Have you heard that rumor before? The one that postulates that women shouldn’t really get involved in heavy weight training because they might accidently “bulk up” too much? For years this false notion has prevented thousands of women – and even men these days – from undertaking an effective strength & conditioning program for fear that the barbell will transform them overnight into a rippling, veiny, muscle-bound bodybuilders. When you really start to examine it, it’s an almost laughable fear.
While there are people out there who do become copiously muscular, this is not something he or she stumbled into by accident, and it didn’t happen overnight. It takes unique genetics with some very specific training, diet, and often chemical supplementation – especially in very muscular females.
Your dilemma is that you actually just want to get “lean and toned,” get rid of some cellulite, and have those pretty lines down your abs. And you’re not sure how to go about it, because the fitness industry is always selling you the newest, easiest, and at times, quite conflicting exercise programs. How else are they going to come up with magazine and blog content each month?
Let’s start by taking the phrase “lean and toned” out of your vocabulary and throwing it in the garbage. You need to be more specific and more objective: you want to lose body fat and increase your muscle definition. Both of those things require you to monitor your diet and get more muscle! After all, you can’t “tone” muscle that isn’t there to begin with!
The best way to get more muscle is to train the basic free weight movements that have been working for athletes and non-athletes for decade after decade. These exercises are the Squat, the Standing Press, the Bench Press and the Deadlift performed with a barbell. (Don’t ever bother with those tiny pink dumbbells again…if they aren’t at least a little heavy, they don’t work).
These movements are the ones you need to focus on to build some muscle and put your body in a better metabolic state to get rid of excess body fat. And the best program is one that does not vary the exercise selection based on you being female, but rather has an appropriate prescription for volume and intensity to account for your testosterone levels as a female.
But how do you do this without getting bulky?
First, understand that your ability to build muscle mass is almost entirely based on the genetics you were born with, and your testosterone level, which is also genetically predetermined. Being predisposed to putting on huge quantities of muscle mass is pretty uncommon in females – and really, in males too – and if you have these genetics, you know it already.
Like most women, you weren’t born with these characteristics, and you don’t have enough testosterone to get huge. You’ll just have to make do with what you’ve got. And what you’ve got won’t make you “bulky”.
Testosterone level is the major factor when it comes to getting highly muscular. Like I said, you probably don’t have what it takes to be lady-jacked at this point, and the only way to change this is to chemically alter your hormonal status through outside supplementation. Testosterone supplementation is illegal without doctor supervision, and really isn’t something a female would ever need to do for her general health.
But, if you truly are interested in changing the way that your body looks, feels, and performs by adding some muscle and reducing your body fat, then it will require a lot of hard work. Make no mistake, there is no quick fix.
You’ll need to seriously train with a barbell at least 2 times per week and take responsibility for your diet.
Here’s the thing, building muscle for almost every human is really difficult; it takes a lot of time and dedication to training and nutrition. Women who have taken the time to develop an extremely high amount of muscle mass wanted it, and they worked really hard for it. I guarantee that training 2 times per week with a barbell will not put you on their level, and it borders on insulting to their efforts by claiming it will instantly happen to you.
While serious barbell training may not be easy, it’s certainly the most efficient means of improving your body – and if the fear of “bulking up” has caused you to hesitate to learn how, I hope you will reconsider.