“I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to be bulky. I want to keep my girlish figure” – my friend says the other day at an interval training class.
I can’t even begin to talk about how often ladies will say this. There seems to be some misconception that the moment you pick up a dumbbell you’ll walk out of the gym looking like The Hulk.
Let’s talk through this. Bulk; it’s subjective. Everyone has their own perfect image of what type of body they’d like to have and anything above that is viewed as “fat” or in some cases “bulky muscle.” For me, I prefer to be strong, I don’t strive for the skinny arm or the thigh gap. Some girls do. I also don’t strive for big gluts and hamstrings. Other girls do. My goal is to feel healthy. To be happy with myself, my body and the way that I feel when I wake up in the morning. The image that comes with that is icing on the cake.
Another favorite quote of mine is “I don’t want to build more muscle. I just want to tone the muscle that I have.”
Muscle is muscle. There is no difference between bulky muscle and lean muscle. “Lean muscle” is just muscle that has less body fat surrounding it and thus looks to be more defined. Building muscle will burn more calories, and even burn calories when you are not working out – thus continuing to burn the fat. Repeat: building some muscle WILL help burn calories and LOSE fat. *Cough* toning *cough.*
Muscle toning is muscle building, but muscle building isn’t necessarily muscle toning. Say WHAT?
Anytime you increase your muscle tone, you will increase your muscle size. But when you increase muscle size, you are not necessarily increasing your tone. WHY? Because in order to see the muscle definition, you need to have less body fat. Not really the case in terms of how large your muscles actually are.
Fun fact: Many fit, active women have a 6 pack. Many of those same women have a layer of fat covering said 6 pack (guilty as charged!)
In order to truly bulk, it requires serious strength training, lots of time and dedication and putting your muscles through hypertrophy. You will have to go beyond the initial toning in order to build. See below for the process of muscle growth.
Hypertrophy: the enlargement of tissue through growth of its cells. This is different than cells growing in number, Hyperplasia. As adults, we can’t produce NEW cells. We can however change the size of those cells, thus supporting our “muscle growth.”
So, if lifting isn’t bad for women.. Where do we start?
First step: Go to the gym. If you don’t want to go to the gym (god forbid Carol from the PTA sees you working up a sweat), buy a set of weights from Dicks Sporting Goods and start at home. Once you feel comfortable lifting at home, you’re gonna want to go to the gym for more equipment!
Second Step: Take charge of your body. Do some bicep curls, some lat raises or dumbbell rows.. Whatever it is just pick up the darn weights. Start basic. Get to know your body and what you are comfortable with.
Third Step: Once you are comfortable, push yourself. Do an extra rep. Increase your weights. Try a new exercise.
So go grab a dumbbell, grow some muscle, be a boss ass babe and ROCK your workouts! You’ll find it will help no matter what image you are working towards.