Fitness Myths #1

Posted: October 19, 2012 by dannytwoguns in Articles

This will be a multiple part series where I identify common fitness myths, why they are in fact myths and what you can do to avoid them. The first is the most popular, all too common female myth, “Lifting heavy makes women big and bulky.”

The fitness industry has been battling this one for years and while there is certainly progress being made, you still hear it on an almost daily basis and we still see it as well; pink dumbbells, hundreds of reps and “toning” workouts.

I think this whole misconception started because of the fact that all of those males in all the commercial gyms who have been “lifting heavy for over a decade” are shredded, muscular freaks of nature… oh wait, no they aren’t…. Well, maybe it is the fact that endless cardio routines on the elliptical or treadmill already get the average women all the results she wants… What, no? Well… uh…

Sarcasm aside, it isn’t the average woman’s fault. Magazines and popular culture still want the magic pill and frown upon working out hard as the key to getting results so they preach what is easy as what is effective, when that obviously isn’t true.

If endless sessions on the elliptical, a quick circuit on the machines, a few side bends for the “love handles” was an effective fat loss program, every female gym goer in sight would be extremely lean and shredded to the bone. But unfortunately and obviously, that isn’t the case.

Instead there are hundreds of women who are over dieted, over cardio’ed and under-muscled wondering why they aren’t making the progress they think they should.

There are a few things we have to address when combating this myth. The first, because it has nothing to do with training but a lot to do with getting “big and bulky” is hormones. Women generally have a fraction of the amount of testosterone that men have and since testosterone is one of the most vital components to gaining muscle and building size, the vast majority of women will not experience any significant size increase ever, let alone as soon as they touch a heavy dumbbell or barbell.

This means that a male and female on the same exact workout regimen will see vastly different results simply because of their hormonal profiles. Women lack the adequate testosterone and their hormonal limitations are likely responsible for them to “look like a man” even if they actively try to.

The main take home point in terms of “getting big and bulky” is that you cannot do so if your diet is on point with the goal of losing fat. When your body is in a caloric deficit, you cannot gain size or muscle whether you are male or female. In the rare case that I’ve found a woman gaining size when she didn’t want to, it was easily reversed when her diet was put in order and made conducive to fat loss.

Add the fact that the female bodybuilders most women reference when they talk about not wanting to look like are not natural. They’ve supplemented with steroids and testosterone to get that appearance, they didn’t get that way by simply lifting heavy. They had “enhancement” help. No woman can look like that naturally.

This alone should really be enough information to know that a woman lifting something heavy off the ground, pressing something heavy over her head or pulling her chin above a bar will not make her a bodybuilding competitor but let’s go a little further. Not only will heavy lifting not make you big and bulky, but it is actually superior to your long treadmill workouts when your goal is fat burning.

Strength training builds muscle/muscle density and muscle burns calories at rest. The more muscle a person has, the more calories they burn throughout the course of the day. Alwyn Cosgrove, one of the leading fat loss expert trainers in the country has a hierarchy of fat loss and states that if his clients only have two days a week of training in their fat loss program; those two weeks are spent lifting heavy and strength training alongside a diet conducive to weight loss.

In addition to that, if he has three to four hours/sessions to work with a client, he spends that time doing high intensity interval work or metabolic work, which is still strenuous and hard. These are all things that have the goal on continuing to burn calories after the training/workout session has completed.

The goal is to do activities that burn calories, maintain/promote muscle mass and elevate metabolism. Long low intensity sessions running or on the elliptical rally only burn calories, not elevate metabolism or maintain/promote muscle mass. In order to get the biggest bang for your buck on those three aspects, you need to lift and lift hard and heavy. Heavy doesn’t necessarily mean 1 rep but it means strenuous and doesn’t involve pink dumbbells.

Not only does heavy lifting not make you bulky, but it will actually be your best bet with the goal of fat loss.

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