Sonya’s Column: Weights Don’t Make You Bulky

I used to be one of those girls, you know, like the majority you see in the gym, sweating buckets – will somebody please invent make up that doesn’t run – on a treadmill, doing some sort of class, or jumping up and down like a rabbit on amphetamines (plyometric exercise). The more cardio I did, the better my body would get and the more fat I would burn, or so I thought…It’s a common belief, the more we sweat, the more fat we lose, right? How wrong I was!

Are you ready for this? Cardio training is great for the heart as it gets you aerobically fit, but sadly has a negative effect on body composition. Yes, you read correctly! The body is smart and quickly gets used to cardio, so if losing fat and changing body shape is your goal, then stop with the cardio!

slender like jessica albaMuscle will NOT make you look bigger!

First of all, I want to dispel a big myth. Muscle will NOT make you look bigger, in fact the opposite is true. Muscle mass takes up less space than fat and gives you that lean and “toned” look that many women strive for! We all want the sleek, slender appearance of Jessica Alba. It’s fat around the muscle that makes people look big, and most people don’t even realise how small their muscle is, as it’s under all the fat.

How many times do I hear women say they don’t want to lift weights as they don’t want bigger arms and shoulders, but they do want them to look toned. By adding a small amount of lean muscle, it will become easier to lose the fat and get a better shape. The result is beautifully toned arms and shoulders, slimmer thighs, a flat tummy, and uplifted rounded glutes – you get the picture. Cardio cannot do all of this! And muscle can’t turn into fat either!

In short, women don’t have enough of the hormone testosterone to get bulky, in fact we have 10 times less than a man. Any bulky woman you see is generally taking performance enhancement drugs, in the form of anabolic steroids, to deliberately create this kind of physique. Muscles are actually extremely difficult to build, trust me I have tried! Some women are more genetically gifted than others, have trained hard and eat surplus calories to attain muscle, but it takes years.

The benefits of weight lifting

Lifting weights has SO MANY benefits.

  • You’ll burn fat quicker. You continue to burn calories after your workout. Whereas cardio just uses the calories while you do it. With weight lifting you not only burn calories during a workout, but also additional calories post workout. WOW! This “after burn” effect is known as EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption).
  • You can eat more! Muscle tissue requires more energy than fat tissue. This means that you burn more calories at rest and it is easier to stay leaner.
  • You’ll increase your mental strength: Get ready for an explosive boost in self confidence. In my experience, and many woman have said the same, lifting weights not only makes you stronger physically but can leave you feeling empowered and can carry over day life.
  • You’ll strengthen your bones: Let’s face it, we all want to look better on the outside, but weight lifting is much more than skin deep! It strengthens bone density, which help fight against diseases such as Osteopenia and Osteoporosis.
  • You’ll have a healthy heart: What’s more, regular weight training improves cardiovascular fitness

My top 4 weight-lifting tips

Here are my top 4 training tips for that lean body:

  1. Lift weights 4 times a week and split the sessions into lower and upper body. I typically do at least two leg sessions (lower body) a week and a pull and push upper body session.
  2. Use compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, pull ups, bench press. These give you the most bang for your buck. There is much more muscle recruitment in a compound movement, and your abs will thank you for it too.
  3. Glutes are the biggest muscle group in the body and for that bikini body you need the booty to match. It’s been my weak point, and it can take years to develop. My favourite and most effective is the hip thrust – thank you Bret Contreras aka the Glute Guy – check out Load weight and make sure you are squeezing and holding at the top of the thrust!
  4. Don’t forget your shoulders – training shoulders in my opinion shouldn’t be underestimated. Defined shoulders give you the illusion of a smaller waist. Military press is an essential compound movement, but I would also do some isolation work. Lateral raises and face pulls are amongst my favourites.

Change your body shape by building sexy curves…time to build some muscle girl! Stay tuned to my column as I will be giving more examples of how to get that summer bikini body!