Go pick up the latest edition of your favorite glamor magazine. There’s sure to be at least one title promising a new, spectacular, quick-&-easy guide to losing fat fast and toning your muscles in a few days. They’ll also tell you that lifting heavy will bulk you up. The thing about these articles is that they’re geared toward making money from unsuspecting victims. Don’t let clever marketing trick you.
If it’s fat loss you’re after and you aren’t getting results from the treadmill, maybe something’s wrong. Think about it this way, using the elliptical or running for hours is training you for endurance, not necessarily weight loss. Lifting heavy weights (i.e. weights that make you fatigued after about 6-8 reps) is not only better for fat loss, it’s also a huge time saver. With this in mind, let’s debunk some of the most common myths of heavy lifting.
Myths That Keep Women From Lifting Heavy – BUSTED
Myth #1) Lifting heavy (and doing nothing else) will bulk me up
In order to grow muscle, you need to lift weights that are heavy enough to create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. The tears start to repair when you’re at rest. This is where the expression “no pain, no gain” came from – but this bodybuilding axiom didn’t mention one little thing.
To actually bulk up you need to eat the right amount of calories over and above lifting heavy. If you wanted to build additional muscle you’d probably need to stuff about 9,000 calories down your throat. That’s a dieting regimen of an Olympic athlete. Over and above eating like a horse (or eating a horse at every meal) if you want to grow, you need to do targeted training.
Lifting heavy and eating a normal caloric intake will create healthy looking, strong muscles, not overly exaggerated mountains. Muscle tissue is actually denser than fat, so the recipe to looking lean is decreasing fat and building a little more muscle. You won’t bulk like the Hulk if it’s not your intention.
Myth #2) Lift light to keep toned, lift heavy to bulk up
While the right mix of heavy lifting and sipping MASS protein shakes will most likely bulk you up into a balloon, using a low rep/heavy weight system is actually great for toning muscles. Choosing heavier weights and lifting slowly until depletion increases muscular endurance and strength while increasing your metabolism, which helps with fat burning. You won’t balloon to bodybuilding standards, but your muscles will start to become defined as you strengthen them and lose fat around the muscles. Working to fatigue is, therefore, the best way to get stronger.
Myth #3) Strong does not mean big
Think of contortionists, gymnasts, and rock climbers. Some of them look like they will snap like a twig, but then they shock and awe by doing handstand push-ups. How do they keep light but possess extra-human strength? Well, weight training of course. But what exactly about weight training?
When you do something often enough, your brain starts to make certain connections. So when you lift often enough, your brain will make the connection between mind and muscle. As the connection builds, you will become stronger, but not necessarily bigger. So, pick up heavy things. And when they become light, go heavier! Unless you take supplements and exceed your caloric deficit, you will become toned, not bulky.
Myth #4) Men and women should lift differently
Yes, it’s a genetic fact, men, in general, are stronger than women – but not that much stronger. Keep in mind that men also have 15-20 times more testosterone than women and will, therefore, build larger muscles and bulk up more easily.
So hitting the gym shouldn’t be about stereotypically targeting gender-specific vanity areas (chest and biceps for men, glutes, and abs for women). Each person is different and their workout plan should be specified to their individual abilities and goals, no matter if you are a man or a woman. And this plan should include strength exercises and core training.
Myth #5) Aerobics is the only way to lose those pounds
Strength training is actually a great and efficient weight loss exercise that is equal to cardio (if not better as you save time in weight training). After strength training, you get something called the “afterburn effect,” where your body is burning calories in order to rebuild torn muscle fibers for 24-48 hours after your workout. So you can lose weight even while sitting on the couch.
That being said, aerobics and just plain healthy eating will also help you lose weight. As long as you’re happy with what you’re doing, do it! Just don’t be afraid of lifting.
So, the myth is now debunked, lifting big doesn’t necessarily make you bulky. So look past the pink 3lbs and start swinging the bigger kettlebells. Just remember not to overeat if you don’t want mass.
Do I have your attention now? Heard this before? Ladies have you been told this before?
OK ladies, it’s myth-busting time!
Gents feel free to read along – but this blog entry is specifically targeted at a long-standing gym myth for the ladies. I can’t count the number of times women have come to me asking about wanting to work out but don’t want to get ‘big and bulky’. I have to be honest, as a personal trainer this is one of the most frustrating and popular myths out there. I am so sorry if someone has already gotten a hold of you and has tried to convince you of this. I am here to tell you, DON’T drink the Kool Aid!
Ladies, you CAN lift weights and not get ‘yoked out’.
Now I know you are sitting there reading this and already picturing a female body builder on stage, muscles bulging, veins popping, sporting a bedazzled bikini and a $75 spray tan right? Let me shed some light on that. Those women are pounding SERIOUS iron a MINIMUM of 2 hrs a day, eat to bulk and spend hundreds of dollars a month on supplements. It’s also not uncommon for steroid use to be in play – to get that big. This is NOT by accident ladies. It takes MAJOR work and dedication to look like that. Now, thanks to the growing trend in natural body building, that arena seems to be trending back towards a more toned, less bulky or masculine look of the original Ms. Olympia, Rachel McLish.
So is it possible for women to get big and bulky if they lift weights?
Yes! However, it will take a HERCULEAN effort so unless you are going out of your way, i.e., the reasons stated above, it will NOT happen! Why you ask?
Two words; testosterone levels.
If you compare testosterone levels between the genders you will find a huge difference between the sexes. Why? The difference quite simply comes down to the testes, which is where those of us with a ‘Y’ chromosome get the majority of our testosterone. Women do produce testosterone from the ovaries & adrenal glands but in lesser amounts.
It seems like I am seeing that a LOT lately and it seems to be motivating a fair share of women to work out. This is a good thing! However, and I am speaking in generalities here so forgive me if you do not fit this scenario, but this is what I commonly see played out in the gym:
A light warm-up on the mats, followed by 30 – 45min on an elliptical in hopes of burning up the chocolate cake indulged from last night. Then, for good measure the lightest dumbbells off of the dumbbell rack are plucked for a few undisciplined sets. If there is still some residual guilt there are usually a couple of crunches or planks thrown in to try in vain to flatten that tummy. Does this sound familiar?
From my experience the above routine is used by those who think that it will burn the most calories. In reality very little is accomplished other than maybe burning 300'ish calories during their pilgrimage to the gym. Pushing some descent weight will actually increase your metabolism rate for two reasons.
Lean mass takes energy for your body to support it. Think of it as living, breathing matter. Your body will have to constantly fuel it! Even at rest your metabolism rate will be higher. Now opinion out there on how many calories per hour a pound of muscle will burn varies according to the research I have personally done. I have seen everything from 6 calories to 50 calories an hour per pound of lean mass. But consensus is that metabolism will go up.
It takes energy for your body to repair itself. When you apply a load to your body it wouldn’t normally see in your everyday life, i.e. lifting heavy weights, you actually cause fine microscopic tears to the muscle fibers themselves. After a workout with proper nutrition and rest, your body will repair itself a bit stronger than it was before. This repair process burns calories.
Not convinced of the benefits of lifting weights ladies? How about a few more good reasons to pound some iron?
7 Reasons Everyone (especially women) Should Lift More Weights
Better Quality Sleep
Increased Bone Density
More Shapely & ‘Toned’ Body
Improved Functional Strength
Improved Self Esteem
What benefits have you personally seen ladies?
Feel free to ask questions or share your story here. You never know who you might inspire!
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Author Bio: Tim Clark
Tim is a full-time gym manager/personal trainer, part-time gym designer, part-time blogger and part-time psuedo-entertaining public speaker as well as an ex-college athlete and ex-firefighter with a BS Degree from Fresno State in Kinesiology as well as an AS degree in Respiratory Therapy. His passion is seeing everyday people get healthy and live life to the fullest.
“My heart breaks for those that want to get healthy but are too intimidated to go to a gym. I strive to break those barriers and bring the vast and complex world of fitness to the common man. I love working with people fresh off the couch and turning them on to a life of health and fitness! It is a HUGE reward to get to be a small part of giving someone a second chance at living! To be more specific I LOVE to see someone like that have their ‘AH-HA!’ moment and realize there is an athlete within. That is my passion and my pay off. That is what drives me to do what I do.”
Tim can be followed via: Facebook, LinkedIn, the Community Medical Center Fit for Life Blog or reached directly by email at [email protected]
Women have had a natural aversion to strength training ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled his 22 inch upper arms on national TV in the early ‘70’s. Fearing that weights would somehow miraculously pack slabs of unsightly muscle all over their body, women have had them placed in the no go zone for ages. Fortunately, more and more women are coming to realize the following immutable truth…
If you haven’t got wise to the benefits of strength training yet, here are a dozen reasons why your body needs you to start pumping iron.
12 Ways Strength Training Will Keep a Woman Young
#1. Resistance training stimulates bone density
This will help to ward off such age related ailments as osteoporosis. This is especially important for women, who are far more prone to bone weakness through the loss of minerals during menopause. A 2011 study conducted at Tufts University indicated that regular moderate intensity weight training not only reduces age affected bone loss, but actually promotes renewed bone growth. (1)
#2. Resistance Training Speeds the Metabolism
Weight training is a fantastic means of combating the natural declines in metabolism and muscle mass which are a part of the aging process. The slowing down of the metabolism leads to fat accumulation in the thighs and hips as well as under the upper arms of women. Training with weights is the most effective way to target these areas. Resistance training induces what is known as the EPOC effect. EPOC stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. It means that, even after you stop working out, you will be burning a lot more calories than normal. On top of the EPOC effect, it requires extra calories to regenerate and repair the muscle tissue that is stressed when you work out with weights. The muscle that you produce as a result of weight training will also need more caloric consumption to support itself.
#3. Resistance training combats arthritis
According to the Tufts University study mentioned earlier, training with weights has a lubricating effect on our joints, while also strengthening those joints. These effects have shown themselves to be life changing for many people who suffer from arthritis.
#4. Resistance training enhances energy use
As we age, we become less efficient at metabolizing glucose. That is a major contributing factor to Type-2 Diabetes, which the majority of people contract between the ages of 55 and 60. Yet, studies have confirmed that regular resistance training can dramatically improve the body’s glucose uptake. (2) With women twice as likely as men to develop Type-2 Diabetes, it just makes sense for women to pump iron.
#5. Resistance exercise will make you more aerobically fit
Compound movements like squats and deadlifts will shunt the blood around your whole body. Your heart and lungs will be more efficient and you will be dramatically reducing your susceptibility to a host of cardiovascular diseases.
#6. Resistance training builds muscle
Which is what gives the body its shape. That classic, toned hour-glass figure won’t happen on the treadmill. The curves that so many women strive for are built in the weight room.
#7. Resistance training improves muscular endurance
This will make everyday chores like lifting groceries, carrying children and washing the floor so much easier. Put simply, your muscles will be able to work harder for longer. Including ballistic movements using such equipment as kettle-bells will also improve your functional fitness, allowing you to carry out such daily activities as carrying groceries or changing a car tire without pulling a muscle.
#8. Resistance training will make you look healthier
It does so while reshaping and building muscle. Therefore, weight training is the only exercise that will allow you to alter your body composition (your ratio of muscle to fat). It is the answer that women have looked in all the wrong places in order to tone and shape their butt, hips, thighs and upper arms.
#9. Resistance training develops inner qualities like self-esteem, purpose, self-discipline and stickability
Numerous clinical studies confirm what gym goers have known for decades – weight training provides all the positive effects of psychiatric medication, with none of the negatives. (2) With depression being twice as common in women as in men, it is obvious that weight training has huge benefits for a woman’s mental well-being.
#10. Resistance exercise is a great way to lose fat
Yes, fat. Forget those long, boring sessions on the treadmill and get yourself used to the feel of an Olympic Barbell. Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts and lunges need a lot of energy to perform, especially when you start hoisting some decent amounts of weight. A heavy-set of squats will get you puffing like a steam engine. That exertion will have you burn calories at a rapid rate of knots. This will help you to control weight, making you less likely to fall prey to cardiovascular disease. Women struggle with weight fluctuation more than men do. Regular weight training will go a great way toward stabilizing weight and ensuring a steady rate of fat loss while maintaining the muscle that produces those sexy curves.
#11. Resistance training Improves Sleep Quality
Regular weight trainers fall asleep more easily, have a better quality of sleep and they sleep longer. Quality sleep is crucial to weight control and overall good health. For busy moms sleep is a precious commodity. When you get it, you need to make the most of it. Resistance training will allow you to do so.
#12. Resistance exercise strengthens the core
This is especially important for women. The process of pregnancy, childbirth and the carrying of children makes women more prone to lower back injury than men. A strong core will reduce the pressure on your lower back. Strengthening the erector spinae muscles that surround the low spine will make it a lot easier to get up and down.
The evidence is overwhelming – resistance training is vital for health and vitality among women. But where to begin? For an individualized approach that will tailor a resistance program to meet your specific requirements, then guide you through every session, contact a reputable personal fitness trainer. She’ll be able to design and start the resistance program that will get and keep you on the healthy fitness fast track.
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James is a fitness enthusiast and writer over at GarageGymBuilder.com – he spends his days running his online business and testing different ways to hack his fitness routine. James was a physical trainer for 6 years before he branched out and decided to start his own online business. Head of to his twitter to see his daily ramblings @garagegymguide
(1) Dtsch Arztebl Int. May 2011; 108(21): 359–365: Published online May 27, 2011. The Intensity and Effects of Strength Training in the Elderly