Top Fitness Myths Debunked: “Lifting will Make me Bulky”

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In a consumer-driven world, we are constant targets to false marketing and bad information. As a
personal trainer and health enthusiast, I see how this affects the fitness world in particular. The role of exercise in overall health is critical, but between magazines, TV, social media, product labels, and word of mouth, we are continually flooded with information and unfortunately – the wrong word gets out.

I decided that instead of standing on a cyber-soapbox to complain about all of the false claims circulating, I would touch on some of the major fitness myths – in hopes that by de-bunking them for you here, the right information will start to catch fire.

Next is one of my favorites, or least favorites, however you look at it:

Fitness myth #3, “Lifting will make me bulky”

I cannot say this loud enough, particularly to the women reading this – lifting weights will not make you bulky. Women simply do not have the testosterone levels to put on that kind of muscle mass. Lifting heavy things will help you gain muscle (when done safely and smart), which in turn will help you burn fat. Your body burns more calories to maintain muscle. More muscle = more calories burned at rest.

If you’ve started incorporating weights and feel “bulky” or bogged-down, this could be why:

  • Your diet. If you’re not eating good wholesome food, you will experience symptoms such as low
    energy, bloating, inflammation, and weight gain (think meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some
    fruit, little starch, and no sugar).
  • You’re lacking movement variety. It’s important to keep your movements consistently varied –
    working both anterior/posterior, major and minor muscle groups, and weighted, as well as, non-
    weighted exercises. Over-training in one area will create muscle imbalances and fatigue that will
    prohibit you from getting the most out of your workouts (and increase your risk of injury).
  • You’re missing intensity. Every day doesn’t have to be cardio-challenging, but several certainly should. It doesn’t have to be time on a treadmill, either. Challenge yourself with less rest between sets, incorporate short bursts of cardio, or even add more reps to your sets.
  • Your weights are too light. Safety first, of course, but if your last few reps aren’t challenging
    and/or you’re not out of breath when you set the weight down – it may be time to re-evaluate
    and grab something heavier. Muscles need to be tested and pushed to grow. Remember, muscle
    helps burn fat. To get muscle, you have to challenge yourself. If I had a nickel for every time I
    heard someone say they’re “lifting light because they just want to get toned”.

So now you’re on the bandwagon – what are some tips for a beginner to incorporate weights?

  1. Add weight to your normal body-weight exercises. Dumbbells, kettlebells, plates, and barbells are all easy pieces of equipment to add to movements. For example:
    1. Lunges: Take regular lunges and add dumbbells to your hands for weighted lunges or walking weighted lunges. Have a barbell? Put the bar on your shoulders or in the front-rack position. Plate? Hold overhead for an equally challenging shoulder workout while
      you lunge.
    2. Push-ups: Instead of having your hands on the ground, place your hands on a set of
      dumbbells and throw in a row between each push-up for a push-up to row exercise.
      Another option instead of the row is a push-up to weighted side plank.plank
    3. Squats: Grab a single dumbbell, kettlebell, or small plate, and hold it under your chin to make it a goblet squat. Barbell? Put the bar on your shoulders or in the front-rack position. fitness myths
    4. Sit-ups: Hold a single dumbbell or small plate against your chest, keeping it against your chest as you perform a normal sit-up. V-ups are another core-burner and can incorporate weight in your hands as you come up to meet your feet. fitness myths
    5. Walking: Add kettlebells or dumbbells to your hands for good old-fashioned farmers carry (define a distance or time interval for which you’ll do this). Another option is to grab a plate or light barbell and hold it above head while walking.
  2. Record your numbers. This will not only help you in seeing progress, but in holding yourself accountable. If you walk up to a weight rack expecting the magic numbers to jump out at you, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Find whatever weight is challenging for you and record it for each movement. Next time you need to grab weights, you’ll know exactly where to start.
  3. When in doubt, follow this principle: the last 2 reps of your set should be very difficult. By very difficult I mean you have to really focus and work hard to lift the weight or complete the movement with good form. Now, certain programming may be geared towards other goals where this shouldn’t be your principle – but if you are not sure if you’re using a good weight, this is a good rule of thumb.

Moral of the story: if you’re not seeing results, try increasing your intensity or weights. Don’t go straight
to blaming the weights, and don’t let your friends start doing that either. However, please remember this…if you’re not comfortable with a movement, or unsure about proper form and weight, please seek advice from a fitness professional. Safety comes before anything and there’s nothing worse than being injured and not being able to do anything at all!

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