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I Don’t Want to Bulk Up

If I had a dime for every time a female client told me this, I could retire early.

For starters, take a look at me: your Certified Personal Trainer. Am I bulky? No? Okay cool. And since you know {in general} I train you the way I train myself, that should be of some reassurance that I’m not going to lead you astray. I understand your goals and am here to educate you, guide you, and support you☺️

With that being said, let’s jump into some of the science behind exercising to lose weight, or as I like to correct that terminology and replace the word “weight” with fat, because you can go to the bathroom and lose “weight.” You specifically want to cut fat.

The independent action of lifting heavy in the gym will not dramatically increase your muscle mass. If you’re looking to gain more muscle and add on some lean pounds, then this article probably isn’t for you, but that topic will happily be covered in another blog of mine (stay tuned).

Hormones play a key role in muscle development… like, the BIGGEST role. It’s extremely unlikely that exercise alone will “bulk you up.” As females, your testosterone levels are far lower than that of males. In fact, men produce up to 20x the amount of testosterone than women. So unless you’re downing raw eggs like Rocky, eating a few steaks before your morning coffee, and injecting yourself with horse testosterone— I think you’re gonna be okay.

But don’t just take my word for it, let’s look at some more facts:

When you’re working out in the gym with hopes of “toning up,” (I’ll cover that myth in another blog!) what you’re actually doing is ever so slightly adding a bit of muscle mass to whichever muscle group you’re hitting. “But I thought you just said I wouldn’t bulk  up?😡” Sit tight, I’m walking you through this.

You’re also burning calories. Not only are you burning calories now, you’ll continue burning them throughout the rest of your day, even when you’re sitting at your work desk. Awesome right? I knew you’d like that.

You also want to consider the fact that your muscle isn’t the problem. It’s the adipose tissue surrounding your muscle, giving you that “soft” look.

Okay so you’re training multiple sets within an hour and this repetition causes micro-tears (a necessary effect), hence why you may experience muscle soreness the following day(s), which is why it’s important to let those said muscles recover for 1-2 days before hitting them again because you need to let them repair and rebuild, or else you’re doing more damage than good.

By lifting heavy, you’re challenging yourself physically and mentally. Your heart rate may spike, you’re sweating, you’re physically shaking. You take a minute to recover before entering into the next set.

This rollercoaster of heart rate readings isn’t a bad thing! You’re likely going to get more out of this style of workout than solely jogging on the treadmill as your mind wanders, not realizing you could have upped the speed and incline 3 miles ago because your body is trying to adapt to the stressor you’re putting it through. Note: you don’t want to coast. You don’t want to mindlessly enter into this autopilot pace where your body easily adapts, hence why working out is hard and if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?

So what defines “heavy”? Heavy looks different to each person. The general rule of thumb is to focus on how many reps you’re able to manage within a single set; this will help determine what your max weight is (for now). You can’t train long if you’re training hard. Read that again. Are you only able to get in a 3-8 rep range? Good, you’re lifting heavy. A 10-12 rep range is more typical for muscular endurance. FYI there is absolutely nothing wrong with this rep range; I use it on my beginner-intermediate clients all the time and it’s great for analyzing where a client is at and establishing a foundation.

But your question remains:  “will I bulk up by lifting heavy?” The answer is no. You’re going to be the opposite of “soft,” and as long as that reality appeals to you, keep lifting heavy. Your butt will get more rounded and lifted, your triceps will create a beautiful contrast amidst the posterior of your arms, and you’ll feel so much sexier in that low-back dress with that taut back of yours. This challenging yet rewarding method of exercise will chisel away at your physique’s fat and calories, resulting in a leaner, stronger, and healthier body.

So, you game? Book a Personal Training session with me👍🏽

-Emma, Flex & Flexibility

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