CF9 Stories: Jessica Crushes the “Bulky” Myth

Meet Jessica Zak, one of our CrossFit and CF9 Barbell athletes whose journey can answer the age-old question: Will lifting weights make me bulky?

To know Jessica is to love Jessica. Say hello to her in the middle of a heavy weightlifting session, or a brutally sweaty metcon, and she’s going to beam and give you a high five.

CrossFit9 is her first stop after work. And she’s often one of the last ones to leave, having helped tidy the gym and catching up with others.

Jessica is a great example of an athlete that has taken almost every opportunity CrossFit9 offers to improve, from challenges, to workshops, to special programming.

Prior to CrossFit9, Jessica says she was just plain bored with her workouts.

“I might still be running, or I may have stopped. I may have pathetically attempted to go to the $10 gym, but most likely not. Crossfit9 keeps it interesting and it offers so many types of classes. I like the variety that it offers and working out has become a major part of my lifestyle.”

Jessica Zak CrossFit9 St Pete FL

Flashback to Jessica’s 2017 New Year Goal: Making time to work out around work!

Jessica found CrossFit9 in a round-about way. She was doing the “gym and cardio” routine, running a bit and finding herself bored at a Globo Gym. Then her company hired a trainer to come to her workplace and lead bootcamp-style classes. Eventually that trainer moved to CrossFit9, and Jessica followed.

“Her classes were tough, but I was always so intrigued by what was going on next door. I found myself staring into the next room thinking that the people in there working out were freaking crazy and I wanted to try it.

Jess says the trainer finally gave her the nudge to try CrossFit.

“Unfortunately, she lost a client that day… oops. It was love at first WOD! The workouts were intense, but I felt so proud of myself for pushing through and not passing out. I loved the fact that everyone cheered each other on and I couldn’t wait to do it again.”

Jessica Zack CrossFit 9 St Pete FL Will CrossFit make me bulky

Jess when she first started coming to CrossFit classes.

I can honestly say that in my first couple months, I had never felt so accomplished as I did then. All the PRs and the new movements I never dreamed I could do, I did.

When CrossFit9 unveiled its USA Weightlifting-sanctioned barbell club, Jessica was one of the first to show up for a session, digging into the mechanics of the olympic lifts. And in April 2017, she found her way into a local competition repping CF9 Barbell.

“My biggest accomplishment since joining CrossFit9 was getting out on the platform at my first Weightlifting meet… in a onesie… a bright red onesie!”

Our Lady in Red CRUSHED it.

Jessica finds the easy-to-measure progress of weightlifting super satisfying.

“Gotta make those gains! I’m always wanting to lift heavier and with every PR (personal record), I’m looking towards the next PR… one kilo at a time.”

But while weightlifting has a special place in her heart, Jessica also knows the health benefits of being a well-rounded athlete, so she still steps into CrossFit classes to keep things fresh.

“I’d also like to get a bar muscle up. There are so many things I want to work on! The list is never ending.”


There were only two competitors in Jessica’s weight class. But that didn’t stop her from enjoying sharing the podium with well-known lifter Taylar Stallings!

Dialing In Nutrition

“All my life I’ve never been known as the skinny girl or tall girl or fit girl… I always considered myself equally proportioned.”

Jess says upon joining CrossFit9, she was at her smallest and had very little muscle tone.

“After a couple months of Crossfit, I put on a few pounds and it was all muscle and I was okay with that. I started seeing definition in my legs and arms that I didn’t even know I had.”

But as Jessica specialized in weightlifting, she admits she neglected an important part of her health: Her nutrition.

Jessica Zak CF9 Barbell CrossFit 9 St Pete FL

“Last year was the first year that I saw physical changes that I wasn’t proud of. I started training for Weightlifting meets and stopped doing WODS, but I didn’t change my diet accordingly. Between that and the stress of a new job, I put on almost 15 lbs. and it literally went straight to my hips. I couldn’t believe I had let myself get to that point and it happened so fast. ”


“I was so happy when it was announced that there was another Whole Life Challenge starting in January. It gave me the kick in the ass I needed to lose the weight I gained around my ass!”

Jessica signed up for our CrossFit9 Whole Life Challenge team, and Jessica turned the ship around fast.

“In just 6 weeks, I was able to lose 8.6 lbs, 4.5% body fat, and 2 inches around my waist and hips! The challenge really made me understand the importance of exercise and nutrition and how you need both in order to accomplish your goals.”


Jessica says her realization that nutritious food doesn’t have to be boring was a game changer.

“I love that Crossfit9 hosts the Whole Life Challenge. The challenge has opened my eyes to so many more recipes and foods that make my weekly meals so much more tasty. Each week I sit down with my Whole30 recipe book, I open my Pinterest account with all the Paleo recipes I’ve saved, and I created a fool proof plan to get me and my husband Chris through the week.”

For the “bulk naysayers” out there, even after peeling off body fat, Jessica’s lifts are as strong as ever. Yet another case showing “bulk” comes from poor nutrition, not from lifting weights.


Jess says the nutritional aspects have particular importance for her, because diabetes and obesity run in her family.

“CrossFit9 has offered so many challenges and workshops that have provided me with the tools needed to fight the possibility ever being diagnosed with either of those diseases.”

Jessica Zak CF9 Barbell CrossFit 9 St Pete FL

Will lifting weights make me bulky?

As for the girls who are afraid of putting on muscle, Jessica says it’s a good thing (and helps you burn fat, too)!

“I would tell them that bulk is sexy! Bulk is the result of busting ass and gaining strength and that’s something to be proud of. It’s the visual reminder that all the hard work with exercise and nutrition is paying off.”

Jessica’s advice for anyone wondering about CrossFit9:

“Just try it! I know that it looks intimidating. I was once that person looking in thinking, ‘WTF! Why are these people slamming weights around, beat red in the face, and lying on the floor gasping for air? I want to try that!’ Once you try it, you’ll be hooked and you’ll never want to look back to your old routine.”

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Want to see more amazing transformations? Check out stories from real life 9’ers Russell and Molly!