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Debunking the myth:Women getting bulky by lifting



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JENNILACEY
SparkPoints: (74,311)
Fitness Minutes: (61,915)
Posts: 2,489
9/16/13 6:23 P

Amanda- "So, is the rule "lighter weights more reps for lean muscle and heavier weights fewer reps for bulkier muscle" true?"

-- There is no such rule. As the OP effectively pointed out. Just a myth. Lifting light and high reps is essentially cardio with little to no strength training bonus. Women get "lean", "toned" what have you when they lose body fat and *build muscle*. The goal is always to build muscle (or perhaps in weight loss to maintain it). The more muscle you have vs. fat, the thinner you'll be in relation to the same body weight. I'm 120 lbs at 5'2 and still wear the same size 1 I wore at my lightest weight of 107 lbs.

So if your goal is to build muscle the most effective way to do that in the shortest amount of time is to lift heavier to ensure your muscles are reaching fatigue in 6-10 reps (generally speaking) for 2-3 sets.

It is also damn hard to build muscle while on a calorie deficit although beginners tend to be able to both burn fat and build muscle as long as they are getting adequate protein and are not on any extreme calorie deficit. Your goal is to maintain because as you lose weight, not only do you lose fat but lean muscle as well. Strength training will help combat this lean muscle loss so you don't wind up "skinny fat" (high body fat percentage at a low weight) once you reach your goal weight. If you are one of the *lucky ones* to gain muscle while losing fat, consider it a bonus and sing praise to the barbell gods... you must be doing something right. Otherwise, strength train to maintain and focus on building more lean mass once you reach your goal weight.

Getting bulky should never be a concern unless you have an abnormally high level of testosterone or are on certain hormonal drugs, spend hours and years in the gym, have a high level of body fat (in which case, fat is to blame for the bulkiness not muscle) and are eating at an extreme calorie surplus.

~ Lil' Jenni vs. Big Weights

Edited by: JENNILACEY at: 9/16/2013 (18:34)


SOMBREUIL
SparkPoints: (3)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 1
9/16/13 4:13 P

I think that the problem lies in the fact that more women today have squared off torsos with little to no waist definition and hips that are somewhat narrower than their shoulders I.e. "cone" or "inverted triangle" body types. These woman can have higher testosterone levels than the curvier types. I see this shape on woman in the gym far more often than I see pears or hourglasses, and yes, they tend to put on muscle more easily. It is almost a given in the world of female bodybuilders-- steroid use or not. It is also very common among female athletes and personal trainers. If you add even moderately muscled arms and shoulders to a cone shaped woman, the look can come off as androgynous. Women who are naturally curvier from the waist down can build their upper bodies and still look traditionally feminine. If a woman has an androgen type body and wants to look more balanced on the top and bottom, IMO heavy lifting is not the way to go. You can't just consider arms and shoulders in a vacuum. Ideally, they have to match and balance the rest of the body. In a cone shaped woman this can theoretically be achieved by focusing more weight on the lower body. Of course, some woman love this look. There is certainly nothing wrong with it, but I see so many people on fitness boards dismissing women's concerns about getting too big in the arms and shoulders. I think we should keep in mind that it's a valid concern for certain body types.

Edited by: SOMBREUIL at: 9/16/2013 (16:42)


DMJAKES
Posts: 1,583
12/11/12 1:45 P

Amanda - it's just about impossible for a woman to "bulk up" without spending huge amounts of time in the gym, knowing exactly what to eat and when, supplementation, and being a genetic outlier to boot (see the original poster's info above).

Your best bet is going to be to start off by building some endurance by doing full body workouts 2-3 times a week using weights that are challenging (but not necessarily fatiguing) for up to 15 reps per exercise. Once you've got a pretty good base, work up to doing 10 reps or so using weights heavy enough to fatigue the muscles.

Your first focus, of course, should be on diet. Get in your full body strength training 2-3 times a week plus a couple of cardio sessions and you'll be on your way.



AMANDALOVE0525
SparkPoints: (1,605)
Fitness Minutes: (45)
Posts: 18
12/11/12 12:52 P

So, is the rule "lighter weights more reps for lean muscle and heavier weights fewer reps for bulkier muscle" true? I'd love to get toned and I'm a little lost on how to do it. My main focus is my chest, triceps, and bra area.

Thanks!



BOB240
SparkPoints: (5,890)
Fitness Minutes: (1,285)
Posts: 351
12/11/12 11:05 A

Interestingly if you went back 30 years you would see that running - or any type of cardio- was generally viewed as leading to enormous runners legs and that you would end up looking like a sprinter.

At that time "exercise" for women was usually a walk around the village in a long flowing dress. Many women I knew would not play tennis because they didn't want to have a right arm that had "bulked". Badminton was preferred because the racquet was lighter...

During our PT sessions the girls only had to walk around the football field once - anything more would have been considered over the top.

Gyms only had free weights and very crude mutli-gyms (American Nautilus rip offs).

Leg warmers were the revolution. It was obvious that if you wore these then the extra heat around the legs would mean fat burned off..

People did sit ups endlessly trying to "get abs" (oops they still do that to day)..


Those were the days....





ZORBS13
SparkPoints: (98,776)
Fitness Minutes: (99,920)
Posts: 13,063
12/11/12 5:53 A

I find it offensive when people call me "skinny" - it's an insult to the hours I've spent lifting.



NAUSIKAA
Posts: 4,848
12/11/12 4:56 A

This is the sad, sad truth. It's so hard to put on muscle mass. And I agree, it's frustrating - even offensive slightly to those of us busting our butts in the gym - that so many women AND men think that. (I have heard men at my gym telling women not to lift to avoid getting big.)

I just had my testosterone tested about 2 weeks ago -- I'm at the very low end of normal. Can't catch a break.



BUBBLEJ1
Posts: 2,802
12/11/12 3:54 A

Sing it, sista! I have a similar convo with most of my friends! I lift weights 2-3 times a week and I don't look bulky, just slim!



TACDGB
Posts: 6,130
12/11/12 12:36 A

I so do agree. I lift 4 days a week. I am not becoming a man. I look toned and am working on buidling serious muscles. I can see a big difference in my muscle deffinition.



CUTIEFUL024
Posts: 478
12/10/12 10:44 P

Ignited by multiple inbox messages from inquiring women about “not wanting to get too muscular” but still wanting to tone, I opted to write my views in attempts to debunk the myth. Ladies, IT WONT HAPPEN! Women who do look muscular definitely did not get that way by accident. It takes years worth of diligent lifting to gain any sort of “bulky” looky muscles. People spend hours and hours attempting to build muscle and often those that DO have muscle have put large sums of their time in energy to LEARN how to do this. Building muscle is a skill that takes practice. You’re not going to take that “total tone” class at your gym, do a full body circuit hitting each muscle group for a few exercises and end up with broad shoulders and bulging biceps by the next week. (And yes, some of us WISH it WOULD happen this way.. which is why it is so frustrating when people continue to believe this myth)..

Take me for instance, do I look muscularly bulky? No. I have been diligently lifting for YEARS in attempt to gain muscle. I spend close to 2 hours a day, 5-7 days a week lifting weights and I STILL have a lot of muscle to put on. Any “bulk” that I may appear to have comes from whatever eating habits I am displaying at any given time. (I.E- post competition it is common for people to put on at LEAST 10-15lbs and very common to put on even 30-50lbs!. I’ve never bulked up because of my muscle mass [unfortunately, lol]..this is another topic though)..When I am in the midst of competition prep and I AM shredded out so that my muscles show I still do not look bulky. On stage I stand around 5’4”, 108lbs. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would find that “big”. There was nothing big or bulky about the way I look. My body was achieved by using weight lifting to sculpt and firm my muscles. Cardio was merely a tool to shed the FAT that was around these muscles. The muscle mass you have does not make you bulky, the fat around those muscles is what will make you look big.

Those of you who continue to hold fast to the notion that you do not “need” to lift weights to reach your ideal of a fit body should really think twice. Coming from a previous/reformed cardio queen myself, I can assure you that weight lifting is the secret ingredient to carving your body into a nice, LEAN shape. Cardio will help you burn fat, yes..but too much cardio will ALSO make you start losing muscle mass. What happens here is that you become skinnier, but basically a smaller version of your current self..This has been termed “skinny fat”..you may be thin, but you still look soft and untoned. Cardio is, of course, very important to incorporate..but cardio alone will not get you the results you’re looking for.

Still not convinced? What if I told you the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will use up even simply at a resting state? More muscle=more food! When is that ever a bad thing!? Let’s not sprint away all our muscle on the treadmill. Muscle is GOOD to have. Albeit, as I have stated, you will NOT gain mass due to muscle unless you have committed much of your life to doing so.

I found an excerpt from one of my favorite weight lifting books. It is the first book I read that helped me understand how to put together a proper workout structure. Here is a passage to back up my writing:

Lou Schuler writes in The New Rules of Lifting for Women:

“... it's really hard to put on muscle size, it never happens by accident, and every bit of it is a sign of success against all odds. And that's with all the hormonal advantages that nature gives to men. Meanwhile, women, naturally deprived of the amounts of testosterone that would make muscle-building a more straightforward pursuit, worry endlessly about adding so much muscle.... So this brings me to the fourth dirty word [of women's weight training]: bulky. As in 'I don't want to get too bulky.'

I'll say this as simply as I can: Unless you're an extreme genetic outlier, you can't get too bulky."



All together, I hope that what you have gotten out of this is that your workout regimen would guarantee you the BEST results if you incorporate strength training into your regime as well as cardio. A combination of the two is going to allow you to 1) burn fat 2) build lean muscle 3) sculpt your body composition so that you have a nice shape. I hope that some of these points resonate with you. I wish I had let go of my stubborn ideas that an hour+ of cardio twice a day would be the only ingredient I needed to get my perfect body. I would have saved myself a lot of time and trouble when I first started out on my journey if I had just LISTENED to what the experienced fitness professionals were saying. I hope you can too!



 
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