Thursday, October 6, 2011

Muscle Growth: Quit Whining and Lift Heavy

There is a constant saying that trainers around the world hear from female clientele, “I don’t want to lift heavy weight. I’ll get too bulky; I just want to be toned.” And like every other trainer in the world, when I hear that I can’t help but shake my head, roll my eyes and half laugh under my breath. Heavy weight training has been given a bad name to women because of what they constantly see in the media, bodybuilders, power lifters, athletes, and just about every other man who walks into a gym and lifts heavy in an attempt to get bigger. The problem behind that is that it takes much more than just weight on the bar to develop a hulking physique like that. Muscles are tricky tissue and depending on your body chemistry and what you put into it in order to make the gains you’re looking for. That being said let me try to explain to all the disbelievers out there that it takes more than just heavy weight to be big and that women, just like men, should be pushing themselves to their limits to get that attractive physique they are looking for.

Muscle growth is caused but the breakdown in muscle fibers, due to any physical, weight bearing activity, followed by being rebuilt through intake of calories and the optimal amount of rest. The reason this is important is because it causes out body to adapt to the stimulus making our bodies more apt to perform the activity with ease compared to the last time. The old saying “Practice Makes Perfect” comes to mind. You see when you break down your muscles, no matter what you do, they need to repair, but in order to become more efficient they need to be pushed each and every time we use them. When we don’t use heavier weight and just use a weight we are comfortable with, we aren’t maximizing their metabolic potential. As has been stated in many articles before muscle is the most metabolic tissue in the body, the stronger the muscles are the faster your metabolism is.

Women who lift heavy weight and are under the right supervision with a proper diet can develop that highly sought after toned trim physique. Any female athlete will say that weight training is quintessential for progressing. If you’re looking to become faster, heavy weight training to develop stronger muscles to be more explosive after every step and accelerate. To gain endurance high rep work with heavy weight will make running at your own bodyweight seem even easier.

That bulky look women are so afraid of comes from not only heavy training, but also highly concentrated isolation work and muscle sarcoplasm expansion which is caused by, yes heavy training, moderate repetition trying to force blood and other fluid into that muscle, and a more high calorie intake. Generally this is done by people in search or large muscle groups, like bodybuilders, who emphasize single muscle work day in and day out. People who are more in search of that fit, athletic physique who generally do total body type exercise on a general whole don’t need to worry about over developing. If you are looking for bigger, thicker, bulkier muscles than one group at a time is your better bet, in combination with higher calorie intake. However if you are looking for a “toned”, more athletic physique then total body again the way to go. However lifting heavy in both accounts, and pushing your body change adapt and be more efficient, is better. In conclusion: LIFT HEAVY AND SAFELY! IT’S GOOD FOR YOU!

-Jack Lazarus

Further Notes from Steve…

Jack is 100% right in his commentary here: lifting heavy weights and growing stronger is a staple to building and maintaining a lean, healthy body. But, there is more to this topic, and I'd like to expand on that.

First, I'd like to further dispel the notion that simply picking up heavy things will make you bulky, male or female. Physical strength is a combination of both muscle contractile strength, and neural efficiency. What that means is that a strong muscle is not necessarily a "bulky" one. Take a look at any construction sight, warehouse or factory on earth and you will inevitably see at least one really skinny worker who is able to lift and bear heavy loads day in and day out simply due to repetition. It's more than likely that they simply do not eat enough calories to allow for muscle hypertrophy (growth). Further evidence: look around our gym sometime and take a look especially at the squat rack. I have a female client who can deadlift 300 lbs, a number of them who can pull over 200, and a fair few who can take 185 off the ground like its nothing. Most males that I train are deadlifting in the 300s. Now, how many hulking 200 lb+ bodybuilder types do you see at ChrisFit? The key to growing bulky muscles is not just being strong, but eating to support growth. Thus, if your caloric intake is in check, you can get stronger and leaner without getting larger.

Second, I'd like to address this from a hormonal standpoint. Whenever I hear woman complain that they will get "man arms" I have to laugh. Men have man arms because they have more testosterone in their bodies, not just because they do bicep curls. Hormones play a huge role in muscle development, and that is just science. Higher Testosterone levels lead to an increased rate of muscle protein synthesis. To simplify this: women don't get man muscles because they don't have as much man hormone. Now, if you see a woman walking around with veiny 16" arms, bodyfat in the single digits, a voice lower than barry whites, and a 5 o'clock shadow, theres a fairly solid chance that her hormones are a bit skewed. (i'm trying to discretely tell you that she got jacked like Arnold Schwarzenegger via steroids, not because her trainer took away the purple dumbbells and made her use the icky metal ones that the boys use). The simple fact is that muscle tissue is incredibly difficult to build, and nobody ever woke up one day and accidentally looked like the Incredible Hulk. Building an extreme level of muscle takes years and years of dedicated effort both in the gym and in the kitchen. Trust me, you wont get huge lifting the 25 lb. Dumbbells…if you could do that, why on Earth would they bother making bigger ones?

Finally, I'd like to add that lifting heavy is simply good for you from the standpoint that you need to be strong in every day situations. If you did nothing but rep out the pink weights doing "toning" work (don't get me started on that 4 letter word!!!), how in the world would you get anything done at home or at work? I don't know about you, but my grocery bags weigh a bit more than 8 lbs, and my dogs' food comes in 50 lb bags. A gallon of milk alone weighs 8.8 lbs. (yes, i looked that up!). Grocery shopping alone justifies the need to properly weight train, but also look at the notion that a mother needs to carry around her child, old people need to be helped out of chairs, and sofas do not move themselves!

My conclusion: Pick up heavy stuff and put it back down. Repeat. A lot of times. GO!

-Steve Decker

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