Gwyneth Buys In to 'Bulking Up' Myth

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Gwyneth Paltrow recently appeared on “Oprah” and talked about the workout routine that helped her lose weight after her second pregnancy. Sounds juicy, right? Well, her trainer, Tracy Anderson (whom Gwyneth calls “the exercise genius of all time”) also offered some advice while demonstrating some of the workout moves. If you follow celebrity news at all, you might have already heard of Tracy Anderson, who also trains Madonna. I have to say, I’m more than shocked to hear the advice that this “trainer” gives to viewers.

Gwyneth started by saying, “I workout six days a week…I work freakin’ hard. It’s no accident.” To this, I say bravo! For once, a celebrity who actually admits working out to stay in shape instead of passing it off as if they don’t go out of their way to maintain their physique! Six days of exercise, like Gwyneth commits to, fits within the recommendations for most adults, and it looks like she's doing both cardio (dance routines designed by Anderson) and "strengthening" exercises (more on that soon). Unfortunately, the rest of the information in this video doesn’t continue on such a positive thread.

Gwyneth’s trainer says that she uses three pound weights and, “No woman should lift more than three pounds” when strength training because using light weights results in less bulk.

I’m not sure what university or training program Anderson may have gone through to become a celebrity fitness trainer, but it sounds to me like she’s doing a real disservice to women by perpetuating the same old unfounded myths, like:
  • Women who lift weights will become bulky. This is NOT true, yet many women believe it—probably because of hearing it from trainers and thin women like Gwyneth who swear by it. Women do not have the testosterone levels to build big muscles like men. And even so, muscles are good for you! They boost your metabolism, keep you strong, fit and independent as you age, and all that weight lifting strengthens your bones, too. And did you know that muscles can become stronger even without getting bigger? Later in the show, Gwyneth talked about holding her 30-pound son in one arm “all day.” She sure doesn’t look bulky for lifting 10 times the weight recommendation of her trainer, right?
  • Certain exercises will give you “long and lean” muscles. This is a myth surrounding all sorts of exercise programs from Pilates to ballet to lifting light weights. In fact, it is physiologically impossible to change the length of a muscle in response to exercise.
  • And that the only reason to exercise is to be skinny. It seems to me that this trainer isn’t trying to help women become healthier, stronger and fitter, but that she sees exercise as a means to an end (being skinny). In reality, it’s much more than that. And if you ask me, we too often focus on the aesthetic effects of exercising (which can be really unmotivating) instead of the most important benefits: being healthier, being stronger (and capable of lifting more than three pounds), feeling accomplished, and being able to handle day-to-day activities, and preventing disability and disease, to name a few.

I don't know about you, but it sounds like this trainer is saying what she thinks women want to hear, perhaps so that they'll buy her workout DVDs. No thanks!

You can see the full video from “Oprah” here. Oh, and if you’re not easily offended by strong language, here’s a hilarious (and factual!) response to this same video from another fitness blogger.

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YMWONG22 1/19/2020
Good info. Report
They say that your muscles shorten as you age, so that we need to do a lot of stretching to prevent that. When they say "long and lean", that's what they are talking about. In fact, in many other places on THIS site, this is the explanation given, so I think you need to get your facts straight on that. Lengthening muscles is a good thing. It can help prevent injury. Stretching also helps to clean your arteries a little bit, because your arteries are also stretched when you do the stretching exercises. Report
I think G looks in the best shape I've ever seen her at the moment...

But I didn't realise her trainer was so far off planet earth!!! That is very worrying that she's continuing to get airtime for her "theories".

I really, really wish that women would stop buying into the whole celebrity bull**** thing...WE - only US - are the ones that keep these nutters in business! Report
interesting! Report
OMG People actually pay this woman for her "expertise". And what the h*** was Oprah and her production team thinking. Give me a break. There are people out there who will take this whacko's advice as gospel. Especially since it came from Oprah's show.

I tried to view some of the comments that people had left and was unable to. My guess is that too many people left negative comments. Can't figure out why, can you! Report
I think it's too bad that this myth got spread on Oprah's show. It is true that some women do bulk up from using higher weights, but it is only a very, very small percentage that do, and it is easy to notice if you are bulking up and back off to lighter weights. Even a lot of men have trouble bulking up without the help of steroids and muscle-promoting protein shakes. Report
too funny.....LMAO Report
I work out inetnsively at least four days a week. I lift weights and I love it (110 pounds for the deadlift and I weight 114) I am not bulky but I am fit and I intend on getting fitter. Not only does exercise make thin it makes me strong, solid and confident. Thanks for a great blog. I find to many myth and rules of thumb are circulating in the media and in gyms as well concerning how much we should or should not lift. Why are women still listening to that stuff? Are we not done with being told what to do and how to do it all the time? Report
Five pounds of muscle vs five pounds of fat:

I worked up to squat 135 lbs. I am not bulky at all.

If she's that concerned, she should do some flexibility training as well as lay off steroids. Report
Great myth debunking!

"Women who lift weights will become bulky" is one of the biggest misconceptions. If you are a female afraid of the bulk, rest-assured…it’s not in your DNA! Testosterone is one of the main hormones responsible for increasing muscle size. Females naturally do not produce as much testosterone as males.

David's cardio-sculpting fitness method was modeled with women in mind. Resistance training is a key component to a sound wellness program. The combination of low weights (no higher than 5 lbs) and high repetitions (15 to 20) will help you build lean muscles without any added bulk.

The reality is this: Muscles are feminine too! The only way to get Sexy, Sinewy muscles is through a well-rounded fitness program. So have no fear, and pick up the weights!

Have you heard any other myths you want debunked? I’m here to answer any and all of your questions…

While I agree that its bull**** that women shouldn't lift more than 3 lbs, I did get one of TA workout DVDs just because I was bored and wanted to try a different work out method. I have to say that despite only using 3 lb weights it totally kicked my butt! Report
Wow, I've never heard about dispelling the myth of "long and lean" muscles. I've been under the impression that dancing and stretching keeps muscles from bulking and shortening. What a relief to know I can exercise in a way that I love and know I'm not doing it "wrong"! Report
i really liked it Report
Oh, and I would be selfish if I didn't share this inspiring link with all the ladies who know what weights can do for their bodies (or want to become informed about it): Report
Great article. Tracy Anderson is clearly playing a joke on us -- that or she's deeply misinformed. With that, I would like to address the comments from women who say they did in fact become "bulky" when lifting heavy. First, I have no doubt that some women are genetically predisposed to gaining muscle faster than average. Still, I can't help but wonder if they were indeed the manly looking creatures they claim to have looked like. The bottom line is, bulky is a very relative term, and there are women who are terrified of showing any signs of muscle definition. So even if some ladies claim they looked bulky and hated it, I would question if they indeed were huge, or if it was mostly in their heads (because their idea of "beautiful" is thin). Just saying.

The truth is, body builders work increadibly hard to put on that muscle. Most women could not achieve that without similar dedication. Additionally, bulking up takes time; if you look in the mirror and your muscles are just right, you can train and diet to maintain. Without a calorie surplus, your body cannot build muscle. Report
OMG this article is hilarious!!! ...........

(read through till the bottom when you have the time)

Thanks for a great read!

I guess I was a victim of believing that weight lifting would bulk me up.
Thanks for helping dispell the myth!
Xo.K Report
You can find newspaper articles all about how Tracy Anderson conned people in Fishers when she took their money, closed the gym and skipped town.
Just now read this blog & simply want to say thank you to Coach Nicole for continuing to give us the facts surrounding topics like this. It really helps me to keep things in perspective as I plan my fitness routine. Thank you, thank you! Report
Since Tracy Anderson works mostly with celebs who have "people" to lift heavy stuff for them, her clients would never NEED need to lift more than 3lbs. I agree with the other posters that people perceive Oprah's show as gospel and buy / believe / do whatever they see on there. It is sad that Oprah, with all her decades of experience in losing and gaining weight through various means, isn't more EDUCATED about what's true and right. I've been working hard at my health and fitness for a year and have learnt PLENTY. I'm like a walking encyclopedia. Why isn't she calling this woman on her bulltwang? Coz Gwynnie's her pal probably. Report
Well, Oprah will buy anything. If it`s the latest fad, you`ll find it on her show. I can`t stand her. I am always amazed at people who hear some ridiculous tidbit on her show and repeat it to anyone who`ll listen for weeks. It doesn`t matter that it is wrong, or perhaps just an opinion; no, it MUST be fact if someone said it on Oprah! Meanwhile, Oprah sits there, nodding thoughtfully, as if she completely concurs with whatever baloney the speaker is spewing. Report
I think if someone is going to watch Oprah and believe everything that is said on her program without researching it themselves, they deserve whatever results they get. Report
AHHH! What an idiot! And SHAME on her for spreading such nonsense on Oprah! No woman should lift more than 3 pounds??? What are we, invalids? That's downright insulting! I deadlift 80 lbs, curl 20 lbs, and my one rep max on the bench press is 70 lbs. Oh, and most people tell me I look thin. So there Tracy Anderson! :P Report
Lifting weights is good. Muscles are good. The trainer did a disservice to women by those statements. I deliberately tried to bulk up by lifiting heavy. I was up to doing 30lb curls and there was no build up. I actually lost body fat (did bodyfat test).

Hit the weights! Report
I am really thankful that some of you ladies have said you bulked up when you lifted heavy weights. I thought it was just me and that I was some kind of freak, because every article you ever read says women can't bulky. That's just not true. When I was in high school I took a weight training class that taught you how to use gym equipment. The class was structured around a man's (or football player's) workout and I got REALLY bulky. I was ashamed to wear tank tops because my shoulders and arms were so big and unfeminine. My quads were so muscular I looked a female body builder. It definitely wasn't the image I was shooting for.

I definitely don't subscribe to the 3lb weight idea. That's just ridiculous. But I do aim for high reps at a lower weight. And I know that muscles can't get "longer" but somehow mine do shape differently when I do yoga versus weight lifting, even with my low weights. I guess it's just a matter of finding what works for you. Lower weights works for me and Gwyneth. :) Report
This article was so necessary and I appreciated it very much. I have often heard so called experts and brush them off and say, "How can they get away with this? I hope people aren't taking them seriously." When I first read this quote, I was utterly disgusted and stunned that this was said on Oprah. I find that SO many Oprah fans are more "followers" than fans and take what she or experts on her show to heart without questioning any of it. Report
I've seen segments (not only on the Oprah show) and read pieces with Tracy Anderson's advice and tips. It's not right that with her high profile clients we don't always catch the negative and harmful advice that's given out. Report
Although I see the point about making a statement to the effect that women should not lift more than 3lb weights and a couple of other things Tracy said to millions of viewers on the Oprah show...her training "method" is kind of unique...i had not seen it before....definiately not for everyone...but if you have been training with heavier weights and you want to do something is definately that. It seems to promote more of a dancers' body and has the feel and appearance of a dancers workout theme....thus her training w Madonna and probably most of her celebrity type clients. It looks like you get a really good workout to me and if you kept it up long enough i am sure you would see results similiar to Gywneth ,if that is what you were looking for...i would try for the science of it all we would have to refer to our exercise experts such as ACE, ACSM, NASM etc.... Report
I pick up my 5 yr old around all the time - she's waaay more than 3 pounds.... LOL this trainer sounds like she got her credentials by reading the book "Myths about Exercise" and took them as fact..... *rolls eyes* - if I only lifted 3lb weights, then I'd never be able to - move furniture, lift the huge bags of soil that I use for gardening, buy in bulk at Costco (they don't help you out to your car), and any number of other things that actually requires some reall strength.

LOL - 3 pounds is a good place to start, but as you get stronger, it is good to increase the weight. That way you continue to get stronger & healthier. Report
Since my twins weigh 30 pounds each and I pick them up at the same time (it's very cute), does that mean I look like the Incredible Hulk without the green? According to this chick I'm lifting 20 times what I should. I don't know, but I have to go climb the Empire State Building and swat at some bi-planes now....... Report
I saw this episode when it aired, and I was a bit taken aback by the comment the trainer made about how a woman should not lift more weights and bulk up, and commenting that it doesn't look good. It was very disappointing to hear this after getting quite interested in Gweneth's routine. Thanks for posting this blog and letting people know the facts. Report
Ok, I am only going to speak about my experience. When I first lost 75 lbs, I did it by doing Pilates, treadmill, and strength training. When I started the strength training, I was using low weight, high reps 12-15. I loved the way I started to look. I was lifting more than 5 lbs...20 was the highest I would go.
A trainer at the gym approached me about a 6 week program to help me out more. I started using his technique by using high weight, low reps 10-12. I don't care what anybody says, I started to bulk up. My muscles were getting thicker and when I looked into the mirror, I saw a man's body. I HATED the way my body looked. The other men in the gym that I worked out with commented about how I looked in a positive way, but they thought I was training to be a bodybuilder.
When one of the guys asked me when I was competing and I said I wasn’t, he wanted to know why I was trying to bulk up. He told me to scale back on the amount of weight I was using and increase my reps. Huh, just what I was doing in the first place. I fired my trainer and went back to what I was doing. It took a while but I got my body back to where I wanted it. I am big boned and tall, I don't like to add bulk, heavy weight adds strength and bulk. I gained back most of my weight when life got complicated. Now I am back on track and have lost 20 pounds by using my old techniques.
If you want to check out a body built on this technique, watch a show called The Body Electric. The trainer on that program is over fifty and never uses anything higher than a 5 lb weight on her show. In the end you just have to find what works for you
There is no way Madonna is training with 3lb weights! Have you seen her deltoids? Ridiculous! Women who look bulky take steroids and testosterone. Period. We just do not have the levels of these substances in our bodies naturally to be able to grow large muscles like a man nor like those of bodybuilding competitors.

Lift the heaviest weights you can handle, ladies and work with fewer repetitions. You will shape your muscles beautifully, burn fat, stave off osteoporosis and become lean and strong in the process... Report
I'm a little late to the discussion. But because of my dvr I just watched that Oprah a few weeks ago.
I was shocked to hear the trainer say no women should lift over 3lbs, crazy!

However, the term too muscular is different for every women. I personally love the way some of the figure athletes look in Oxygen or muscle and fitness hers, but that is my opinion and MY preference. A lot of my clients like a look closer to Jennifer Garner or Kelly Rippa. A little thin and undefined for me but that is my opinion. Monica Brant or Jamie Easton are just too muscular to some women and that's ok.

Now where I do disagree with that trainer is on how much weight you should lift to get this "long, lithe" look. I can get a women strong and toned with the amount of definition they desire much quicker lifting 8 or 10lbs vs. lifting 3lbs. I am a very strong girl myself and light for me is 10-15 lbs.
I think a blanket statement of 3lbs is a huge disservice.
And like one other commenter said, you don't turn into Popeye overnight. The second I feel a body part is getting to muscular for ME, I back down on the weight. I am in total control at all times as to how I shape my body.
All you women out there can be too.

I think she does a huge disservice to the women who buy into this! Report
This was a good article, I like to hear others opinion on health. I guess if I had the money and time I would be thin. Report
I have a few things to say about this post. Firstly, I know from my own personal experience that women in fact CAN get bulky from lifting heavy weights. I did for about 6 weeks last year, in addition to taking CLA at the time (this was also a mistake. too much builds muscle up like you wouldn't believe!). Anyway, I lifted about 10-12 pounds, 3 sets of 10ish reps per exercise, probably 3 days a week. And the comments I heard from people were: You look manly! Wow, you're buff! Even some guy on the street when I was out felt compelled to touch my arms and say, Wow you have huge triceps!! ...erm, NOT the kind of attention you want from dudes you don't know. That's one.

Two, Gwenyth Paltrow is an ACTRESS. Actresses must stay little, thin, and slender, because they simply look better on camera that way. Also, their bodies need to be this way because it keeps them a neutral palette for inhabiting all sorts of different characters. Plus, when their bodies are flat and light (strong, but not bulky muscle) their movements become freer and less inhibited. I know these things, as both a health nut and an actress.

Bottom line: If your goals are to gain muscle mass and lose fat, lift heavier weights. It builds muscle and increases your metabolism (which Gwenyth doesn't care about because she doubtless eats like a bird and pays people lots of money to keep her eating like a bird). If your goal is to be as skinny as possible, which is clearly Gwen's goal (which I'm not advocating, it's not healthy) eat less, work out more, doing lots of cardio and lots of reps with very light weights.

Next. I'm all for everybody in the world no matter who they are sharing their opinion. But. Celebrities are not who we should look for to get health advice. They do many things that are not healthy. If many (not all, but most of the young ones at least) were to be completely honest, when asked how they stay thin, they would reply that their diet mainly consists of coffee, cigarettes, water, and not much else, and that they never exercise (they wouldn't have energy!!) This is not healthy long term. But most of them won't be working in the industry long term, so they don't care if they mess up their bodies.

Not to mention... Celebrities simply are not like you and I. Thier JOB is to make sure their bodies are exactly where they need to be to keep themselves working and making money. Unfortunately, being very thin does help you perform better (unless you're at the opposite extreme and are very heavy and play heavy characters). If you believe it doesn't help you perform better, at least you can see that because of the nature of the industry you wouldn't get many parts if your body wasn't looking good.
..and I'm done. Report
Yes you would be right, these muscly women you will have seen (probably female body builders) will have been on steroids. Even male body builders are, whether or not this is something they would admit I don't know, but I have known a couple personally and that is what they tell me.

In addition to that their diet is very strict, full of protein and includes very few carbs and even body builders only eat this intense diet in the weeks leading up to a competition. Also they dehydrate themselves right before the comps to make their muscles/veins pop out. Lovely. Report
Unless of course (which I wouldn't know this) women have to take steroids in order to become as muscular as a man... Report
I'm sorry, but I have seen women with big muscles before. So, what do you mean women don't have the testosterone levels to build big muscles like men? Maybe they don't but, I have SEEN women with big muscles some even bigger than men so I was just confused about that. Other than that one specific detail I agree this trainer sounds like they're just trying to make money on false accusations. Very wrong. Report
I wrote about this topic Monday on my blog:

link> http://nopinkdumbbell
-not-lift-more-than-3-lb.html /link

For those of you wondering why Oprah didn't challenge the 3 lb. comment, the trainer wasn't actually on the show, she appeared only in a taped segment showing Gwyneth's routine.

While I agree with Nicole about the benefits of exercising 6 days a week, 2 hours a day of of intense workouts 6 days a week is excessive and unnecessary, IMO.

I also somewhat agree with CraigL that trainers can have different opinions and that different training styles can work. However, there are some basics that all trainers should know. Unfortunately, there are under-educated trainers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. or those who don't keep up with current research.

For me, the most interesting part of the clip was when Gwyneth said that because she always carries her child around in the same arm, that arm is in better shape so Tracey makes her exercise the other arm more.

Did you catch that? The arm that lifts and carries the obviously heavier than 3 pound child is in better shape than the other arm!

Tracey actions contradict her theory. Too bad it's lost on this fitness "genius" .
You know what's crazy? Madonna and Gwyneth either a) know the truth and are sitting at home giggling that everyone watching the show is going to wimp it out with weights 3 pounds or less when they're capable of doing more or b) are paying this "trainer" gobs of money to fill their heads with misinformation. I'm betting it's the latter and I'm wondering if Gwyneth needs an "expert" on any other issues these days. Maybe one of us could get hired as a "financial planner" or "yoga enlightener" or gosh-knows-what for some sweet bucks. LOL Oh, I know! I could be her dietitian! Hey Gwyneth...drinking water only makes you bloated. Instead, you should be drinking lots of full sugar soda. The bubbles keep the water in it flushing through your system. Maybe use the soda to wash down some nice fast food cheeseburgers. The preservatives in them prevent wrinkles! Didn't you know? Well, I'm an expert and I say so. That will cost you $50,000. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA Report
That's ridiculous. It's sad that/when misinformation like that gets passed around as fact, by "experts" no less. :( Report
It is funny how all fitness trainers seem to have their own ideas of what is the right way and the wrong way to exercise. It seems as if some trainers do not recognize that others' opinions might have some value to them. Instead of critcizing other trainers who may think differently than you, why not try to glean some information that you previously might have discounted. Obviously, this trainer has formed a specific program for a specific woman and is seeing positive results from it. It is tiresome to hear once again, why a certain diet or exercise program is flawed. Report
Glad you printed this article. When i (did) watch this episode I had a feeling the trainer was full of it [sorry, language]. !! :-) Report
I hit the links in the article, and that gave me more links than you can imagine about Tracy Anderson and who she REALLY is. WOW!! I can't believe someone like that was on Oprah. It's like they didn't do any research on this woman at all. I was so amazed I wrote Oprah an email giving her links to all the stuff I found.
I'm still shaking my head! Report
P.S. i posted comments on Oprah's page: https://

post your comments--couldnt hurt Report
It's sad to know that there are plenty of people who would rather perpetuate a lie than the truth. For all of ya'll who do know the truth & discredit the lie--you have my utter respect. Maybe one century....the truth will be known: Muscle is Sexy, Women do not get "bulky" & there are women who LIFT HEAVY!

*snort* no more than 3lbs, please! Gwyneth's own pocketbook is more than three pounds. idiots! Report

It's so incredibly unfortunate that Oprah and Gwyneth know too little about training and exercise to have called the trainer on her comments. Could you imagine if any of us SparkPeople were in the audience at that moment when Tracy said, "No woman should life more than three pounds." We would have caused a riot!

I've been lifting weights for years and even with a 20lb dumbell in each hand, my biceps are covered with a thick layer of fat and don't exactly look bulky. I actually need to be strong for my job (stronger than anyone who only can manage a 3 lb dumbell!) so training heavy for me is a must!

Anyway, we ALL know that what this trainer said is a load of hooey. Now how do we go about educating Oprah? And you know what? Oprah says she trains everyday, so what is her excuse for NOT calling the trainer on her gross misinformation on "bulking"? Report
I'm just kind of shocked by this. I mean 3lbs? Really?

The reason why Gweneth and Madonna look so good must be all that cardio...and the strength is probably just a component of the cardio because they weigh so little that it makes their bodies work harder thus making them burn more calories...

Why wouldn't you want to be able to lift more that 3lb weights? I mean that's less than my purse weighs not to mention my work tote! Report