Why women NEED to build muscle
Let’s just take a quick run through fitness trends. Spandex in the seventies...a little more spandex in the eighties and a LOT of aerobics, ’step’ and lots of new concept classes in the nineties...more variations of these classes in the noughties, with a background murmur of strength training and the possibility of it giving you awesome results.
You kind of know that if you lift weights, not the pink fluffy ones that were all the rage in the eighties, you will increase your metabolism, look better and actually feel pretty awesome. You know this, right? Well kind of...two things sit at the back of your mind...
1) If I lift heavy weights, won’t I get too muscly? 2) I get I should lift the heavy weights, but I’m kind of not sure how to..
Let’s address each of these -
1. If I lift weights, won’t I get too muscly - In a word, NO! If you ask any guy at the gym who is trying to put on muscle mass, without the assistance of naughty substances, you will find that he finds it pretty hard. It takes, time, a lot of clean eating, and consistency for him to start seeing some extra brawn! Now cue camera to us females, we don’t have as much testosterone as men. This means that if we were following the exact same diet and training programme as them, we would not put on muscle mass at the same rate. So no, your thigh muscles are not going to be popping out of your skinny jeans at the thought of squatting with a heavy but doable weight on the barbell.
Speaking of skinny jeans, the more weight you lift, the leaner you get, the sweeter your legs fit into skinny jeans...or a skirt, dress, whatever your fancy. So, it’s pretty likely that if you gain a pound in muscle, you’ll probably lose the equivalent in fat...not because fat turns into muscle, they are too different entities...one does not convert to the other. However, if you increase muscle mass, you increase your metabolism and too, your fat burning ability. Win, win! Now in case you have this vision of muscle being this shirt popping mass of muscly-ness, you are wrong. A pound of muscle actually takes up less space than a pound of fat. Why? Because muscle is denser than fat. A 132 pound woman with a higher proportion of body fat will physically look bigger, than a 132 woman with a lower proportion of body fat and higher proportion of muscle. Be gone with you scales!! Yes, two women that weigh the same, with one who lifts weights, increasing her muscle mass (and her metabolism) will look smaller than the other who is too scared to pick up anything beyond 5kg for fear of looking too bulky! If the former does happen to you, I’d bottle it up and sell your secret to the skinny guy trying to get bigger!
OK on to the next one...
2. I get I should lift the heavy weights, but I’m kind of not sure how to...
So you know you should be squatting, deadlifting, pressing, you know, all of those large compound exercises that you have heard you should do to get the most out of your workout session...but how? Do you feel comfortable about rocking up the squat rack and banging out a few squats? Yes? Kind of? Maybe? The big compound movements that I mentioned are essential, to build muscle, to burn more fat and make you feel stronger and more awesome without the buffness you fear. It’s important that to get the most out of them, you know how to execute them correctly, without any mobility issues you may have, getting in the way!! A squat or a deadlift done badly, will stop you from doing any kind of exercise if you get injured.
I’m pretty sure Jess squats...not bad eh...
*image from GQ
There are some exercises that I will never stop doing...they are the squat and the deadlift. These two awesome movements are crucial to structural strength, day to day performance and all-round awesomeness! Why wouldn’t you!!
Joslyn is a Nike Master Trainer, editor-in-chief of popular blog http://fitgirlabouttown.com, Crossfit coach & athlete, and runs women’s lifting workshops - http://womensliftingworkshop.eventbrite.co.uk/