In this post, I'm going to do my damnedest to try and convince you that strength training is what you need to have the best physique of your life, and that it won't make you bulky (unless you want it to).
I have a strong bias towards lifting because I've seen how it changes my client's lives. I've helped tons of people feel sexier and more confident, using strength training to shape their body. Not bragging, just explaining my reasoning.
The majority of my clients have zero strength training experience prior to working with me. They’ve worked out extensively but are frustrated because nothing seems to stick. After only a month of lifting weights, they notice drastic changes in energy levels, mood, and muscle definition.
There are tons of other fitness coaches who have seen the same thing, so it's not just me.
Why then, does everyone say lifting weights will make you bulky and that if you want long lean muscles you need to do yoga or lift pink dumbbells?
Truth be told, I don’t know.
I'm going to guess this myth stems from the fact that female strength, mental and physical, is heavily discouraged in our lovely, little American patriarchy. But that's an important discussion for another day.
Today, I simply want to show you why and how lifting weights is the best way to build a lean, athletic looking body.
Where does tone come from?
Muscle tone depends on the ratio of body fat and muscle size. Muscle tone also depends on how your body carries said muscle and fat. However, that's a matter of genetics and you can't change that. I won't discuss this at length, but it's worth mentioning.
A high muscle-to-fat ratio equals lots of muscular definition.
The contours of a tennis ball under a bed sheet are more visible than those of a tennis ball under a duvet. Furthermore, the tennis ball (big muscle) will have more definition under the duvet than a golf ball (small muscle) would. Having lots of muscle makes it easier to see definition. That doesn’t mean you can’t have definition with not-lots-of-muscle.
Remember, it's not about muscle or fat, it's about the ratio of the two.
How to get toned without getting bigger
Muscle needs calories to grow. If you aren’t eating enough, you could lift like a bodybuilder and stay the same size.
Looking lean is all about nutrition. You can’t outtrain a bad diet. Well, you can ... but you’re not a teenager on the swim team anymore so it’s not exactly practical.
To melt the fat off you need to eat a fisftul of vegetables every meal, heavily limit alcohol intake, eat tons of protein, and get 8ish hours of sleep a night.
That handles the fat part of the ratio.
"But what about the muscle part? How can I build muscle without getting bigger?"
Lifting builds muscle. And what builds muscle keeps muscle. Essentially, weight loss becomes fat loss when you lift weights.
Say you're eating well so the scale is going down. You're also lifting weights 3 times a week. As the fat drops off, the muscle remains. You now have the same amount of muscle with less fat and voila! Your arms are thinner and now have that little line on the back of them.
Say you improve your diet, without lifting, and the scale is going down. You burn fat, but also burn muscle in the process. This is like buying thinner bedding and a smaller tennis ball. You're smaller, but your proportions haven't changed.
Remember, if you’re not eating enough calories you’re not going to get bulky. Granted, this depends on your definition of “bulky”, so I can’t speak for everyone. What I can say is that you won’t get bigger without adequate calories.
Now, if you're still worried about getting too big, I got your back. Simply don't lift 2 times per week instead of 3.
Building muscle is HARD. Like, really REALLY hard. Even if you lift 3-4 times per week it takes years to put on tons of muscle. Fortunately/unfortunately, your body won't change overnight.
Twice a week simply isn't enough to pack on muscle. Don't worry, you'll still see increases in muscle definition, strength and energy levels only lifting 2x per week.
Either way, even if you have some baller ass muscle building genetics, it will take a few months put on noticeable amounts of muscle -- try 2x and 3x a week and see what gives you the best results.
You don't have to lift weights, but I'd strongly recommend adding in some strength training at least once a week.
Don't know where to start? Don't worry, I got you covered. Here's a handful of articles you don't want to miss if you want to jump start your strength training and your fat loss:
- Why Your Life Will Be Better From Lifting Heavy Things, And How To Get Started
- The Overthinkers Guide To Fitness, Nutrition, And Sleep
- 4 Crucial Exercises To Speed Up Fat Loss