Molly McNamee | Do these weights make me look fat?
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Do these weights make me look fat?

I can't tell you the number of times I have been asked by typically female clients if lifting weights will give them big "manly" muscles or make them look "bulky." So I'm going to answer that question right now for all of you wondering ... NO.

There are different types of ways to train your muscles depending on what your goals are. Most people associate weight lifting with the big men at the gym lifting over 100 pounds at a time. And this is what scares most people, especially women, away from lifting weights. But, lifting doesn't have to look like that. The people who lift heavy are training for "muscular hypertrophy" or in other words - they want to increase the size of their muscles. To do this, they lift a lot of weight at a time and do the exercise for several reps and sets. The majority of people, however, do no want to get bigger muscles and simply want to "tone up." There is an easy way to do this without getting bulky! All you have to do is lift lighter weights for more reps and sets. If the man next to you in the gym is doing bicep curls with a 75 pound dumbbell, doing 10 reps at a time, and repeats that 3 times - he wants to get bigger. In order to tone up, you would grab some 10 pounders (depending on your fitness level this could be more or less) and do 12 reps and repeat 5 times.  Lifting something as light at 10 pounds is not going to make you big at all! It will simply help you "tone up!"

So you see, muscle growth is only one small part of what you can do with strength training (lifting weights). There is no need to be afraid of the weight room because you think you might get bulky. In fact, lifting weights is only one part of what makes people gain muscle. An equally important part is nutrition, genetics, and supplementation (taking pills). So if you aren't consuming mass amounts of protein or have large muscles in your genetics or are taking anabolic steroids - you really don't have to worry about getting big. Especially if you are a woman. Big muscles aren't in our genetics as women, so you would really have to be doing a lot in order to get big "manly" muscles. But we do want nicely toned and defined muscles as women.

Muscle is not a bad thing, in fact, you need muscle to burn fat! The more muscle you have, the more fat you can burn! And our goal in exercising is typically to burn fat, right? Let me explain, your body naturally burns calories everyday on its own without exercise (that's not to say we shouldn't exercise though) Your body burns calories on its own because it has to maintain everything inside of you.  At rest, a pound of muscle in your body burns more calories a day than a pound of fat does. The actual number of calories is small, but it adds up! A pound of fat, while your body is at rest, burns about 2 calories a day. A pound of muscle burns about 6 calories. Therefore, the more muscle you have in your body - the higher your metabolism, or the higher number of calories you burn without doing anything.

So, getting your cardio in to burn fat is fantastic! But, adding strength workouts in with your cardio will just increase that fat burn, allowing you to see results! The next time you are at the gym walk into that weight room with confidence and know that, for the most part, whatever you do is not going to make you get big.