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Toning vs. Bulking Up: The Real Facts

5 Myths and Truths about Strength Training

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  • good info, thanks
  • Working with a heavy weight won't turn most people into the incredible hulk. I've worked with many females who have used resistance training (with a weight that was difficult enough that they can only do about 10 reps) and getting huge like a body builder is not the outcome. Instead, their bodies would get firmer over time, they would develop some (but not tons of) muscle, and also would gain confidence and the strength to do things they had not before. Don't underestimate that last point because it is a great feeling to be able to lift your kid with ease or carry an extra bag or two of groceries into the house and find that these every day activities don't cause you the same trouble they used to.

    The bulky look that people talk about is typical when someone has added muscle but they still have a layer (or two) of body fat over that new muscle and it exaggerates their appearance.

    Finally, when attempting a challenging resistance exercise, initially we may not be mentally prepared to push ourselves to that level necessary to achieve results we're looking for. Really giving it your all and using all your might is something that some people will find a difficult thing to do. In that case we have to learn how to take it to that other gear where we are really giving our 100% effort. When adopting resistance training as part of your workout, if you're not working safely and correctly with a weight that is challenging you are wasting your time.

    I encourage you to find out just truly how strong you are and, with the guidance of someone who can direct you how to perform the exercises if you don't know how, get to moving some challenging weight and getting stronger! I promise you you'll be happy with the result.
  • The question that should be asked is, "So what if you get bigger if you get bigger if you lift heavy weights." Women have been told for centuries that they have to conform to a certain shape. The beauty box we all have to fit into never gets any bigger. It's time we all say FTS and just get in shape and stop listening to the people who say we have to be as small as possible. All of us will respond to training differently. We try to resist our shapes by trying to find that miracle workout, but our bodies, even when seriously fit, will be what they will be. If that means your thicker, so what? Are you healthy, living your best life, in the best shape? Great. Stop letting society dictate what you look like and telling you it's wrong to get big. Get fit. Get strong. Let your body be what it's going to be and thumb your nose at anyone who dares to tell you that you are taking up too much space. Own your space, women!
  • I really wanted to check out the link The Perfect Strength Workout for Beginners, but it took me to a blank page--disappointing.
  • WASMISSLEAD
    I wish people would stop saying it's not possible for women to build muscle like men unless they have a testosterone imbalance. I was a petite dancer and a gymnast with a "lean" and "toned" physic who never had to diet until I started lifting heavy. Huge mistake.

    Some women do build a lot of muscle. When women tend to have a higher percentage body fat than men, bulking DOES happen to quite a number of us. Women like me have to go on a deprivation diet when lifting heavy if we don't want to bulk up. It's no way to live. And it sucks to be told what is happening to our bodies is "impossible".
  • @clipperclop, as a woman, this happens to me as I tend to notice new muscle definition before I start losing the fat. Once my body fat begins dropping, the bulkiness goes away, and I'm defined and not bulky. I've seen men bulk up from spending their gym time lifting weights but they aren't doing anything to lose the fat. The husband of a friend of mine has been doing daily exercise including weights, plyometric, cardio, etc., and I noticed he went from being what I would consider a bulky muscular man to a lean muscular man.
  • SHAHAI16
    Will lifting too much weight keep me from losing weight? I heard you can't lose weight and gain muscle at the same time, and I don't lift excessively, but I do enjoy strength training. When I go to the gym, I usually do 30+ minutes of cardio and then 30+ minutes of strength training. I mostly do bodyweight/dumbell routines, but if too many people are by the free weights I do the machine. My boyfriend sometimes gives me a hard time that I can lift more than him, but I also weigh more than him so I think that's why. I can only bench about 150, but I can squat 250 somewhat easy (in the 8-12 reps range). Should I back off on the strength training and focus more on cardio? Also, when I do any kind of ab work, my tummy puffs up (but gets very hard). Is there a way to avoid this?
  • Since I've been working out I'm a 1/2 inch taller based on visits to the Dr....before working out I had a vitamin D deficiency problem which also has resided so there is so truth in lengthening your body through strengthening & stretching
  • PERSILDENEIGE
    I had the concern of bulking up when I work out, but the content of the article is pretty spot on. Last summer I was 30 pounds overweight and now I am in the best shape of my life (I'm 51). I owe a lot of it the weight training that I get in various classes like boot camp, and through individual weights and the machines. I am getting compliments galore, I have never experienced this before. In the gym, the ladies are asking me how I did it and I see them doing strength training now. Another thing I do is eat really well - I particularly make sure I eat protein after a workout. I am not skimping on either food or rest. One piece of advice for weight training: do the movement properly - don't practice mistakes. The instructors should be telling you how to lift properly, if you are unsure, ask. Control the movement and you'll get results. Trust me, if I can do this, anyone can - just under a year ago I was in bed with a bag of chocolate almonds crying my eyes out because my father passed away. After a while I decided he would not have been very happy with my state and got moving. My best to everyone.
  • I have been doing strength training now 8 months, and have NOT bulked up, but I am so much stronger, and KNOW IT! At 70, I now have muscle to spare. Thank you Eric and Mel at Quality Strength in Tucson , Arizona! We live STRONG!!!
  • very good article..I do want to bulk up. I am training to build serious muscles.
  • FREENINJA
    The key point, for me personally, is 'with a calorie-controlled diet' it is good to lift heavy weights. When I do not restrict calories and lift heavy (even eating 'clean', as recommended), I get huge for a woman (and yes, I have been jokingly referred to as the Incredible Hulk). I am a short mesomorph, so any additional weight is noticeable, and especially muscle weight. I love lifting heavy weights, and am extremely competitive (also prior military), but I honestly find that a restricted calorie diet combined with HIIT, body-weight exercises and pilates/yoga is the best for achieving the type of body I want (lean, strong, but considered 'thin' and no longer 'huge'). I think this article has some good points, but tends to be confusing to the ones like me.
  • This was a wonderful article, thank you. I've been reading about muscle building a lot lately; although this isn't exactly what I was looking for, it was at least the most clear & concise information I've seen on the subject so far.

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