In the years I have spent in the health and fitness industry, one of the most common concerns that has been brought to my attention has to do with women and weight training.
“I’m afraid to lift weights because I don’t want to bulk up. I don’t want to look like a man. I want to be lean and toned, and I want to lose weight and feel good about my appearance.”
I get it. Being a woman, I know that I’d prefer to maintain a sleek and feminine physique instead of a manly shape – and these things would come to mind if I didn’t know anything about exercise. However, it’s important to realize that lifting weights greatly enhances our fat loss capabilities – and offers us plenty of additional benefits to our health and well-being. So with this being said, can you lift weights without bulking up?
The answer is yes, but there are a few things you’ll need to know in regard to how this works.
The Truth about Strength Training
In an effort to ease your mind about including a weight training routine into your exercise program, I’m going to let you in on something; building (not bulky just lean) muscle is what gives you that beautiful, toned physique you are looking for – and offers a multitude of other advantages as well. In fact, building muscle plays a huge role in weight loss. One reason for this has to do with the fact that muscle is metabolically active.
What this means is that in order for muscle tissue (otherwise known as lean mass) to maintain its form, it uses energy. This energy requirement comes in the form of calories. In other words, when you add some muscle to your frame, you stand to burn additional calories at rest.
This is only one of many reasons why a strength training program is an excellent addition to a workout program. However, you might still be wondering “How can I build muscle without getting big?”
Here’s what you need to know.
1 – Different Training Protocols Produce Different Results
We see men (and female bodybuilders) in the gym, lifting weights and we assume that if we were to do the same, we’ll look like them.
Not that they look bad, but this may not be what you’re looking for. You have to understand that these people follow specific training protocols in order to look this way, and chances are that YOU won’t be training nearly as hard as they do, nor taking the specific bulking products that they take.
These are individuals who are intentionally looking to increase their size, while you aren’t. Their overall goal is to get BIG, so their weight training routine follows accordingly.
And since you have a completely different outcome in mind, you won’t get the same results that they do.
2 – The Bulk You’re Seeing is Only Temporary
Approximately 2-4 weeks into your program, if you have been steadily lifting weights (2-3 times per week) and increasing the need for additional strength to support your efforts, your muscles may start to increase in size.
This is called muscular hypertrophy.
If you do happen to find that you’re experiencing a feeling of bulkiness, I can assure you it isn’t “all in your head”.
The reason for this is because you are building muscle tissue underneath the fat you’re carrying around and therefore, pushing it out and making it seem as though you are getting bigger.
However, this is temporary – and believe it or not, it’s actually good news because muscle, as mentioned earlier, is an asset to any weight loss program.
A pound of muscle tissue is small and dense as compared to a pound of fat (think baseball vs. large grapefruit). As you continue to lose weight (fat), the muscle you have built underneath will offer you a lean, shapely and well-defined appearance.
In this case, you’ll just need to give it some time – and make sure you’re doing everything you can to support a healthy weight loss program. Eating the right foods and including several different varieties of fitness programs will give you some excellent results.
How to Safely Begin a Weight Training Program
Whether you are new to exercise, or have taken a hiatus, the safest way to incorporate a resistance training program into your life is to start light and work your way up.
You may begin by lifting some lighter weights, doing approximately 15-20 repetitions to start, and gradually progressing to 8-12 repetitions using heavier weights to “failure” (meaning, you can’t lift the weight using proper form after the last repetition).
Allow your bones, muscles and tendons some time to become properly acclimated to a strength training program for a few weeks. The idea is to become familiar with utilizing proper lifting techniques before increasing resistance (heavier weights).
Lastly, permit your body to undergo the initial changes that are required for the results you are looking for to take effect.
Think of it this way, if you were to get your kitchen redone, you wouldn’t form your opinion of the outcome while witnessing the demolition phase of the renovation, right?
Of course not.
You would first see the chaos – and only after some time, effort and work might you be able to get a glimpse of the fantastic final product you’ve have your heart set on. It works the same way in regard to weight training and fat loss.
So don’t fret. Stick with it, but make well-being and great, natural nutrition your ultimate goal and enjoy the journey. You’ll stick with it for a lifetime – and you’ll appreciate the changes you’ll go through during the process.