My friend KC sent me a text today of this pic… thank you for inspiring this blog!
Before I get into the fact that girls need not be afraid of the heavy, or even light weights in the gym, let’s clear up this picture… The woman on the left is posing specifically to show off the most muscle she can, has carb loaded to bulk up her muscles, has dehydrated herself for vascularity and has just done a bunch of exercises to help swell the muscles by bringing blood to them or getting a “pump”. The girl on the right is obviously not posing to show her muscle, has more water in her and has probably just dieted down for 3 weeks (at least) to look smaller for the photo shoot. Ok, so obviously neither of these pictures represent what these women look like in their day-to-day lives.
But let’s get to the point of the picture which is that you will NOT become a she-hulk the minute you touch a 25 pound dumbbell or actually grab a plate of some sort. Not only is this ridiculous, but it’s somewhat insulting to the women who are trying to build muscle. Do you have any idea how hard it is to build muscle as a woman??? We do not have the testosterone required to build muscle. The average man has approximately 20 times the testosterone than the average woman. Testosterone is required to bulk up and some women who bodybuild will actually supplement the hormone to increase their ability to put on muscle. The woman on the right probably (not definitely) has used steroids and she is likely in the gym lifting more than the guys so don’t worry about looking like her by aiming to do one pull up!
But what about the other woman? Some girls might think that even she is too muscular (I personally think y’all are crazy but I’m sure you’re out there). She probably has about the same level of muscle as me, maybe even a tad more and I know that there are girls who don’t want to be as muscular as I am. She also has very low body fat, likely unsustainably low in the rang of 10 – 14 % which makes her muscles look harder and more defined. Addlback some fat and she will look softer and more feminine, and all that muscle underneath adds some dangerous curves! But she is also probably in the gym 4-6 days per week, she probably doesn’t do steroids, but I would bet my right arm that she uses various supplements including protein powder, BCAAs, and maybe a thermogenic. She also probably squats more than you weigh and can pump out 15 pull-ups.
So why am I blithering on about this? Because it is a lot of work to look like that and the most frustrating thing I hear women say is “I don’t want to get bulky!” You won’t! At least not by accident. You aren’t accidentally going to put on 10 pounds of muscles, trust me. You will get more toned and defined which I think most people like. But just TRY lifting heavier, do some weights, get off the treadmill, put down the 3 pound pink dumbbell and haul yourself over to the squat rack. If by some miracle you put start putting on more muscle then you want, then stop doing what you are doing, but you will have plenty of lead up to that to modify you approach.
Ok, if you are still reading you are awesome. Hopefully I have enticed you to try lifting heavier… how do you go about doing that though? Well you start with the basic movements and build a foundation. These are what I consider the basic movements:
1. The squat
2. The lunge
3. The deadlift (this is more advanced so master the first two before you attempt)
4. The push up (which you can progress to bench press or any form of press)
5. The dip (this can be done on the floor, a bench, with legs supported, bent, straight etc.)
6. The chin-up
7. The row
That’s it, now I do lots of different variations on these movements, but these will work pretty much every muscle in your body and at least every muscle group. Just in case you are curious; when I am not depleted my maximum weight for 6 repititions (or 6RM) or the maximum number of the movement I can do without rest is as follows:
- Squat – 175 lbs
- Lunges – 125 lbs
- Deadlifts – 205 lbs
- Push-up – 48 reps (as discovered while drinking in a competition at a work event)
- Dips – 23 (based on years ago, I typically don’t do this to failure anymore)
- Chin-ups – 12
- Rows (Single arm bent over, AKA lawnmowers) – 40 lbs (I haven’t actually gone to failure on this either, so I’m guessing)
To choose a weight, you should be lifting something challenging that will be very hard to do your desired number of reps with… the last rep should be hard to keep proper form, but not impossible. What’s a rep? A rep is a repetition, or one complete movement of the prescribed exercise. Reps make sets, a set is completed by doing a certain number of reps continuously without rest. You can combine these is oh so many ways but here is a SUPER basic way of looking at reps and sets.
Building strength (not size) – Low reps (1-5), high sets (4-8)
Building muscle mass and size – Medium reps (8- 12), medium sets (2-5, I like to stay in the 3-4 range)
Building endurance – High reps (more than 15), low sets (1-3)
The endurance range is what most girls think they need to do using super light weights in order to “tone” and “lengthen” the muscles, well if you don’t have muscle to begin with, you aren’t going to tone very much and lengthening happens when you stretch, period. Endurance ranges are great when trying to lean down because they can become aerobic if the set is long enough and work well in circuits and to fully exhaust the muscle… if that sounds like babble to you, do the muscle building!
As another plus, I always feel wicked when I hop over to the squat rack and leave the same plates on that the guy before me was using, or put more on. It’s always gratifying to get the looks of “can she really lift that?”.
Ok rant over. Moral – lift heavy!
On a completely unrelated note I made the most awesome clean stew yesterday night and will share the recipe with you tomorrow. I’m calling it drunken pirate stew because I added some spiced rum to it which was delectable, if not exactly part of the diet, but shhhhh. I love cooking when the seasons change. Especially as it gets cooler and I get inspired to make comfort foods like roasts, stews and soups. Yum.
- Getting “Toned” (paleoplan.com) – this person obviously gets asked how to “tone” a lot!