Yes, Women Can Lift Weights Without Getting "Bulky". Here's How!
If I got a hundred bucks for every girl who asked me how to lift weights without transforming into The Hulk, I probably would probably be, at least… a thousandaire. However, I can’t really fault them as there are so much misinformation out there and sifting through all the competing information takes grit and monumental amounts of patience. Just Google “best exercises for toning” and you will see endless “best exercises,” or “fastest way to burn belly fat!” If you don’t know where to look or how to look for good information, it’s easy to fall for traps that are designed to sell you products instead of providing help.
Notwithstanding how difficult it is to make that first informed step, women are more interested than ever to jump into strength training. Today, I want to finally set the record straight and quickly and briefly debunk three awful - and harmful - misconceptions about strength training and nutrition.
Myth #1: Lifting will bulk you up.
GETCHO HANDS OFF the pink weights! Not that there is anything wrong with the color pink - I admittedly own enough pink lifting gear to make Hello Kitty blush. But you know the ones I am talking about; those brightly painted 1-2 lbs abominations! Stay away, you’re better than that!
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
Veteran athletes train their entire lives to intentionally look like the hulk, so trust me: you are NOT going to become a green hulking monster ACCIDENTALLY. This is probably the most common misconception when it comes to women lifting weights, and it makes me want to hulk smash! Not that gaining massive amounts of muscle (for women) is impossible, but the women you see looking super muscular have been training for years, many are even on performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Moreover, the amount of dedicated training and intense discipline these women put in would shock most people. Saying that you are afraid you might accidentally become jacked is like saying you don’t want to practice your jump shot (merely one aspect of basketball) because you are afraid you might become Lebron James.
For more on this topic, you might want to peep the Grit Girls Gang (shameless plug: follow @gritgirlsgang on IG). We are a group of women, just like yourselves, that were once victim to misinformation and are now dedicated to shattering myths like the ones listed here while helping women foray into the world of strength training. Our goal at GGG, is to help women overcome their fear of heavy weights and and develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise.
Fact: Lifting heavy weights is the best way to re-shape your body.
Have you looked at yourself in the mirror and thought to yourself, “I wish i had a bigger butt” or “I wish my arms didn’t jiggle like a sack of jelly?” (wait is there such a thing?) Bad news is, most women will ask themselves this question at least once in their life. Good news is—a little work can go a LONG way when you are just starting and resistance training is the best way for you to re-shape your body in this regard. When it comes to ease and speed of attaining results no other kind of training even comes close. I was born with the flattest butt - for real - they looked like pancakes (and not the yummy fluffy kind even). I’ll be honest, it is still nowhere close to how I want it to be, but I’ve definitely made progress throughout the years. But one thing is for certain, it would never have grown if I did not go on a program specifically designed to grow my butt. Again, developing your body to your suite your taste takes a lot of DELIBERATE, strategic and systematic hard work. But don’t let that scare you, it may be difficult but it can be the most fulfilling and FUN hard work you will ever experience.
What constitutes “bulky” will vary.
I understand that what one woman may perceive as ideal may seem way too muscular for another. Nonetheless my advice remains the same: you will NOT accidentally become the The Hulk—under ANY standard. And trust me, even if you are into the “skinny” look, adding a little bit of muscle can only serve to enhance your look further.
Many of my clients who began with utter fear in their hearts of becoming “bulky”—progressed into gym addicts who could NOT stop chasing their next strength milestone. For them, what began as a ONE TIME ONLY end goal became the catalyst for a lifetime pursuit of strength and fitness.
SIDE MYTH BUST: And for you younger readers, lifting heavy weights will NOT stunt your growth either. Conversely, engaging in sports and weightlifting, has been repeatedly shown to support bone formation and growth during and after puberty.
Myth #2: You can spot reduce fat.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard something like this before: “get that six pack of your dreams with this belly fat blasting ab workout routine” or “ cook off that muffin top with my side bend insanity workout!” Raise your other hand if you know absolutely NO ONE that actually achieved the results as advertised. If you’re like most people chances are, you are raising both arms high up in the air right now (you did actually play along right?). The science is clear: NO amount of TARGETED resistance training will enhance the rate of fat loss in THAT SPECIFIC AREA. For example, direct abdominal work, like crunches, will not make you lose belly fat faster than the rest of your body. Similarly, tricep extensions alone will not remove the layer of fat giving you “jiggly saggy arms.” While there is enough evidence to show that exercise activity ITSELF is NOT the best way to lose fat (more on that later), you will be better off with full body exercises and improving overall fitness than trying to spot reduce fat with targeted body part exercises.
I may seem like I am contradicting myself here: Am I advocating weight training or saying it is pointless? Here is the lesson behind all this: If you already possess an athletic body fat percentage (around 18% for women), then specifically training body parts will enhance their look and visible hardness. On the other hand, if you are at a higher body fat percentage and just want to lose some of it: Focus on your diet FIRST. Which leads me to my third myth.
SIDE MYTH BUST: That feeling of “the burn” is NOT the fat burning off that area.
Myth #3: Cardio is the best method for fat loss.
No other myth bust has garnered me more judgy and doubtful side eyes. Yet, similar to how we wont suddenly become the Hulk by lifting weights; neither will we become J.Lo by running alone.
If you love to do cardio, great, you can definitely incorporate that into your fat loss plan! On the other hand, if fat loss is your primary goal and if you’re the kind of person that dreads even the thought of a treadmill, you’re in luck: YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT! While good at supporting your overall fat loss regimen, cardio alone will provide you with very discouraging results. Cardio isn’t efficient at burning fat because of how little calories the activity burns over time. An overweight 200 lb man who runs at a moderate pace for 60 minutes a day, 4 days a week, for 30 days while eating at caloric maintenance would only lose up to 5lbs. Furthermore, if he wasn’t absolutely RELIGIOUS with this regimen, he would lose even less. That’s A LOT of work for very very little gain—especially if you hated every second of that run.
Fact: You cannot out exercise a terrible diet.
The reason why you cannot rely on cardio alone to lose fat is that exercise activity accounts for such a small amount of total calories used in a day or total daily energy expenditure (TDEE): which is around 5-20%. Simply put: you CANNOT OUT EXERCISE BAD NUTRITION because exercise itself burns so little fat. On the other hand, eating what most people consider a “moderate” amount of food can pack on plenty of subcutaneous fat that make us jiggle, or worse, gain visceral fat which is associated to a number of metabolic diseases.
READ: This Is Why You Should Be Eating Carbs
Once again, the good news is that the solution is rather simple; reduce the calories you consume while increasing your basal metabolic rate. Caloric restriction isn’t as ominous as it sounds. It simply means being in a hypocaloric state—or consuming less calories than your maintenance. This deficit can be as low as 100 calories, THAT'S just ONE Reese’s pieces peanut butter cup. Believe me, you can handle ONE less cup a day. For reference, an active 5’3, 130 lbs. woman could consume around 1,850 calories. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is basically the energy we use to keep us alive. While we can’t tell our bodies to burn more calories when we think or breath (sure we wish we could though), we can help increase it just by incorporating more movement in our life. We can increase our BMR by simply choosing to walk more (now you can save the environment, your money AND energy with one change). An average person reaches 2,000-3,000 steps per day, just by increasing our steps to 8,000-10,000 will already increase our BMR. However, if you want to supercharge your BMR, you need to convince your body she needs to. You can do this by lifting some heavy a** weights! Increasing our body’s muscle mass requires more energy to be maintained and that automatically increases our resting metabolic rate (a.k.a. BMR) — that means an extra slice of pizza for you!
SIDE MYTH BUST: Your metabolism does NOT slow down during sleep. So you do NOT need to eat less before sleeping, in fact consuming most of your calories towards the end of your day can have many benefits.
DITCH THE SCALE ?????? _ It’s funny to think that just 2 years ago, I would obsess over weight loss. Putting on a pound or two was earth shattering. _ 7lbs heavier and I’m not only feeling much better, but I am also loving my shape! I even forced myself to put on weight to speed up muscle growth in the last 4 months (that’s why I lessened posting photos first because I didn’t want to freak you out, yes I got pudgy in the process — that’s why it’s called “bulking” but I’ll share everything soon tho!??). Ladies, weight is not always the end all when it comes to fitness. In fact, it might even be holding you back from achieving the body of your dreams! _ I share my learnings and experiences with you all so that you can skip out on the BS going around and debunk all the myths that we were all made to believe in the past. I can’t wait to share more as I see more improvements. Knowledge is power and food is fuel! Now go get those gains! ?????? #chickswholift #carbcycling #gains
Remember that sustained caloric deficit, progressive resistance exercise and sufficient protein are pillars of fat loss. When we start to lose weight, out body fat will also start to lessen depending on the sequence our genetics laid out for us. It might first come to your face, then your limbs and eventually will go to your belly. My advice? STAY CONSISTENT AND KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE.
Check out this exclusive weight training video by Ida Paras for Metro.Style:
Video by Spotlight Creatives. Photos from @ida_paras and @gritgirlsgang