What I Learned On My Fitness Journey #6

You Won’t Get Bulky From Lifting Weights.

When I first started working out to [intlink id=”11″ type=”page”]P90X[/intlink], my biggest fear was that I would become “bulky” like the freaky-looking female bodybuilders I see in magazines.  I’m a girly-girl who likes being feminine, so having giant biceps is not one of my fitness goals.  Despite all the research that I did that told me otherwise, I still had that nagging fear of becoming a muscle head each time I picked up my pink 3lb dumbbells.

Flash forward two years later and my pink paperweights have been replaced by real dumbbells (15-25 lbs.)  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  I haven’t gotten bulky despite increasing my weights by over 300%.  I actually got smaller because I shed all the fat that was covering my body.  I have more definition, strength and endurance, but no bulk.  I still don’t look anything like a pro-wrestler even though I attack my weight training days hard.

It’s a sad thing that so many women are scared of weight training, because it is one of the best forms of exercise for shedding fat.  The bottom line is that weight training builds muscle.  More muscle means more calorie burning tissue.  Muscles continue to burn calories long after you’ve stopped exercising.  In fact, muscle burns calories 24/7, even while we’re sleeping.  When we work them out hard, muscles need energy to repair, thus burning even more calories.  We’ve all been told that cardio training is the way to go to get lean, but that’s not necessarily true.  Too much cardio can cause you to lose muscle mass, which robs you of your best fat shredding tissue.

Today, I know that my fear of getting bulky was just plain irrational.  The reality is that it is almost IMPOSSIBLE for me to get too muscular.  Here’s why:

Testosterone (the lack thereof).  This is the hormone that gives men their deep voice, facial hair, and everything else that makes them manly. Women just don’t have enough of it.  Testosterone is essential for muscle building, and men have 15-20 times more testosterone than women.  Testosterone is considered a muscle building hormone.  On the other hand, women have an abundance of estrogen, a muscle destroying hormone.  Basically, our hormones work against us getting too muscular.

Muscle Potential.  This is your natural ability to create muscle.  If you’re new to weight training, you have a lot of untapped growth potential.  If you’ve been working out for a year or more, you have to work VERY hard to see new gains.  Gender plays an important role with muscle potential.  In the best case situation, a man can gain ¼ – ½ pound of muscle per week.  For women, it’s only half that amount.   Just do the math and you’ll see that your chances of getting bulky are slim.

Time.   I know people who quit working out after a few days because they thought they were “bulking up.”  Let’s be clear, you will NOT bulk up overnight. You will NOT bulk up with only 2 or 3 or 10 workouts.  Building muscle takes time and dedication.  For women, it’s years of hard, consistent work. There are a number of things that can create the illusion of mass gain after only a couple of workouts.  Water retention is the biggest culprit.  When you start a new workout program, your muscle fibers are getting torn.  To help with the healing processing, they absorb water (I’m being very general here).  This water retention makes the muscle look bigger.  However, it will go away once the muscle becomes used to being worked out.  In this situation, you did not get bulky; you’re just retaining water.  It’s no different than what every woman goes through once a month.  You don’t get “bulky” when you’re bloated do you?

Genetics.  People who have large muscular builds are genetically gifted.  The term for them is “mesomorphs.”  These people can get muscular just by looking at a dumbbell.  They have big shoulders, big chests, and massive legs. These types of people become professional bodybuilders. Most women are not mesomorphs.  Even if they were, the lack of testosterone would prevent them from adding too much muscle to their frames.

Drugs.  Bodybuilding is one of those sports where drug use is rampant.  That goes for female body builders as well as male.  When you see a hulking woman with a massive muscular build, most likely there is a needle involved.  Most men, let alone a woman, have a hard time getting that big. Unless you’re taking steroids, it’s unlikely that you will ever be able to achieve the bulky look that you’re so afraid of.

Now that you know that you won’t get bulky from weight training, why do it? There are hundreds of studies published each year discussing the payoffs of weight training. Some of the benefits, like improving muscle tone, bone density, athletic performance, and strength (about 30 to 50 percent more after three to six months of training), are obvious.  There are a few surprises, too.  Weight training helps women fight the aging process by maintaining lean muscle tissue. Women who regularly lift weights have better self-esteem and get sick less often. Other studies have found weight training improves the way the body processes sugar, reducing the risk of diabetes.

For women who want to lose weight or prevent weight gain (and most of us fall into one camp or the other), weight training is key.  In our mid-30s, we begin to lose 5 to 10 percent of muscle strength each decade.  Since muscle burns an estimated three times more calories than fat, adding two to four pounds of muscle can translate into an extra 100 calories burned each day. Also, a high-intensity strength routine has been shown to bump metabolism by 20 percent for several hours post-workout.

The best of both worlds is weight training coupled with cardio workouts.  The benefits are exponential. One study found that women who did 25 minutes of cardio exercises plus a total-body resistance routine for twelve weeks significantly reduced their resting heart rate, body-fat percentage, and blood pressure, and increased their strength and endurance significantly more than those who only did cardio.  If you’re going to put the time in to work out, maximize the benefits.

The bottom line.  I continue to train hard with weights because I have personally experienced all the benefits.  I have become stronger, have more energy, burned off a lot of fat, have toned muscles, feel better, look better, improved my balance, and likely decreased my risk of heart disease and I’m fighting osteoporosis each time I lift weights.  Stop being afraid and lift heavy!

Want someone to guide you through this workout? Click on the link above to purchase P90X and I will automatically be assigned as your personal coach (without any additional cost to you). I can help maximize your results, keep you motivated, provide accountability, make suggestions, and sometimes just offer much needed encouragement. You won’t be working out alone!

About Jade Nuyen

You know the people who tell you that life goes downhill after 40, or after you've had children? They're full of crap. I prove it to myself every single day that life begins after 40 and you don't have to accept being a frumpy out of shape mom as a lifestyle.
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