“No weight training in my program please! I don’t want to get buff!” exclaimed one of my female clients.
This is such a rampant concern among females who exercise all over the world.
“No, you won’t get buff unless you eat a lot and lift heavy.” However, this is a legitimate concern as women do get buff for the right reasons. Positive results of weight training can take several months to achieve depending on your fitness level, nutrition, experience and training regime. It is possible to bulk up but people have no idea how much preparation and planning that would actually take. It’s planned hence no accidental.
The thing is women are not built the same way as men hence we do not gain muscle mass easily and quickly.
Anabolic hormones versus Testosterone. Um what’s that?
An anabolic hormone is a chemical that encourages cellular growth, usually building molecules up and into something new once they’ve been broken down. They play an essential role in the metabolic processes of humans and many animals, and are responsible for things like muscle growth and the expansion of nerve pathways. Testosterone is stimulated when you lift heavy. What does heavy mean? It means a rep range of 6 times more in volume and when you are feeling the burn.
How about toning up? Well, toning up means just getting leaner. Women lean towards getting toned versus bulking up. Bulking up depicts images of heavy body builders and football players who are usually big and beefy. Toning, on the other hand, shows aerobics instructors, athletes or even hollywood starlets with lower amount of body fat and some visible muscle but not huge muscles.
Let’s debunk the myth, shall we:
Myth #1: Lifting light weights will tone your body and lifting heavy weights will bulk you up.
The Truth: I’m not sure who first pioneered this idea that heavy weights will bulk you up, but it has stuck over the years and erroneously makes many people—both men and women—afraid of lifting heavy weights. While there is some truth to the idea that lifting lighter weights for more reps does a better job of increasing the muscular endurance, lighter weights will not help you “tone” better than heavy weights. In fact, because heavier weights build the strength of your muscles (and the size to a small degree—no Hulk action here), thereby helping to increase your metabolism and burn fat, lifting heavier weights with fewer reps (8 to 12 on average) and working until you are fatigued is more effective at helping you reach your toning goals than lifting lighter weights. Not to mention that it’s more time efficient too!
Myth #2: Building muscle and bulking up are one in the same.
The Truth: If you’ve been avoiding weights because you think that building muscle means that you’ll bulk up, think again. When you lift weights that are challenging, you actually create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. These tears are then repaired by the body (this is where soreness comes from!) and in that process the muscle becomes stronger and a little bit bigger. However, because muscle tissue is more dense than fat, adding a little bit more muscle to your body and decreasing your fat actually makes you look leaner—not bigger. To really bulk up, you have to really work with that goal in mind. Bodybuilders spend hours and hours in the gym lifting extremely heavy weights, along with eating a very strict diet that promotes muscle gain. The average person’s workout and diet—especially a calorie-controlled diet—doesn’t’ result in the same effects.
Myth #3: Lifting light weights won’t help you get stronger.
The Truth: When it comes to lifting weights, the secret to really getting stronger isn’t about how much weight you’re lifting. Instead, it’s all about working your muscle to fatigue where you literally cannot lift the weight for another repetition. The August 2010 study from McMaster University that proved this found that even when subjects lifted lighter weights, they added as much muscle as those lifting heavy weights. However, the time it takes to reach fatigue with light weights is much longer than the time it takes to reach fatigue with heavier weights. So, if you’re like most people and extra time is a luxury, it makes more sense to go heavy and then go home!
So ladies, here you have it! Don’t worry about bulking up unless you intentionally want it. Now, just go lift!