I bought my wedding dress back in December and it fit perfectly. I have been away for 4 months for a ski season and have come home to find my dress is too small around my rib cage and won't do up. Their is nothing the tailor can do, so basically I need to lose it or I won't have a dress to wear. Therefore I need to to lose 2 inches around my rib cage in 5 weeks!

My other half has suggested low intensity exercise for long ish periods of time, which I agree is a good plan. I'm currently doing about 1-1.5 hours a day, which is consisting of 50% step-ups and 50% rowing.

I'm worried that rowing may have the opposite effect, in that I'm concerned that it's not fat around my ribs which is the problem but muscle gain from 4 months skiing and now rowing 4 times a week. My other half completely disagrees as he says it's not possible for women to gain muscle mass due to our hormones, so he thinks rowing is fine. Note that he has trained as a personal trainer, although does not work in this field.

I have put on some weight whilst away (1.5kg) and some of that is fat. However I'm struggling to see how I can have gained 2 inches around my rib cage (which does not seem fat at all) when I have gained so little weight?

Any advice would be very gratefully received!

Should I stick to rowing or would I be better off with exercises which don't involve using my back muscles?

  • Are you a novice rower? And, are you talking about rowing indoors?
    – rrirower
    May 10, 2016 at 11:57
  • 1
    Your fiance is a trainer and says women can't gain muscle?
    – JohnP
    Aug 10, 2016 at 0:54
  • 3
    Possible duplicate of Best exercise to lose belly fat fast
    – John
    Aug 10, 2016 at 6:30
  • I would argue that the question is about targeting upper-body mass in general, not just fat as per the proposed duplicate.
    – Sean Duggan
    Aug 18, 2016 at 13:05

3 Answers 3


It sounds to me like you've gained some muscle on your back because of all the skiing and rowing, both of which work the latissimus dorsi muscle (which, I believe, has it's lower attachment point at just above hip height).

Women don't build muscles as readily as men due to their lower levels of testosterone, but they can build muscle, especially with the amount of work it sounds like you've been doing (to answer the question of if women can build muscle, look at female Crossfit athletes, figure athletes and female strongman competitors in the under 63kg category).

Now the bit you don't want to hear... from my understanding, it takes between 2 and 6 weeks for muscle to start to atrophy (i.e. get smaller), the shorter end of that is for trained athletes. Now if you've been doing a lot of skiing and rowing, then it's entirely possibly that you'll start losing muscle if you stop doing exercises like rowing and put yourself on a calorie restricted diet, but for what you're trying to do and in the time frame you want to do it in, I'd seriously suggest consulting with a personal trainer (NOT your partner), possibly even talking to more than one (you may have to shop around, asking someone to help you lose muscle is a very rare thing).

You may find some luck asking someone who trains female athletes for sports that have weight classes, since making weight can be an issue, but even then, trying to lose muscle isn't a very common ask.

(I know it seems like an odd suggestion, but you may have more luck asking on a dedicated figure athlete forum, like this one)

Sorry I can't help any more than that, good luck!

  • Would anyone care to explain the downvote?
    – Dark Hippo
    May 12, 2016 at 7:46

he says it's not possible for women to gain muscle mass due to our hormones

That is blatantly wrong and, to be honest, I'm shocked that your partner would say something like that especially if he acted as a personal trainer.

From reading your situation it seems very likely that you've put on some muscle in your back which is one of the contributions to you not fitting properly into the dress anymore. The other factor to this is also likely fat. Two inches around the waist/ribs isn't unbelievable, especially if you've been increasing your physical activity.

Since you've got a bit of a restricted timeframe, I'd recommend staying away from any back exercises (such as rowing or skiing) for the next two weeks to let your muscles get "flat". In addition, I'd say some extra cardio/proper dieting would have you lose some fat which should have you fitting in the dress just as before.

  • While lifting weights will increase muscle, the rate is slow enough and androgens limited enough to not make most women appear too 'bulky'. Females lack the adequate amount of testosterone required to develop large muscles. examine.com/nutrition/…
    – John
    Aug 10, 2016 at 13:55
  • Not disputing that. But you're altering the subject now. He said "it's not possible for women to gain muscle mass due to [their] hormones" which is wholly incorrect. I have no clue why you're bringing up a different statement than the one which was mentioned.
    – Mat
    Aug 10, 2016 at 14:41
  • Sorry for not making it clear, I meant for you to expand your claim "X is blatantly wrong" with some facts.
    – John
    Aug 11, 2016 at 7:17

First of all, you can't lose weight at one specific area of the body. You either lose weight all over the place, or you don't lose weight.

Secondly, it's probably a bad idea to workout your back muscles (rowing) when it's back muscle you need to lose. The best way to lose weight in this situation is probably doing cardio which doesn't involve your back to much, whilest being in a caloric deficit.

Remember, this isn't healthy, but it will do the trick.

Thirdly, obviously women can build muscle, it just happens at a slower rate because of multiple reasons.

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