Debunking the myth that women bulk up from lifting weights
When it comes to weight training, you might have heard girls say, “I don’t want to do it because I don’t want to look bulky and manly.” Or that’s maybe even your own excuse for avoiding those dumbbells in the gym.
After reading this, you might just change your mind because weight training is key to reshaping and toning your body.
The myth that lifting weights will make women bulky is a common mindset among girls.
Gianna Fellows, freshman exercise science major, used to think the same way, but now she sees it differently.
“I have been training with weights for over a year now, and I ended up loving it,” she said.
What could be the main reason for this misconception among women?
Hugo Rivera, natural bodybuilding champion and international best selling fitness author, thinks that it’s because of the “images of current professional female bodybuilders shown by the media.” Seeing those images, girls may think that lifting weights can lead to masculine looking muscles.
Keep in mind that women do not and cannot naturally produce as much testosterone — one of the main hormones responsible for increasing muscle size — as males do. Therefore, it is impossible for a woman to gain huge amounts of muscle mass by merely lifting some weights.
Those female bodybuilders are not at all natural, according to Rivera. Unfortunately, he said, most of them use synthetic testosterone and other drugs to achieve that high degree of muscularity.
What you will get out of weight training, though, is a toned and fit, cellulite-free-looking body that most women want.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t step on a treadmill or elliptical ever again? It certainly doesn’t. “I do both, but I think weight training is more efficient than cardio,” Fellows said.
The ratio of cardio and weight training should be balanced. Rivera suggests a regimen of two-thirds weight training with one-third cardio, or 50-50, in some cases.
“I always recommend no more cardio than weight training,” he said. “Too much cardio burns muscle and slows down the metabolism. It also does nothing to reshape the body. Weight training on the other hand, tones the muscles and increases the metabolic rate. For each pound of muscle gained, that is an extra 50 calories that your body burns at rest.”
You should not spend hours and hours in the gym, either, to see results. “As crazy as it sounds, more is not necessarily better if you are looking for fast results,” Rivera said.
You can see your body change and shape from doing cardio three days a week for 20 to 45 minutes and fast- paced weight training three days a week, also for 20 to 45 minutes.
Rivera said that “after 45 to 60 minutes, the levels of muscle-building and fat-burning hormones that your body produces begin to drop and cortisol, a stress hormone that eats up muscle and preserves fat, goes up. What this means is that training more than 45 minutes will prevent you from gaining muscle tone and losing fat fast. It will also prevent a fast recovery.
There is one more thing you cannot neglect when wanting to get in shape: your diet. “Another mistake that ladies frequently make is not eating enough,” Rivera said. Starving yourself is not a good choice and a “couple of salads a day is not going to cut it.”
Rivera said that women should have at least four meals a day with 1,200 to 1,500 calories consisting of carbs (40 percent), fat (20 percent) and protein (40 percent). “You have to eat in order to increase your metabolism and prompt your body to lose the body fat and gain the muscle tone,” Rivera said. If you eat too little, your body will rebel in response to it and instead of losing fat, it will retain body fat and lose the muscle.
Being obsessed with what the scale shows can often be misleading because muscle weighs more than fat. So sometimes when you start a body-sculpting program, the scale does not move, but inches do. “Focus on inches lost and your body-fat percentage and not on weight as the scale alone does not give you an accurate picture of what’s going on,” Rivera said.
Kathryn Brewer, a senior biology major, was skeptical at the beginning, but she has been training with weights since her freshman year. “I may have gained several pounds from lifting but also lost several pounds of fat along the way too, and it helped me lower my body fat from 23 percent to 17 percent which made me look slimmer,” she said.
Her dedication and consistence brought her great results. She has won first place at the FGCU Health Fitness and Bodybuilding Club’s Fall 2014 Physique Show in early September.
“Do not be afraid of weight training exercise as weights are your best friends when it comes to reshaping your body,” Rivera said.