for the body weight you desire.   if you provide lots of extra fuel you will add bulk and you can’t control where that goes, but if you’re not on hormones, it will likely end up in the typical male fat areas, reducing your feminine shape your striving for. 

If you do start to add too much muscle, back off some on the strength exercises and increase cardio. Make sure you put you a good focus on always engaging your core, regardless of the exercise and be sure to focus on proper posture to ensure you get the most out of any workout and stay healthy. 

Good luck. 



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  • Forum Moderator

Great advice from Jackie and Sara.  Better than anything I could say except to not give up.  This is a long term project.  Stay focused! 


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Thank you everyone! I think you have given me the motivation to maybe join a gym or just start exercising in my home. 


I will be patient, and hopefully with counselling and taking care of my body I will begin to feel more like myself! 


:) :) 

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  • Forum Moderator

I started in the home and moved to a gym later. My first exercises were a cardio-dance routine for women* that I alternated with an hour on the treadmill. I lost eighty pounds doing that before I sought out a personal trainer once a week at the gym.


Part of that is because the treadmill broke...


Hugs and best of luck!


*That was fun. I still can't dance to save my life, but it was fun.

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  • 1 month later...

Im kind of dealing with the same issue, and trying to do a bit of muscle recompositing to undue the powerlifting I  did to cope. One of the things that might be worth looking into is Brett Contreras strong curves program.

Personally ive more or less stopped doing upper body other than pushups and barbell rows and overheard press that im doing with light weight as part of a complex and have been focusing on high rep squats, barbell glute bridges, hip induction and abductions, resistance band mule kicks, squat jumps to build up a bigger butt and legs. Ive also been doing fasted cardio in order get rid of fat and gradually trim down my upper body mass.

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Thank you for the reply Isc512! Honestly I am in such a confused mind frame atm that exercise seems to paralyse me with fear, as I do not want to move in a wrong direction if that makes sense! 


But i really appreciate the advice and I hope that your journey continues to go well! 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've pretty much given up on upper body for the time being.  I was always fairly bulky in my shoulders and upper arms. Thighs too.  Definitely my gut! LOL 

I was 268 at my most heavy a few years ago.  I had a long road.

I have been mostly doing cardio and a lot of it.  Being heart healthy and eating extremely controlled portions and doctor recommended food choices. I'm not going to lie, I had bariatric surgery over the summer too.  They removed 75% of my stomach.   Hence the extremely controlled diet. 800-1200 calories per day total.

I'm 173 today.  Dropping fat like a stone too.  However I also have slimmer arms, hands and fingers.   My wife says my legs are to die for and shoe all feel bigger now.  Even my shoulders are not so bulky anymore.  I just need hips, butt, and a bust now.  LOL


I read one time how a super body builder male had gone MTF by doing a lot of these things mentioned.  Recommended by a doctor.  (Internet so take it with a grain of salt.)

The extreme cardio and long exercise bike routines will eventual catabolize the bulky muscle as well as help keep your heart healthy.  They compared the exercise kind of like those super running champions from Ethiopia.  Tall and thin but super healthy.  Afterwards you need to do strength training.  More of a toning really. Not building!!! So like others said.  High Rep very low weights.  

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Another exercise regimen you can try is swimming. Swimming builds long, lean muscle rather than bulky muscle. It's great cardio and it also works your core, especially if you include kickboard work.

It is my favorite exercise routine!


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I’d say the biggest thing is calories in vs calories out. Don’t be afraid to lift big, as long as the calories, protein, etc (building blocks) aren’t there in excess. I use to lift a lot and have heard a lot of “bro science” but in the end, lifting big won’t make you big unless you have a weight loss goal that your still a decent ways off from. I was 269 at one point of my weight lifting. Suddenly, as I wanted to lose down, I wasn’t eating like I should have.  Sure enough, the weight dropped quickly, the excess fat too. In about a year and a half I went from 261 to 157. I lost so much muscle, not recommend as I was restricting way too much. Only saying that I definitely didn’t build muscle during that time. I included a lot of running too. A rule of thumb (take it with a grain of salt) is a minimum of 1500 cals for men and 1200 for women to lose. Again, take it with a grain of salt. I definitely wouldn’t recommend anything less. Focus more on cardio, HIIT, and thigh exercises.


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