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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Just one more celebrity trainer trying to make a buck (and unfortunately she will) off of those of us wanting to look like someone else. I wonder what Bob Greene had to say to Oprah about this segment. Report
I worked out at Tracy's for about a year and a half in Indy before she packed up (took our money too) and moved to LA. She got lucky that Gwyneth and Madonna liked her program because both her studios went down the drain.

She does not know anything about exercise but rather invested in the reformer and was a good dancer. We had trainers who worked on butt-kicking pilates routines for us and Tracy (for awhile) taught an hour of cardio dance of day - that's why everyone lost weight and looked good.

She's just a big phoney with no morals. Report
I saw this Oprah show and just rolled my eyes at the things this woman said about bulking up and being skinny. I have worked out 6 days a week for over a year now I am not skinny and I do not have bulky muscles in my arms and I am up to 12 pounds in each hand with my free weights. I am much stronger and have much more endurance while lifting than I did a year ago. I do have large arms and legs but I also have tons of loose skin and my legs got big and strong carrying a lot of weight for many years when I weighed 270 pounds.
I've already left comments on my opinion of the trainer and her 3lbs.

On the plus side it made me realise how little strength training I have been doing, so I kicked of some serious strength training again last night. I am a bulker so I feel awesome already. If only I can reduce the fatty layers over the top of those pretty pretty muscles Report
Oh my goodness I am SO shocked that Oprah let this trainer promulgate this information on TV when its a blatant untruth. This makes me upset... I hate having that conversation w/ women who think that they can't go above lifting 5 pounds because their muscles will get too big. Wow.... Report
3 lbs???!!! As far as I am concerned, 3 lbs dumbbells are only good as paper weights. I use 3 lbs to get down while SCuba diving with a thick wetsuit but that's all it's good for. Even my 5 lb dbs are retired as paperweights.

I've been busting my butt to gain bulk over the last 10 years with 25-30 lb dumbbells and it hasn't happened yet. Even men only gain 7-8 lbs of muscle a year busting their butts. If women could bulk that easily there would be more heavy weight natural female body builders and they wouldn't have to take testosterone or steroids. Report
Thanks for the information.

Great article. Report
Wow, where did she get her training? Trainer that is.

I lift more than 3 lbs in the bag I carry to work each day. The abs class I was taking had us lifting 10 lb weight, of course! I didn't get bulky!!! What nonsense this gal is talking. I hope people don't believe her without getting more info from research.

I'm surprised Oprah didn't speak up about this herself. She works out and trains often doesn't she? I doubt she uses 3 lb weights too! I hate that everyone will watch that show and believe it...UGH! Report
Tracy Anderson is an idiot!! K... is dead on!! Report
Wow, what terrible advice for this "trainer" to be giving out to women. Report
The stupidity out there! It goes to show you that anyone can call themselves a trainer. Exercisers beware!! There is so much false info out there but thankfully, Spark is here to set it all straight! Thanks Spark! And thanks, Coach Nicole!! Report
I am so very glad you did this article. I was very upset when I saw the TV show and heard this wrong information being given out. It just goes to show that even someone with enough resources can end up with a trainer who really does not know what she is talking about.

Weight training (resistance training... same thing) is absolutely essential for weight loss because lean muscle mass uses far more calories. It not only improves the tone of ones body, but even our bones are better using this kind of exercise.

But 3 pounds is nothing. It is not truely resistance training at least not for most adults. Maybe it is appropriate for someone with an injury, or for someone brand new to exercise. So, it does have its place.

I saw in that TV show these stretchy bands that she has installed near the cealing. Resistance bands can give a lot more resistance then 3 pounds. I bet Gweneth is getting a great resistance workout but she is resisting against far more then 3 pounds worth.

It is also clear that she eats well. Bulking up is more likely to happen when one eats 3,000 or more calories a day. I know I can easily bulk up by lifting just a 3 pound pizza a couple times a week. Report
I saw that Oprah show and wondered where that trainer got off saying 3lb maximum weights. I can't believe Oprah didn't speak up since, like you said, she has tried everything that does not work. Thanks for the links to Tracy's misadvetures. Like my mom always says, if it sounds too good to be true it is. Makes me wonder if Tracy utilizes some other means too stay so slim, can we say methamphetamine or cocaine? Report
I didn't see the show but this is not the first trainer I've heard saying something like that. It's a strange concept that people believe women who lift heavy weight will look like Arnold. Madonna said she got her body by doing Yoga. Right! Like I would believe that for one second. Report
3 pounds?!?!?!! man she must be weak. i LOVE lifting weights soooo much. i spend like 30-40 minutes lifting 8-15 pound dumbbells and it feels good. i just have to do less reps. people think i'm fat but i always look at them disgusted and ask "don't feel bad just because you can't lift up a gallon of milk and i can lift 4 cinderblocks(sp?)...unlike you, i'm going to live longer" Report
Wow, this is sad. I wonder where she got her degree? I can't help but think the only thing she didn't say was it was good exercise, but would support, would be to put your hair in a ponytail and let your husband pull you around the room. Report
This woman must not be married or have kids or she would know that there is no way that you should only just lift only 3 pounds. As a kid I would lift a 50pound bag of potatoes and carry them on my shoulder. Now I am being told that I should only lift 3 pounds. Get real. Report
I hardly ever lift anything UNDER 3 pounds (jug of milk, kids, etc)! I started with 5 lb dumbells a few years back for Pete's sake. I use 12s now. Just right for me. Report
Many trainers have their own philosophies. Different techniques work for different people; this is largely dependent on the results one is seeking. One style doesn't fit all all. I trained traditionally for eight years- hard cardio, hard strength training, competitive sports. I was fit, lean, and muscular. And healthy. But, I didn't like the shape of my body. It was bulkier than I cared for. Some women do experience this training effect, much to their chagrin. Granted, it is a vanity concern, not one of health. When I shifted my routine to calisthenics, low-weight circuit training, and ballet-style lower body workouts, my body completely changed. I wouldn't go back. (And, I can still lift as many groceries as my husband. ) Report
That's disappointing because so many women live by Oprah and the information they get from the show. Report
My first thought on the "no woman should ever lift more than 3lb":

"So let me get this straight - I'm not supposed to lift more than 3lb, but I am simultaneously supposed to carry groceries, carry a child, lift said child in and out of bathtub/bed/swing/car/carseat/etc.,
wash floors (which usually involves lifting a bucket of water that weighs far more than 3lb), wash windows, carry laundry, carry a full diaper bag, and make beds (which also involves lifting stacks of blankets/sheets that weigh more than 3lb).

Talk about a load of you-know-what!

I do argue that lifting weights CAN make you "bulk up" - women will build muscle, up to a point. The key is that most women will not build an "excessive" amount of muscle beyond that point - we won't end up looking like body builders (even the female ones) unless we are specifically eating and working in that direction.

I think most of what women think of as "bulking up" is actually just that their muscles (especially biceps and triceps) finally become big enough to show through the fat on their arms, or they finally lose enough of that fat to see the muscle definition.

Which is a GOOD thing! Report
It is really frustrating to hear this trainer say that. You know Madonna did not get the biceps she has from lifting "3 pound weights". I finally got back into a lifting routine this past summer and started with 5 pound weights. In just 4-5 months I'm up to 15 pound weights for most exercises and have not by any means "bulked up". In fact, if I had continued to use only 3 pound weights I would have plateaued or even lost ground long ago!

It is sad that this "celeb trainer" is saying this because unfortunately our society does look to celebs (and their trainers) for guidance on body image since that is what Hollywood is about so much. Hopefully when SP readers see this they will let their friends and others know the truth...and look for information in more reliable SP! Report
I love ST and I am not bulky at all. I don't know what kind of person whould brain wash a woman into thinking that she can't ST. I can do 40lbs benchpress and 180 legpress. Even my lats can pull down 70-80lbs! In fact since I have increased my weights this month my thigh has lost .25in and so did my arms. I attribute ST to my overall leaness and I think it is fun.
"should never lift over 3 lbs" What is that going to do for you. If she picks up her kids she is getting more of a workout then what her trainer is doing.
Just because they are trainers does not mean that you can beleive everything they say. You should always do research on your own. Report
The fitnessfixation response was HILARIOUS! Report
I have increased my weights (dumbells) to 10 pounds and I am certainly not bulky! I agree with Swim_Mom - just trying to use celebrity status to sell sell sell. I bet Madonna lifts more than 3 pounds and she has GREAT arms! Report
While I agree with many of the comments about the ridiculous 3 lb limit, the one thing that struck me about this segment is the Paltrow admitted that it takes a LOT of hard work to make the progress she's made. She works out 2 hours a day/6 days a week. And by someone who works her butt - she's not sitting on a stationary bike reading a book, or leaning over an elliptical machine and not getting her heart rate up.

That's the positive I took away from that.... Report
what i find most rediculous is the assumption that women don't want to "bulk up." *jumping up and down yelling 'but i do but i do!' and a lot of my friends do too! what's sexier than a woman with really cut shoulders? in my opinion...nothing! 3 lb weights sure wouldn't do the trick. Report
I meant "3 pound MAXIMUM" Report
Okay...well....all I have to say is that I do own Tracy Anderson's Mat Workout DVD and I LOVE IT. I do disagree with her on the whole "3 pound minimum" thing, but besides that, she has a great workout. The types of exercises and moves that she does is completely different from anything I've ever done before and is super, super HARD. Out of all the workout DVD's I have owned, this one is definitely my favorite. I can understand why everyone is attacking her on the whole 3 pound comment, but honestly I say, "Forget she ever said that and just do her workout. I promise you'll love it." Report
This is as bad as when Mariah Carey went on there talking about her 14 pound weight loss as if she'd loss 114!!! And Mariah's trainer say's girls shouldn't life ANY weight. She has her extend her arms and flex her wrists up and down. She looks like a baby bird trying to take off. I was in a ball on the floor laughing. The laughing is the only exercise you'll be getting from this but have a look
/ Report
Ugh, I can't believe this is STILL going around as fact. You need a calorie surplus to increase muscle mass, and if you're trying to lose weight, you're most likely on a deficit. And those women who look like Arnold Schwarzenegger? They eat gigantic amounts of food, have intense training, and probably a little "help" from the sidelines. Maintaining muscle mass while losing weight is the best way to keep losing and keep it off since muscle burns more calories than fat, plus strength training is great for your bone health.

It gets really annoying to hear that my arms are going to balloon up overnight because I lift something over 5 pounds. I even hear this from my mother, yet she still agrees to be my spotter (God bless her). Report
It's a known fact that endurance athletes are lean, and strength training athletes are muscular (or "bulky" as everyone likes to call them)... Well, fortunately for women, we don't have the testosterone levels required to create that much BULK with ease... even when we DO lift HEAVY weights! (Give it a try, you will see that you don't become Popeye overnight, nor without a proper nutrition program!)

Lifting heavy weights is the fastest way to kick up your metabolism to burn more body fat and keep your body lean and strong and healthy for years to come: wether you are a man or woman!

Well, what a relief to hear that I should never lift over 3 lbs! Someone else is going to have to put that turkey into the oven this Thanksgiving! LOL Report
Oh, and I disgree that celebrities shouldn't share their opinions. Their opinions are no less valid than any of ours. I don't think she's pretending to be an expert by having an opinion, no more than I am. Report
I disagree with the trainer that women shouldn't lift more than 3 pounds, but I also disagree with the comment in the article that women can't bulk up. Some women can build muscle quicker than others. I think saying that women can't bulk up is like saying that we all have the same body types and should have the same expectations for how our bodies look. Some women can get more muscular than they'd like when lifting weights and have to alter their workouts accordingly. Report
I saw that episode of Oprah, and I gasped out loud when Tracy Anderson said women shouldn't lift more than 3 pounds. I thought that was one of the most ridiculous things I'd ever heard come from the mouth of an "expert," so I'm glad to have you set the record straight! I noticed too in the interview that Gwyneth, while she has a great body, said she eats pretty much whatever she wants. So it seems that she sees working out as a way of staying skinny, not as a way to be healthier. And there's a difference. Report
Geez .. so what if they made a silly comment about weights...what they showed was part of her w/o was in no way EASY... I don't believe she is taking the easy way out lol..she works hard.. not many people can commit to what she does and GOOD FOR HER!! She (Gwen) was not pushy, or stating what she does is the only way... she was sweet, smart and sexy... and is one of the few stars that has her head on straight... KUDOS to her!! As for her trainer, I liked the show but found the stuff tooo hard for me as I am partially disabled now but would have loved to try some of her DVD' it is very hard to find one DVD that u love the whole thing anyway. Neither lady was pushy, nor was Oprah, don't take things soo serious.. Do what is good for you!!! :) Report
What really drives me crazy when I hear things like that is the fact that there are so many people who will hear a celeb trainer say something and take it as gospel truth! And since it is on Oprah, well, it must be true! UGH!

Just because someone has a nice body doesn't mean they know all. Report
Although I love to watch Oprah, this was not one of her best shows. In fact, I turned it off after the trainer gave the 3-pound weight limit advice. HUH?? I use 5-pound dumbbells at the moment and hope to increase over time. I'm not bulked at all! I don't pay attention to Hollywood anyway. Great blog and discussion! Report
A previous poster said it best... if women could only lift 3 lbs, we'd be in trouble. Around here, we'd have no one to carry the children, tote 25 lb bags of clay upstairs, or wash the dog!

If you want another fit, praise-worthy celebrity, check out Cameron Diaz - someone who was always skinny and discovered the benefits of working out anyway. Report
I did not get to see the show! but if people want to get buy with just doing the easy... that is all they will get, no results!!! Report
I'm not disagreeing that lifting only 3 pound weights will avoid bulking up. It will avoid many things, including a better physique, better bones, better tone...when did a woman having muscle become a bad thing? Can we not be beautiful AND strong? Report
I wish actors would be quiet and just do their jobs. They seem to think they're experts on everything. I'm far more concerned that her trainer would say such silly things. Report
THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting your thoughts on the RIDICULOUS comment by Gwyneth's trainer that women shouldn't lift heavier than 3lbs. I was so upset when she said that. And absolutely agree with you that she did a major disservice to women. Lifting 20, 30, + lb weights CHANGED my body that no amount of cardio or using 3lb weights could've ever done. Report
Hey, celebrities can be as easily duped as the rest of us. I don't know how many people who actually believe this. So many sources are claiming it. And I know I can't convince them otherwise because I have muscles everywhere! Always have! And I've just come to accept that I have enough testosterone to cause me to bulk up, but I don't think I'll ever get BIGGER than I already am. Report
So sorry that this "celebrity" trainer is buying into appearances rather than healthy benefits of strength training and exercise. Perpetuating these "myths" and "mores" that put most of us in the overweight/obese category because they are unreal is down-right criminal. I am surprised that Oprah didn't see this one coming. I usually consider her a level-headed, good thinking personality. Wow, was this one wrong! Thanks for bringing this up! Report
I laugh at these celebrities. They have LIPOSUCTION and tummy tucks to deal with the problem and then claim it all came from exercise with three pound weights. RIGHT. As a cosmetic surgeon said about the MISS UNIVERSE contestants :Why should they go home and DIET and EXERCISE for six months, because you CAN'T Spot-reduce, when I can do it for them in 40 minutes of surgery? Enough said. Report
Once again I live in the real world and just want to be healthy and happy. I don't give a darn about so called "MOVIE STARS"
I wish people wouldn't believe everything you hear. Opera has had some great trainers on. I wonder if she believes the 3 pound theory herself, if so a lot of her trainers had her using heavier weights. Celebs are not the best role models but they are the most visible and unfortunately so many people are willing to believe everything they hear on TV especially on Oprah. Report