One of the most persistent myths in exercise is that women will get bulky from lifting heavy weights. False! Lifting an 8-pound dumbbell instead of a 2-pound dumbbell will not turn you into a lady Schwarzeneggar. Simply put, female bodies are not constructed to build big muscles. All you will get if you add on weight that challenges your workout is tone and definition.
Testosterone equals mass
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Lack of testosterone is one of the key reasons you will not get big arms from heavier dumbbells. In her workout video "The Butt Bible," Pauline Nordin says that women worry they will "...turn into a bodybuilder directly." However, not even 15-pound weights will get you bulky. On average, females have 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men. Testosterone builds up muscle. In fact, estrogen tends to break muscle down. So, unless you are taking testosterone supplements, or have a unique physiological condition, your body is actively working against you getting big, manly muscles.
But What About Bodybuilders?
Female bodybuilders do have very large muscles, but often that is a result of steroids and other treatments, including hormones. Also, bodybuilders dedicate a great deal of time to packing on the muscle. The average woman doesn't spend three hours a day in the gym pounding every muscle group. It takes an extreme amount of effort to build up muscle on a woman's body, and 8-pound dumbbells are not going to be enough to be a concern.
Every Little Bit of Cardio Helps
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Lifting weights for sets that last longer than 60 seconds makes your workout an aerobic one. Cardio has the effect of releasing hormones in your body that break down muscle tissue. Circuit training, weights during cardio or adding cardio into a resistance routine is enough to counteract the development of muscle. Aiming for 8 to 15 reps when lifting weights will typically result in sets that are longer than 60 seconds, which will have you melting fat, not putting on the muscle.
Muscles Need Food
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To build up a big body, you need to eat like Rocky Balboa. Eating increased amounts of carbohydrates is key to adding bulk. If you are working off more calories than you are eating, then you will lose size. If you are starting an exercise routine for the first time, you will be very tempted to add on more food to compensate for the loss in calories. Your body is geared to survive, and it wants to store fat just in case food becomes scarce. Resist those urges. Avoid adding extra meals and you won't bulk up.
- The Butt Bible; Pauline Nordin
- Healthchekuk: 8 Reasons Why Women Won't Get Big From Resistance Training
- Shape: 10 Health and Fitness Myths You Still Believe
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.