I’m going to start this post with an #smh, a #facepalm and a #pleasemakeitstop.
I was at lunch with a beloved colleague and we were talking about a pilates class she attended that morning. I’m a yogi myself so I love that kind of stuff. But when she proceeded to tell me that she loves pilates because it “creates long, lean muscles and helps you get toned instead of bulky” I just took a deep breath, smiled, and nodded before changing the subject.
I love telling people what to do, but I’m no in person proselytizer. I don’t know everything and I’ll be damned if I’m going to set myself up to be wrong in the future by telling people how wrong they are at every turn. Maybe I’m wrong.
The purpose of this post is NOT to insist that all ladies lift heavy (or lift weights at all, although I do insist on some form of strength training per the CDC). No it’s about this crazy idea that one can get “toned not bulky” via “light weights and high reps” in the first place.
I cannot let this slide. C’mon, son (man I miss Psych)!
Day after day I hear cis females (and hardgainer cis males) saying they don’t want to lift heavy because they “don’t want to get bulky, just toned.” Then they might even insist that lifting heavy has made them bulky in the past.
Barely anyone — man or woman — gets “bulky” by accident. Building an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Betty Pariso body takes years of dedication, training, tweaking and retweaking, diet manipulation and coaching.
Now I know you don’t mean to sound presumptuous and a little bit arrogant about your bodybuilding potential and you’re actually just repeating what you’ve been told, but have you ever talked to a cis male who told you it was sooo easy for him to build muscle and get big (who wasn’t trying to get in your pants)? Do you know how hard it is even to look like Jamie Eason? And don’t you kinda wanna look like her?
What many women think is them getting bulky when they first start in the gym, is likely just plain old fat gain as they eat more. I.e., that’s not more muscle, ladies. It’s more fat on top of your muscles. Because your body is hungry and you’re eating. Because you’re actually pushing it for a change.
Now there are some among us who really will get “bulky” from lifting quickly. But really, they were probably already a bit bulky. For instance, I have relatively big thighs and I currently squat my body weight (trying to get up to 1.5x). But I have ALWAYS had big thighs composed almost entirely of muscle. They were this way when I was 19 years old weighing 120 lbs and the only weight lifting I did was hauling bags of groceries a few blocks. That’s just how I’m built. And I love my thighs. Here are some of my favorite bodybuilding and powerlifting women who can probably deadlift twice your bodyweight: Meg, Jelisa and Nikki. Beautiful.
Bodies of all shapes and sizes and the souls who inhabit them are beautiful. And the best workout routine is the one you will stick with: weight lifting, pilates, swimming, running outside, hula hooping. But don’t shy away from picking up a barbell for the wrong reasons.