Debunking the “Big and Bulky” Strength Training Myth
The majority of my clientele involves women of all ages and fitness levels. The number one gripe I get from all of my female clients is, “I don’t want to lift weights (or heavy weights) because I don’t want to get all big and bulky.” I then have to sit them down and explain the importance of muscle, what it does for the joints, how it makes you look etc. It is odd to hear this coming from a male. On top of sitting my female clients down and explaining the facts to them, I first build that relationship. A trainer (especially males) needs to really build that up and take that gripe of not wanting to get big into consideration. A training tip: ask your female clients what they want to get out of the program. Ask them what they think big and bulky means and why they fear it. Build the rapport.
Afterwards, I’ll help them understand the concept of muscle, and understand the science behind it. Here are a few facts that will debunk the myth and hopefully put many people at ease.
Fact #1: Muscles are important because they can help stabilize the joint. The stronger the muscle, the more support the joint will receive. If you injured a joint, you will want to strengthen the muscles around it because the ligaments may be damaged and or too loose. There is nothing wrong with strong muscles. There is nothing wrong with being strong. When you have the support of ligaments, cartilage and muscles you have the recipe for a very strong and healthy joint. At the end, it will help minimize injury.
Fact #2: Lifting weights will help increase your bone mineral density (BMD). Muscles always pull on the bones. When they do, there is stress on the bone which will, in time, cause it to become stronger so it can handle heavier loads in the future. You will also want to prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is when your BMD drops in the negatives. The outcome with this are weakened and, depending on the severity, hollowed out bones. The common fracture sites for those with osteoporosis are along the hip, spine and wrist. The reason for those common sites is when older people fall (especially women with osteoporosis), they tend to fall on their hip, spine or wrist. When you put stress on the joint via weight training or even running, you are causing the body to release certain cells to help rebuild the bone. Overtime, the bone will become stronger and the risk of injury is minimized.
Fact #3: Men develop 10 times the amount of testosterone than women. What this means is that men will develop muscle faster than women. Ask any guy trying to get big and they’ll tell you that it’s extremely hard (and I am also speaking from experience). Muscle will grow regardless of sex, but the rate of growth will be faster for men. What it will do directly for both men and women is that once it’s secreted, testosterone will transport to the muscle cells directly where it will eventually cause an increase in protein synthesis. Indirectly, it will cause the release of growth hormone in the pituitary gland and influence the central nervous system to help with muscle strength and growth. When your body releases growth hormone, one of its functions is lipolysis. Lipolysis means fat breakdown. Who doesn’t want to break down their fat and burn it off?
Fact #4: Muscle and fat both weigh the same. Too many people say, “Well muscle weighs more than fat and I don’t want to build muscle.” I don’t know who started that analogy, but it is obvious that no one has stepped up to the plate to claim it. A pound is a pound regardless of what is being weighed. Muscle is more dense than fat. When fat is burned your weight may stay the same. The reason for that is that you are building muscle as well. That is actually not a bad thing. Even though the scale stays the same, fat has burned off of your legs, arms, torso, face etc. Your clothes may fit better. You may look better. You can actually gain muscle and lose pants and dress sizes. The main point of this fact is to get hooked on being fit.Â Don’t live and die by what the scale is telling you.
Fact #5:Â With a good mix of cardio and weight training, your metabolism is going to go up. When your metabolism goes up, so does your appetite. The reason for that increase is that your muscles are hungry for nutrients. You need to feed your muscles so that they can continue to grow and be strong. Have you ever been around anyone, male or female, that eats so much but their body composition is slim and healthy?Â The question that you may ask them is, “Where do you put it?”Â The answer to that is to their muscles. Why? Because they need it.Â The point to this last fact is that low calorie or even starvation diets don’t work. What happens with low calorie and starvation diets is that eventually your body will burn through fat, but it will also burn through muscle. Be smart with your eating, but if your input is way less than your output your body will actually feed off of itself.
Hopefully these facts will help debunk the “big and bulky” myth and put the fears aside when it comes to resistance training. There is nothing wrong with developing muscle as it has many benefits to it.Â Put an end to those fears and hit the weights. The answer to changing your body is to stress the body in a way it’s not used to. There’s also nothing more empowering for women than lifting a weight that is heavier than the person next to them.