“But I’m Afraid I’ll Get Bulky…”

It never fails.  One of the biggest concerns that people new to working out often voice is the fear of getting too bulky.  And because of a supplement industry and marketing culture that makes ludicrous claims as to the speed of muscle growth (New Xtreme Muscle Gain 2000!!!  WARNING: DON’T USE UNLESS YOU WANT TO BUILD SLABS OF NEW BEEFY MUSCLE EVERY SECOND!!! EXTREME!!!!!!!!!), many people think if they lift anything bigger than the pink dumbells this is gonna happen:

Meet 5 time Ms. Olympia Iris Kyle.  (Don’t be afraid she won’t bite you (I think, I don’t know her personally but I’m sure she’s a very nice person)).  You don’t have a prayer of ever looking like this.  Honestly, not even you dudes.  At least not without pharmaceutical help… (I’M COYLY REFERRING TO STEROIDS)

Let me be totally explicit kids; to put on any appreciable muscle as a natural athlete (ie not on steroids) takes years of spot on training, nutrition, and recovery strategies. You just aren’t going to wake up one day and accidentally look like a bodybuilder. 

Resistance training (by which I mean strength training either with body weight or external weights) with absurdly light weight, is not the answer either.  The bottom line is, unless you’re totally brand new to training, you’re not doing a lot when you’re pumping away to “tone” your muscles with 3 lb weights, no matter what certain gurus (‘cough’ Tracy Anderson, OH YES, I’ll get around to her soon) may say.  Ladies, your purse probably weighs more than that.  And while we’re on the subject, there’s really no such thing as “toning” from a physiological standpoint.  There’s losing fat and building muscle.  For most people, when they say they want to “tone”, what they really mean is they want to get leaner (lose fat) and improve the firmness and shapeliness of their physique (build muscle).

Not only does proper use of resistance training provide the best path for the physique results most people are after, but there are a plethora of less sexy health benefits. If done briskly, resistance training can provide the cardiovascular benefits of traditional “cardio”, minus the risk of overuse injury associated with the repetitive motions involved in running, and elliptical-ing, and stationary bicycling-ing. There is also value in just being stronger for the day to day tasks of life; carrying home groceries, helping someone move, or delighting and surprising your friends by moving them to different locations while they’re asleep (“yawn… hey wait a minute… what am I doing in a crackhouse?!?!  FISHER!!!!”).  Resistance training also increases bone density, which is particularly valuable for you ladies to help stave off osteoporosis.

So don’t be afraid to lift weights.  You’re not going to magically bulk up overnight, but as long as your form is good and you are using appropriate loads, you will receive health and physique benefits.

For more comments on “accidental bulking” check out this interview I did a while back at fitforanactor.

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