Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Heavy Lifting....and Bulky Women?

Most women I’ve met have a fear of getting 'big' and 'bulky' when it comes to strength training/lifting weights at the gym. When you mention weights to them - I can almost see the fear and disbelief on their faces that weight training is actually going to do them good. So what do most women end up doing? Endless bouts of slow cardio to drop those unwanted lbs. Or they end up lifting weights that are way too light for them - weights too light to bring about significant positive changes in their physique, and they lift for more repetitions than usual, in the hope to get toned and thin. Now unfortunately, this is a myth - and I'm tempted to blame the many images of 'bulky' women that circulate over the Internet for this fear and also the lack of understanding why and how muscles grow and adapt to weight training.

Women just don’t have the hormones required to get all big and built like a man. In fact, women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men and testosterone is the reason men are men, and women are women. As in men, levels of testosterone will peak in women in their twenties and decline thereafter. The 'scary' images of women you see on bodybuilding magazines and shows are not natural, meaning, they’re built like that with the help of synthetic hormones.

Most women want to 'tone' - but what does 'toning' mean? It really just means increasing muscle and decreasing bodyfat which will allow that muscle underneath to show a little more.

Lifting lighter weights isn't a bad thing - it just isn’t ideal if your goal is to show a leaner and sexier you. Higher repetitions is best for increasing muscular endurance.

So you want to get 'toned'? Then go lift some weights - REAL WEIGHTS! Don’t be afraid to really push yourself. Instead of lifting light weights for 15-20 reps, aim for 8-12 reps but lift heavy enough so you can’t get past the 12th, as recommended by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Here are some simple weight training tips you can use to blast your muscles into some new growth:
  • Set goals and strive for them - One of the most important things you can do when starting a weight training program is to set goals. For example, if you'd like to gain 10lbs of healthy weight (lean mass), you'd be training differently to what would be required to lose weight. Once you know your goals, you can design your training routine by choosing exercises that target the proper muscles and lift with a purpose.

  • Vary your exercises - Every women unquestionably has a specific asset they would like to develop on their body, but this doesn't mean you should get attached to any one workout routine or exercise. Most exercises can be performed a number of ways. For example, you can switch to dumbbells for the bench press. The added freedom of movement the dumbbells provide really makes for a much better stretch. Use a variety of different exercises and resistance - use your own body weight vs. gravity. Varying your workout is one of the best things you can do for muscle growth as you are hitting muscle from different angles and constantly challenging yourself.

  • Slower reps - One of the best things you can do is to really slow down your reps and focus on getting a nice tight muscle contraction. Thic concept is known as 'time under tension'. This will help you far more than any other muscle building strategy. It would be pointless to lift heavy while sacrificing proper form. Without good form you won't have good results. Sloppy form will only cause injury and it's not as efficient for building muscle.

  • Lift heavy weight with fewer reps - Yes, you read correctly! Training to gain mass is no different for women. You need to be training like the guys if your intent is to look like a godess. Lifting heavy and doing fewer reps will shock your body into putting on lean mass. There's no rush to increase the weight, lift what you're comfortable with, but the focus of your weight training routine should be on progression. Light weight and more reps will only tone the muscle, but won't do much if you are serious about gaining lean mass. The more lean mass you attain, the greater the calorie expenditure you create, thus resulting in being lean and burning fat!

  • Don't neglect the leg training - Ladies, your legs are a powerhouse of strength. Women actually have stronger legs than their male counterparts. Lower body exercises like squats, deadlifts and leg presses will allow you to lift heavy weight and gain muscle mass all over your body, not just help to develop bigger legs.

Remember that putting on healthy lean mass will come about through a mixture of a proper diet, good training techniques and the right mix of exercises. Make sure you're addressing all three aspects of your weight training program and not focusing too much on just the gym stuff - slow cardio.

Train hard, and safe, and don’t let fear get in the way. Women deserve to get the body they want.


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