Updated: May 26
One of the most frequently asked questions we get about weight training is whether it will lead to a bulky looking physique. Many people, particularly females, new to the gym are worried that if they start lifting, it will lead to changes to their figure into what they may view as undesirable.
But is this true?
The simple answer: No. Strength training is an important element of a balanced fitness regimen and is actually included in the physical activity guidelines made by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While it is true that introducing weight lifting will promote hypertrophy in the muscles, leading to a size increase, the idea that this will lead to a bulky look is completely false.
First of all, building muscle mass is actually insanely difficult! It usually takes months to notice some fitness progress, such as increased muscle tone and less body fat. To get to a bulky or body-builder level of muscularity, you’d not only have to train and diet in an extreme fashion, but you’d have to keep at it for years; bodybuilders work extremely hard to look the way they do! If you’re simply lifting a couple of times a week at moderate intensity, you won’t end up looking like the Hulk, guaranteed.
It’s important to note that you can train for the results you want. Sure, weightlifting can be used to train for competitive powerlifting, a bodybuilding competition, or Olympic-style weightlifting, if these are your goals. However, you can also use it to improve your body composition and to maintain overall health. If you want to gain significant amounts of muscle mass or are a competitive lifter, you’re looking at four to six days of intense heavy lifting each week, versus two to three days of lifting for general health. Of course, to reap the benefits of strength training, even if your goals are to stay lean and fit, it takes consistency and hard work.
That weight lifting causes one to become bulky is far from the truth. Unfortunately, this myth is widely circulated, deterring many people from adding weights to their workout regime when lifting produces so many health benefits.
Many people are inclined to turn to cardiovascular exercises, such as running or biking, as these are well-known ways to increase the number of calories burned in a day. But did you know that lifting weights burns MORE calories in the long run?
It is well established that strength training increases your lean body mass, thus increasing your resting metabolic rate (this is the rate at which your body burns calories to perform basic functions while resting). It’s simple: the more muscle tone you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will become. While you can spend hours on a treadmill or bike trying to burn fat, this won’t do anything for your lean muscle mass composition or metabolism. Strength training also increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which refers to the calories your body continues to burn after a workout.
Maybe you’re worried that strength training will increase your chances of injury. While performing exercises with improper form or in an unsafe form can lead to injuries, lifting improves muscle strength, thus decreasing the risk of injuries and general aches and pains. In fact, lifting weights can also improve bone density and help prevent osteoporosis: a degenerative bone disease commonly seen in older women. After the age of 30, we begin to lose three to five percent of lean muscle mass each decade. Thankfully, just 30 minutes twice a week of resistance training can improve functional performance as well as bone density, structure, and strength with no negative effects.
It has been scientifically proven that resistance training promotes a plethora of health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular function, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory response, and muscle quality. Not to mention that it can benefit mental health, improve flexibility and mobility, and increase self confidence.
So now that you’re convinced to start strength training, how should you approach it? Check back next week where we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to start lifting weights!
Keep in mind that if you’re nervous about working with weights, your best bet is to get personalized advice from a fitness professional who can tailor a strength training program that fits your goals.
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