Lifting heavy and getting bulky is a classic concern from nearly every woman when discussing strength training. A legitimate concern, but extremely misunderstood and misplaced. Hopefully I can shed some light here. This article, published in the Sierra Sun July 25th issue, doesn’t completely break apart every aspect of getting bulky, and also how and why high volume heavy lifting can in fact bulk you up. Lets just remember that the kitchen plays a vast and vitally important role in either getting lean and mean or packing on the beef.
Sierra Sun submission
Fitness myth: If I lift heavy, I will get bulky
By Ryan Egan
Heavy lifting is an ambiguous and relative term. Depending on age, experience and especially gender, lifting “heavy” can and does mean very different things. Typically “heavy” is 80 percent or more of a one rep max effort on a lift . Knowing how to lift safely with the correct poundages takes a lot of experience and proper coaching. Training heavy is crucial to complete strength development, however using maximal and sub-maximal loads is misunderstood and poorly applied. Strength is a skill, properly taking the time to learn this skill is paramount.
The fear of becoming bulky is a concern for many men and women. Unless there is a specific reason for a man to keep bulk down for fighting, climbing or racing, women are generally the most concerned and led astray by the misleading and unhealthy “If I lift heavy, I will bulk up” myth. This is a scary myth because it keeps women from expressing their potential as humans and athletes, along with leaving them more susceptible to non-traumatic injury due to overall lack of physical strength.
Women are serious 21st century warriors. Answering a call as wives, mothers, teammates, athletes and all around radical individuals engaged in every hardcore pursuit and demand alongside men. Women’s physical strength is a critical and vital element for skiing, running, biking, climbing and moving through the demands of daily life. In addition, women are nearly three times more likely to develop osteoporosis. Low bone density, depleted lean muscle mass, and weakened ligament and tendon strength can all be offset with regular “heavy” strength practice.
Getting “bulky” is directly attributed to specific types of muscle growth. Myofibrillar hypertrophy (tight and dense muscle) and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (large and “bulky” muscle) are desirable outcomes and reactions to strength training. Both can be controlled. Getting big and bulky is attributed to numerous factors of specific protocols in programming of sets and reps and work to rest ratios as well as a specific well-calculated diet.
Much like a fruit tree, to produce the most abundant and bountiful fruit all the correct environmental, chemical and genetic processes must be in place. When it comes to getting “bulky” most men have all the pieces in place naturally, with testosterone being the key ingredient. Of course, varying body types and genetic predisposition will assist or impede building muscle, but generally men are much more adept at building large muscles given testosterone levels.
The health, athletic, and human functionality benefits of training heavy (or training with heavy weights) far outweighs the fear of getting bulky.
Safe heavy strength practice increases central nervous system activity, improves balance, coordination and develops postural control and stability. Skeletal loading also enhances bone density and muscular stimulation. Heavy lifting causes connective tissue stress and strength as well as mental focus, psychological demand and toughness.
The key to learning how to practice heavy strength training properly is finding an experienced coach who can teach you how to develop competent movement patterns while using the right protocols and exercises so increasing the weights is done safely. Keeping the total volume low and the repetitions to less than five is vital to remaining tight and small while expressing fantastic amounts of strength.
The real hurdle is committing the time to learning to practice properly, but it pays off when you are still skiing, running, biking, hiking, playing with the kids and grandkids while conquering life, not just surviving life.