“I don’t want to bulk up!” It is the single most common sentence I hear when female clients come in to meet with me. There is a powerful social stigma in our society that sends many women running away from the weight room and into a pilates class.
While i’m not bashing pilates, weight lifting offers some benefits that you simply cannot acquire doing anything else. The contagious fear of bulking up is not only robbing you of so many benefits, but it is also biologically unlikely to even happen.
Let’s start by addressing the most obvious reason why women can’t get “bulky” or “masculine” from lifting weights. Women simply do not have the same hormonal levels that allow men to pack on the muscle. Testosterone is responsible for large increases in strength and muscle mass. Women, coincidentally, happen to have on average 16 times less testosterone in their body than men. Unless you are a biological oddity, or taking synthetic hormones, the unwarranted fear of gaining too much muscle is just silly.
Gaining significant size, even for men, is highly dependent on nutrition as well. The body must experience some kind of caloric surplus in addition to adequate protein intake and extreme effort in the weight room just for the chance at noticeable gains. If a healthy diet is followed, it slashes your odds of looking like the hulk to nearly impossible. A nutritional strategy focused on fat loss is a great tool to pair with strength training to insure best results while protecting against muscle loss. Most people begin losing up to 5% of their muscle mass every decade after age 30, which leads to decreased physical capacity and a lower metabolism. Even if you are an active person, many forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging or walking on a treadmill, have been shown to actually increase the rate of muscle loss.
So now that the primary reason for avoiding weights has been put to bed, let me tell you about all the amazing benefits you can expect with this new lifestyle. For both men and women, strength training can lower body fat, raise your metabolism, and increase energy throughout the day. There is also something personally satisfying about accomplishing a performance goal you’ve set for yourself, whether that is deadlifting your body weight, or finally doing a chin up. In regard to women specifically, weight training will severely decrease the risk of developing osteoporosis. With 80% of all cases belonging to women, I make sure this is not an overlooked reward of weight training.
If you do not feel comfortable in the weight room, that in itself is a good reason to accept the challenge and improve. If you feel embarrassed surrounded by a bunch of muscle-bound jocks, you needn’t worry. Most of them are too busy looking at themselves in the mirror anyway. Weightlifting is simply too valuable to pass up. Just 30 minutes 2-3 days a week can make a significant improvement in both body composition and self-confidence. Take control of your fitness, because being supremely strong and capable is not just for the boys.
To health and happiness,
Chris Caden CPT
North Hollywood CA