Ladies who Lift

Why I didn't develop the "toned, feminine" muscles I wanted until I stepped out of the spin class and into the weight room.

“I don’t want to lift heavy weights because I don't want to get bulky”. Have you ever uttered this statement? I know I have. Many women (including myself about 6 years ago) get into the trap of spending an hour a day on a spin bike or an elliptical and then another hour pulsing 2lb weights over their head. Their ultimate goal is to obtain “long, toned muscles” without “bulking up”. Some how people decided that you could only achieve a lean, feminine look by lifting light weights and doing lots of reps. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against barre class and spin if thats what you enjoy. I think every area of fitness has it’s purpose and whatever gets you up and moving is great. However, I can tell you first hand that if you want to develop the “dancer-like muscle definition” you are looking for, you need to also engage in some heavy resistance training. 

Before I became a trainer I too spent years doing a million reps of light weights, never touching anything heavier than 7lbs in constant fear of “bulking up”. This routine felt great in my mind, but it didn't really produce any results. I remained soft looking and pretty much always stayed the exact same weight. I was “skinny fat”. My metabolism was sluggish from my lack of muscle mass, so if I ate a few extra calories I would instantly gain 5lbs. My life was an endless cycle of killing myself with cardio to burn off the extra Bloody Mary I had that weekend. Then, I would participate in some sort of low calorie juice cleanse to try to lose the weight I had put on. Always gaining and loosing that same 5 to 10 lbs. Does this sound familiar to you? If it does then you know how much it sucks. What if I told you that you could actually produce the results you want by doing LESS instead of continuing on this vicious cardio cycle!? What if I also said that you could eat more without a constant fear that you will gain weight from every extra calorie? If this interests you read on… 

It all changed for me when I decided to enter a body building competition and compete in the bikini division. (I could write an entire blog about that experience and maybe one day I will). I learned a lot from this adventure. The biggest thing being that if is INCREDIBLY difficult to build muscle as a woman let alone “bulk up”. I spent 3 months eating clean, lifting super heavy and doing hardly any cardio. My calorie intake was higher than it had ever been, and I was consuming at least 4 servings of complex carbohydrates per day. Guess what!? This new approach to fitness and food actually made me the opposite of bulky. I became leaner then I had ever been! My body fat decreased, my muscles began to look more “defined” and I achieved those “Cameron Diaz arms” that I always wanted. I loved the way I looked, but I was not able to bulk up enough to do well in the competition. Turns out, lifting heavy weights gave me the body that I thought light weights were supposed to give me. I actually tried to bulk up and I couldn’t! I left this experience without a trophy, but with the physique of my dreams and a whole new outlook on the way weight training and a clean diet affects the female body. I haven't picked up to 2lb weight or participated in a juice cleanse since. 

In the photo on the left, I was doing an hour of cardio 7 days a week and lifting light weights occasionally. My diet was very low calorie/low carb and consisted of a lot of "juice cleanses". In the photo on the right, I lifted heavy 5 days per week and only did one to two 15 minute HIIT cardio sessions. I ate a clean diet consisting of about 2500 calories per day with at least 4 servings of complex carbohydrates!

In the photo on the left, I was doing an hour of cardio 7 days a week and lifting light weights occasionally. My diet was very low calorie/low carb and consisted of a lot of "juice cleanses". In the photo on the right, I lifted heavy 5 days per week and only did one to two 15 minute HIIT cardio sessions. I ate a clean diet consisting of about 2500 calories per day with at least 4 servings of complex carbohydrates!

Here is the low down on weight lifting for Ladies...

We just don't have the hormones to bulk like a man. 

Testosterone is the primary muscle-building hormone in the body. As women, our testosterone levels are 15 to 20 times lower than men. Because of this, ladies need to work a lot harder to put on mass than the boys do. For women who want to bulk up, it’s pretty difficult and will take loads of extra calories and much more time. Female body builders and athletes who's goal is to build some serious size have to eat a tremendous amount of calories and often use supplements to achieve that look. So unless you are purposely force feeding yourself triple servings of protein and carbs at each meal, you are not going to magically turn into the incredible hulk from doing some bicep curls. 

“But I FEEL bulkier after lifting weights!!”

If you feel like you are getting bulky after lifting for only a few weeks or even just one day…sorry love, you are not. It just isn't scientifically possible. When you lift weights, blood flows into the muscles making them feel little pumped up. This is probably why you feel “jacked up and swole” after your weightlifting sesh. Don’t worry ladies, this goes away. Believe it or not, you could also be getting “bulky” from simply consuming too many unused calories. Keep in mind that no matter what type of exercise you are doing, if you are not eating a clean diet at least 80% of the time you will not produce results you are looking for. Weights won't make you bulky, but cupcakes sure will!

Why weight training will make you lean.

So lets talk about the awesome stuff that happens to your body when you begin lifting. When you engage in heavy resistance training, you create tiny microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. When your body is working to repair those tears, you burn calories. Therefore when you lift you will greatly increase your caloric expenditure post workout and throughout that day. Wait it gets better… the body naturally burns more calories to maintain one pound of muscle than it does to maintain one pound of fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest. Which means, just by building muscle, you’ll significantly increase your metabolism and turn your body into a fat blasting machine… and this will obviously improve your overall fat loss. A higher metabolic rate will also give you more wiggle room to indulge in some extra calories without having to worry that about not fitting into your skinny jeans the next day. Not to mention, those skinny jeans will look much better because a little added muscle mass can shape the body into more of an hour glass.  

So there you have it Ladies! Weight lifting is where its at and when done in combination with a clean diet, it will give you the lean sexy muscles you are looking for. I hope I inspired you to get of the elliptical and get into the weight room! I would love to hear from you so please feel free to comment at the bottom of this blog!