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Gym Belle  - noun  one who enjoys pull-ups, push-ups, lifting things up/putting 'em down, PRs of all kinds, racing, jumping, spinning, daring and blogging re same (more here)


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Do These Weights Make Me Look Bulky?

In case you missed it, this week the New York Times ran an article claiming that, contrary to what many believe, lifting heavier weights for fewer reps will help you slim down rather than bulk up. 

This theory isn't "news" to fitness people.  Nevertheless, I was really psyched.  I'm not actively trying to slim down or lose weight at the moment.  If a few pounds fell off me, that'd be great, but I'm fine where I'm at.  Still, I've been lifting serious weights lately and would hate to think that my new hobby was going to make me meaningfully bigger.  I loved reading that I'm doing the right thing.  I got to feel smart and productive.  Go me!

And then I read the comments. 

Some people vehemently disagree with the article's conclusion, and I understand that.  If you're somebody who has gained mass from lifting, scientific studies aren't going to mean much.  Still, the commenters citing celebrity trainers and ballerinas etc. who wouldn't touch weights for certain muscle groups kind of got to me.  And I find it sad that the word "bulk" is tossed around so casually.  It's one thing to look like the Incredible Hulk and quite another to have some definition.  There were plenty of more uplifting commenters, too - including some CrossFit NYC people - but on the whole, I found the comments a little disheartening.

I have no real business opining on the effects of weight training.  I haven't read the studies.  I'm not a trainer.  I'm not a doctor, or even a science person.  In college, I took Dinosaurs to fulfill my science requirement.  Still, I've been mulling this one over and my belief is that it depends.  Obviously, you have to consider how much weight you're really lifting, and how often you're doing it.  Beyond that, though, muscle under fat looks different than just muscle, so whether you look bigger or not might depend on where you're starting from.  I would think that your diet would also be a factor, i.e. how much protein you're taking in.  It probably also depends on your individual hormone levels; we're not all the same in that department.  I'm not suggesting that the effects of lifting are unknowable in a scientific sense, but it seems really hard to predict results on an individual level without a lot of information and an awful lot of effort.

Nevertheless, I don't think women - or men - who want to lift should be afraid of lifting any more than I think they should be afraid to run for fear of developing thigh muscles.  Our bodies were meant to move.  Moving feels good. 

Lifting heavy weights is awesome.  You get stronger so quickly, and it's incredibly gratifying.  I like the intensity of lifting, and how it wholly consumes me.  When you're doing squats with a barbell over your head that weighs half as much as you do, you really focus.  Or else.  Also, sometimes in life you need to pick things up and it's kind of cool being able to do that.  Yes, I'd rather turn purple than lose the definition in my arms, but it's not all about the aesthetics.  If my goal was to look like a celebrity in a magazine, I'd get out of the gym and go buy Photoshop. 

I'm stepping down off my soapbox now. 

-Gym Belle-



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Reader Comments (3)

You rock - I like your soapbox :)

April 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlissa

I totally didn't even read the comments on the article. Now, I'll have to go back and read them.

April 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFit Chick in the City

I lift weights on the regular nothing too heavy 5-10lbs. I like watching myself left- hehe I feel strong! ( your bow won't take my URL but I wanted you to know who I was!

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSana

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