Holly, my fiancé, exercising in the hotel gym during our latest holiday to Bali.
Putting on muscle is a very common concern for many women when they start a new exercise program. When women ask me to help them lose weight, and I suggest strength exercises, they respond with concern, and rightfully so. The idea for many women, to develop big, bulky muscles, is a deterring thought.
Holly just started exercising regularly again at the end of last year. I was actually surprised. I wasn’t all that supportive in the beginning because she has a habit of starting things and not following through after a few weeks. And possibly the worst thing happened a few week after she started. The festive season rolled around, we flew to Adelaide for her Tupperware manager Christmas party, and we went to Bali.
To my surprise (and delight), Holly asked if we could put the kids in the kid’s club at the hotel we were staying at — the first time we’ve ever stayed in a hotel with a kids club — for 2 hours and go exercise. I was so happy to hear her say this because I felt like she really wanted to make this change happen.
Not every day, but almost everyday, we exercised. And even on the days when we didn’t do “proper” training, we were inadvertently active. We walked a lot, we rode bikes along the foreshore as a family, we played beach flags and we swam a lot.
I was very proud of Holly for wanting to exercise while we were on holidays — there were plenty of other things we could have done… like drink cocktails. And we did. We drank cocktails everyday, but we also exercised. While I was proud of Holly for wanting to exercises, I was even more proud of her for actually doing it. She was the one who motivated me most days.
When we were in the gym, we lifted weights. Sometimes it was dumbbells, sometimes it was using a cable machine and sometimes it was our own bodyweight, hanging from the squat rack machine.
Lifting weights won’t make you big and bulky. It is in fact very helpful for losing weight and developing long, lean muscles. It’s not the weights that make you bulky. It’s the way you do them that matters. If you lift really heavy weights; for example, a weight you couldn’t lift more than 12 times, you will develop bulk. Nutrition matters too. But we’ll leave that for another article. If you lift a lighter weight, through your full range of motion (ROM), for a larger number of reps, you will develop strength, without the bulk. This is how you develop long, lean muscles.
Strength training is a really important and essential component of fitness for weight loss. By developing strength you develop more lean muscle. And the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is. By raising your metabolism, which also occurs after you exercise, the more energy you burn. Once you’ve developed some lean muscle, you start burning more energy all throughout the day, even at rest.
Developing strength isn’t just beneficial for weight loss and creating a toned body. It’s beneficial for functionality too. Developing functional strength allows you to do more too. When you have the functional strength to perform all the movements in 21st century life, like squat down to pick shopping bags, walk up stairs or go hiking on your holidays, life becomes much easier. And as life becomes easier, it becomes so much more enjoyable.
Lifting weights won’t make you get bigger muscles. Lifting heavy weights will make you get bigger muscles. Choose higher reps and lighter weight to develop lean muscle to increase your metabolism and functionality. The best weight however, is bodyweight.
What concerns you about exercise?
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