"I don’t want to lift weights because I don't want want to bulk up" is phrase that I often hear from women concerned with putting on so much muscle that they lose their femininity.
If this your concern I will cover in this blog why you have nothing to worry about, why you should lift weights, what it takes to actually put on mass, and how challenging it is to maintain muscle.
I DON'T LIFT WEIGHTS, I DO CARDIO
Generally speaking, most women start a fitness program with the goal of losing weight. Along the way cardio only fitness workouts somehow became the norm. I have had members that can out row, bike, and run me but struggle to do any exercises using more than 10 pounds.
While cardio has amazing benefits and must be included in any program, the problem with cardio only programs is that you become the skinniest AND WEAKEST version of yourself.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE HORMONES
Of course there are genetic outliers that allow some women to pack on the muscle but most ladies will not bulk up like men, because they have a different hormone profile.
Men have more testosterone, which promotes muscle growth. For women their hormone profile has about 15%-20% less testosterone than men.
It is also important to understand that (generally speaking) men are born with more muscle than women as reported in Journal of Applied Physiology. Taking from a sample from 468 men and women, men had significantly more skeletal muscle mass in comparison to women in both absolute terms (33.0 vs. 21.0 kg) and relative to body mass (38.4 vs. 30.6%).
WHY WOMEN SHOULD LIFT WEIGHTS
First in my opinion a strong independent woman is extremely sexy. In addition, a strong physic and good posture brings a level of confidence for any person that impacts every aspect of life.
An athletic build brings a level that help in relationships, careers, and just life in general. The physiological impact about feeling good in your skin is amazing; I have personally witnessed changes in behavior with members that started shy, they later became more out going, changed style of dress, and even experienced promotions at their jobs!
Women won't bulk up when they start lifting weights. What they will do, though, is loose body fat and earn the "toned" appearance so many people are after.
If you train an average of 3 times a week for two months you can expect to gain around about two pounds of muscle, but you will lose over 3.5 pounds of fat. This is possible because as you increase your lean muscle mass so does your resting metabolism so you can actually burn calories up to 72 hours after a workout!
Unlike fat that likes to hang off the body, muscle is attached to the skeletal system. So training with weights will lift things that are sagging and tighten things that are fluffy. So, in fact what you will gain is nicely defined muscles that will add the curves you want!
MORE THAN PHYSICAL APPEARANCE AND WEIGHT LOSS
The benefit of lifting weights is that you can actually eat more! Now this is not a green light to load up fast food, chips, or sugary drinks, besides once you start seeing the results and feeling great you won't want that stuff! However with your increased activity you will need more complex carbs to keep up the energy and more protein to maintain the lean muscle that has been added to the skeletal frame.
Now we all know that lifting heavy objects will make you stronger which refers to overcoming resistance (think bench press, deadlift, squat to name a few) but it will also help increase your explosive power.
Power is the ability to over come resistance in the shortest amount of time. That means you can lift heavier weights when using the explosive power of the body (clean, snatch, or push press for example), you will be able to jump higher, kick and punch harder.
Lifting weights will also increase speed, coordination, and balance. Kettlebells are a great tool because the position of the center of mass is constantly changing forcing the brain fire on all 12 cylinders to compensate for the shift in directions. In addition the core stays engaged throughout all the explosive movements like a kettlebell swing, clean, and snatch. Not only will you get a flat stomach doing these movements but they also target the posterior chain helping you form that nice round butt everyone is chasing!
By lifting weights you will also strengthen muscles and possibly fix imbalances with body mechanics that will help with poor posture issues.
With a proper program (like Punch Fit TV!) you increase your energy and stamina. No longer will you be parent on the sidelines glued to a phone while the kids play, no you will be out there acting like kid yourself! Your children will call you the cool mom and other kids will be jealous that you aren't their parent but the best part is you will still have energy when you get home!!
Women that lift weights will reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve bone density to help prevent osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease common in older women.
Resistance training also helps with mood as pointed out be Dr. Olivia Okereke, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in a recent article released by Harvard Medical school (CLICK HERE).
In addition physical activity reduces stress by releasing endorphins (the feel-good hormones). Although both cardio and strength training stimulate your body to release endorphins, your body produces more endorphins in a faster period of time when you're weight lifting than when you're doing cardio. Less stress means better sleep which brings us back to better mood.
STILL DON'T BELIEVE ME?
Most people don't put in enough time or effort to create the kinds of physiques they are trying to avoid. It takes several years to put on the kind of mass that bodybuilders have, and there's a reason professional bodybuilders are an elite few: They put in work that most people won't.
Aneta is a great example of the amount of effort it takes a woman to BUILD and more challenging MAINTAIN muscle growth.
It starts with making sacrifices that include almost eliminating sugar, dairy, alcohol, pasta, bread, ya know the fun stuff.
Aneta has to monitor her chloric intake as well as macronutrients to the gram that include high quality nutrients from protein, complex carbs (yes I said carbs!), and fats.
Next Aneta cooks all her own food and rarely eats out. Each meal is properly proportioned, organized, and packed to be eaten throughout the day.
If that is not exhausting enough next comes the workouts! Aneta starts everyday with calisthenic and core work, then comes resistance training, cardio, and then finishes the night with more cardio.
Throughout the day she works with clients and also exercises with them and by the end of the day Aneta will have completed 3-4 hours of working out!!
So if you can only attend the gym 3-5 times a week, eat healthy 60%-80% of the time, and like to occasionally indulge in a treat it is very likely you will see changes in your body but won't have to worry about bulking up.
Further proof it is hard to maintain muscle mass is what happens when Aneta competes. All that hard work quickly starts to go away when Aneta adjusts her training for NPC competition due to the fact that has to drop her body fat down to 10-14%. This is accomplished between calorie restriction and increase in activity.
This is very difficult to maintain and can only be done about 3 weeks up to a competition. In this picture you can clearly see how this impacts Aneta’s muscle mass.
In this photo Aneta has dropped to under 120 pounds, while she is extremely tone and tight the bulk is gone in just a matter of weeks.
In closing ultimately you decide the physical outcome of your training. If bulking up is not your thing hopefully you have a better understanding on what it takes for women to “bulk up”.
With a better understanding of what is truly needed to "bulk up" I hope that when you look at women body builders and competitors you celebrate their accomplishments, sacrifices, dedication, and discipline to bring their bodies to such a state of perfection.
These women prove that you can still lift weights and be a mom, career focused, college student, even Navy Drill Instructors and maintain your femininity while getting Punch Fit.