Women and Lifting

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 6.35.53 PMOne of the most frequently asked question I get from women is “I don’t want to lift heavy and get big or bulky like a man”. This is the one question that drives me crazy, as much as when people ask me “where do you get your protein”. Women lifting heavy weights & increasing their muscle mass to an extreme is one of biggest myths and misconceptions about strength training than any other area in the fitness world.

I am a trainer that just happens to be extremely muscular, to the point of people asking me if I take steroids. I do not! My muscular gain is achieved through consistent weight lifting for over 16 years. My lifting schedule, self imposed, never allows me to take more than a week off, sometimes training twice a day. My passion is weight training, I eat, sleep, & breathe it. But don’t forget it has taken 16 years to look the way I do. By training extremely hard and dedicating my whole life to strength training, I am able to achieve my goal of having a body builders physique. It’s how I make a living, my body is my business card! But don’t forget the other key component, cardio, which I love. My cardio mostly consists of boxing, sprinting and skipping rope.

Some women think they will achieve great big muscles training only a few months, this is almost impossible even training years. It’s a lifetime of strength training to achieve a muscular physique. I’m not saying women can’t achieve muscle but it’s extremely hard and in order to build a muscular physique it needs to be your life.

There is no way as a woman you will look like a man, because women do not produce enough testosterone to build muscle size, strength, density and hardness like men unless you are taking steroids or testosterone boosters. Also, most women physically can’t lift heavy enough to build an extreme amount of muscle. Genetics also play a large role in gaining muscle. Our genetic makeup determines what types of muscle fibers we have and where they are distributed, where we store body fat and determines our body type. All women can be categorized into one of three body classifications or a combination of these types. Mesomorphs, ectomorph and endomorphs. Mesomorphs tend to be more muscular, endomorphs are more rounded and thicker and ectomorphs are slim. Mesomorphs respond to strength training and can build muscle much quicker than an ectomorph, even though they are following the same training routine. Endomorphs need to lose body fat first so see a change in their physique and are less likely to build mass but will become stronger as a result of lifting.

vanessa_liftingOver the past 10 years I have trained many women, with all kinds of body types, some wanting to build large amounts of muscle. One client in particular came to me wanting to add some major size to her frame. When we started she weighed 160 lb at 5’9”, now 5 years later of consistent weight training program and eating clean, she weighs 145 lbs. I put this client on a very intense heavy lifting routine, 6 days a week similar to that of a bodybuilder and she lost weight. To give you an example of how heavy she was lifting, she military presses 35 in each hand, curls 30 lbs dumbbells in each hand, deadlifts and squats over 185 lbs. She did gain muscle but lost fat, losing quite a bit of weight. This is because the more muscle you have the more fat you burn at rest. For every pound of muscle you have, your body utilizes 6 calories to sustain itself, fat only utilizes 2 calories. Adding 2 to 4 pounds of muscle on your frame can burn an extra 100 calories each day and will boost your metabolism up to 20% for several hours after your workout. If you are going to choose between cardio and strength training to lose weight, strength training is the way to go.

This is just one example of how it hard it is to gain muscle as a female. I see women everyday at the gym only doing cardio or lifting really light weight. When lifting with little to no resistance and a lot of repetitions will not put your muscles through the stress it needs and therefore it has no reason to grow (hypertrophy). I feel these women are wasting their time. I have had so many female clients afraid to lift more than 10 lbs, scared to put size on their arms. Many times women are confused about the size of their arms & legs, thinking lifting weights has increased their size, when in fact, it is actually fat that increases size around the muscles. You need to put your body through a great amount of stress, lifting to failure often to even get any kind of results. It takes years and years with consistent training, with heavy lifting to gain and eating like a vegan bodybuilder to see a change in your physique. It’s a lifetime of training.

Resistance training is one of the most beneficial things a woman can do for their overall health. Training with weights and even building just a small amount of muscle tissue, aids in weight loss (even at rest), increased metabolism, bone density (women lose 5 to 10% of muscle strength each decade), better sleep, reducing the risks of diabetes, self confidence and helps fight the aging process by maintaining lean muscle tissue. Weight training coupled with cardio and the benefits are endless.

Even with all these benefits women will still avoid weight training for the fear of “getting bulky or looking like a man”. I hope the women reading this will understand that is nearly impossible to build bulky muscles like a guy. So girls, get out there & lift heavy and don’t be afraid of pushing your body, your body will thank you.