I don’t mean to brag (okay, maybe I do a little) but I’m skinnier than when I was a teen. Technically, I weigh the exact same now as I did my senior year in high school, but I’m a full dress size smaller.
How did that happen?
Well, a few years ago I started a progressive strength program with and emphasis on movements such as squats, dead lifts, bench press, and pull ups. I wanted to learn how to properly execute these moves, do a body weight pull-up without assistance, and increase the amount of weight I could lift. I didn’t admit it out loud when I started the program, but I was certain it would make me look bulky. However, after just two months my jeans were looser and friends were giving me compliments about how trim I looked. It’s a good thing I didn’t really want to lose weight because I only lost about three pounds on the scale, but I dropped a full dress size. A FULL DRESS SIZE. Now I don’t care about the numbers on the scale, and you shouldn’t either!
I’m trying to figure out how and why the myth that lifting heavy weights makes you bulky is still prevalent in fitness magazines and the mainstream media because it is simply untrue. For years, I would mimic the workouts of many popular celebrities, which consisted of dance moves and circuits with light weights. I did lose weight and look better, it just took far more time than the progressive program. I also let my weight dictate the impression of my health and appearance. I understand it’s hard to change your mindset, but there are two important things to keep in mind if you’re going to use the scale to track your progress:
1. Muscle burns fat while you’re at rest, so it’s best to lift heavy if you have limited time to exercise. If you have four to five hours to dance around in the gym, then go ahead. If you don’t, be sure to maximize your time by lifting heavy. The weight should be challenging enough that you can only complete 8-10 reps. If you can do more than 10, the weight is too light.
2. Muscle weighs more than fat, so you won’t see much of a difference on the scale while you’re lifting heavy. Instead, you’ll notice a lower body fat percentage, lost inches around your waist, and looser clothes. Also, your friends and coworkers will notice a difference! Many of my clients get comments from their spouses before they notice a difference themselves.
Again, I know it’s hard to change the mindset, but stop looking at the scale if that’s how you’re monitoring your progress right now. Instead, focus on improving your fitness level and getting stronger. In later posts, I’ll discuss the program I went on in greater detail and I’ll be providing specific suggestions for your workouts.
So, if lifting heavy weights doesn’t cause bulk, what does? Cheeseburgers, pizza, too many drinks at happy hour are all culprits of bulk. In fact, ask yourself this question before you put anything in your mouth: “is this going to make me bulky?” Don’t ask that about lifting heavy weights in the gym. And stop giving the numbers on the scale more attention than they deserve!