Weightlifting makes you bulky, & 5 other myths you should ignore!

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

The weightlifting myth that suggests weight training makes you bulky is steeped in history. Magazines, movies, and the media in general have long hailed weightlifting as a big man’s game.

Despite this one-sided portrayal of the effects of weightlifting, exercise experts, personal trainers, and coaches work tirelessly to boast the benefits of lifting weights as an efficient and effective method for getting in shape — regardless of whether that shape is big and muscular or slim and defined. But because the meatier of the masses tend to spend a lot of time training in the weight room, people continue to associate pumping iron with bulk and brawn.

Breaking Down the Bulk Myth

Many people — usually women — who are afraid of bulking up typically don’t understand the complexity of building muscle.

Strength training leads to micro-tears in muscle fibres. Your body responds by repairing the muscle tissue, and increasing the size of cells and adding new ones. Although every body pretty much generates muscle the same way, there are many factors that play into how much growth occurs and the ultimate size and shape of muscles. Gender, hormone levels, age, and nutrition all add variation to the muscle-building paradigm. Other important factors that play into muscle growth are:

  • How often you lift

  • How often you train each muscle group

  • How many exercises you do in each workout

  • How long you rest between sets

  • How much protein you eat

  • How much you sleep

…and that’s just to name a few.

Most women can’t “bulk up” even if they wanted to. It’s just not in their genetics. For starters, women tend to have lower levels of muscle-building testosterone than men. Add to that the fact that women also tend to have less skeletal muscle mass, and it becomes clear that they just aren’t predisposed to build the same kind of mass as men. But that doesn’t mean that lifting weights is worthless for them. Research shows that while most women can’t build as much muscle as most men, they can enjoy similar strength gains. In short, they can enjoy all the benefits without the bulk.

Other Weightlifting Myths to Dismiss

Still wary about weightlifting despite the busted bulk myth? Let’s squash some other misconceptions about strength training and dive into some of the great benefits of lifting weights.

Myth 1: Calories burned lifting weights is less than cardio.

Truth: You might burn more calories during an hour-long run than you will during a similarly long weightlifting workout, but your total caloric burn from the latter will be much higher.

Myth 2: Weightlifting makes you less flexible.

Truth: When people think about those who lift weights, they often think of stiff, inflexible bodybuilders. But here’s the thing: When a weightlifting program is done correctly, it can actually enhance mobility, not reduce it.

Myth 3: You have to go to the gym if you want to do a weightlifting program.

Truth: You don’t need a fully stocked gym to get started with weightlifting. All you need are a set or two of dumbbells that challenge you, and about six square feet of floor space. If you have a bench and/or a stability ball, all the better, but neither one is required.

Myth 4: Weight machines are better than free weights.

Truth: While weight machines might seem less intimidating than free weights, they’re less effective for building muscle. And the reasons are that they tend to lock you into an unnatural movement pattern and they don’t always engage muscles the same way as equivalent free-weight exercises do.

Myth 5: To see the best results, men should lift heavy and women should lift light.

The truth is that gender makes no difference when it comes to strength training. Muscle is muscle, It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman — your muscles will react to training the same way.

Your decision to lift heavy or light should depend on your goals, fitness level, and training experience. If you’re a beginner to weightlifting, sticking to lighter weights (or not using weights at all) is probably your best option, as that will help you master proper form, which should always be a top priority. But if you’ve been around the weight rack a few times, you should focus on using heavy (i.e., challenging) weights, but also occasionally lift lighter ones.

Incorporating both heavy-weight/low-rep sets and light-weight/high-rep sets into your training program will allow you to train both types of muscle fibres — type I and type II. Type II fibres, which are larger and targeted with heavy lifting and explosive movements [like jumping and sprinting], have greater growth potential, but studies show that type I ‘endurance’ fibres, which you engage with low-weight/high-rep sets and sustained activity [like steady-state running], can grow more than previously thought.

In short, if you want to maximise overall muscle growth, you shouldn’t just lift heavy — you have to do some light-weight/high-rep work as well.

Why Weightlifting Is Worth It?

It’s tough to think of a reason why weightlifting isn’t worth trying, In addition to increasing strength and power, it can increase mobility, elevate metabolism, burn fat, and enhance energy levels.

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Kaz x

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