Building lean muscle for women: sometimes I think the importance of women strength training and building muscle is so obvious it doesn’t need explaining or discussing, but I still run into these same myths and excuses.
I still hear women telling me that someone told them not to lift more than 3lbs because they’ll get big and bulky, and that one should not contract one’s muscles but release and “lengthen” them when exercising because you want to look long and lean right? Gah!
How in the world are you supposed to support your body, your spine, and powerful, graceful movement, let alone build shape and strength, if you are not actually training your muscles to do their job?? Here’s how: Put down the 5lb pink dumbbells! Pick up the heavy kettlebells, and barbells (more than 10lbs please). Start doing pushups and pull ups.
Here’s my story on going from “long, lean dancer muscles”, to “big and bulky weight lifter muscles.”
On to debunking the myths (and excuses) about building lean muscle for women. The excuses that keep you from getting a sexy, shapely body, and feeling like a queen.
Myth #1: If you lift more than 3lbs (or 5 or 10lbs) you’ll get big and bulky.
Truth: Eating more calories than you burn makes you big and bulky.
Myth #2: Lifting weights will make you look like a man.
Truth: If you take testosterone, and work really hard, you will gain more muscle than you otherwise would.
Do muscles make you look like a man? Well, muscles are muscles, and I’ll leave it up to others to judge whether defined muscles make one “look like a man”.
Building muscle for men is tough, and building lean muscle for women is really tough. Trust me, you will not walk out of the gym after a few months of heavy weight training looking like the Hulk or Arnold.
You will begin to see defined muscle, especially if you lose some body fat. In my opinion, some muscle definition is beautiful on both sexes. Unless you are cutting down to extremely low levels of body fat and/or are taking “stuff” you will not look like a competitive body builder.
If you want to see what fit chicks look like who lift heavy stuff on a regular basis, see Molly Galbraith’s super awesome Love Your Body Challenge. Not only do these ladies not look like men, they show how all different body types can be fit, muscular, and beautiful.
Myth #3: Aerobics works better for weight loss, so I’m not going to bother with strength training, since I just want to lose weight.
Truth: Steady state aerobics will not build muscle (read sexy shape and curves) like lifting heavy iron.
Aerobics is arguably better simply from a weight loss stand point. However; this is not the whole picture. In fact, the weight you lose doing aerobics might be muscle, not just fat, and that, my Beauties, is not good! If what really matters to you is how you look, and how your clothes fit, then strength training and building lean muscle, should be your first priority. If all you care about is the number on the scale, than by all means continue your aerobics-only program!
Muscle is more dense and compact than fat so you can weigh the same, or more, but actually be, and look, smaller.
Myth #4: I’ll get injured. I don’t know how. I’m intimidated. The weight room is full of testosterone.
(The weight room is full of testosterone, but that’s because all the women are jumping around in the step aerobics class! Get your butt in the weight room and start the trend!)
Truth: More injuries come with lots of steady-state aerobic/endurance exercise.
With endurance/aerobic exercise, you are using a shorter range of motion for many thousands of repetitions. Think about how many injuries are associated with running and high-impact aerobics.
And here’s Big Truth: If you sit around and don’t exercise for fear of injury (or lack of motivation), you will most definitely become sick and develop injuries of underuse and misuse. See Sitting is Killing You.
Solutions for dealing with the I’ll get injured/I don’t know how/ I’m intimidated mindset:
- Ummm…don’t drop the weights on yourself!
- Get a coach.
- Educate yourself. Read. Watch videos. Learn proper technique.
- Master body weight exercises first.
- Get some kettlebells and train at home. Start with the kettlebell deadlift and move on to the kettlebell swing.
- Go to the gym with a friend. This helps you feel more comfortable, as well as gives you accountability.
Ready to get started with bodyweight strength training? Get the FREE Beautiful Strength Bodyweight Workout Program!
As for not knowing how–
Everyone starts at the beginning. Embrace beginner’s mind. Embrace looking dumb and lost when you first start. Tweet This!
Breakin’ it Down
Building Lean Muscle for Women
- Eating more food than you burn will cause you to gain fat and bulk, not heavy weight training.
- Lifting heavy will give you defined muscle, you will not look like the Hulk.
- You need to be building muscle with weight training to sculpt curves–you won’t get that from aerobic exercise.
- Be smart in the weight room. Learn proper technique. Start with the basics, but never stop challenging yourself.
Do these things and you will be rewarded with beautiful lean muscle, confidence, and strength.
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