Friday, February 6, 2009

Why Weight?

If you are a woman, you probably want long, lean, sculpted and toned muscles, right? I know that is what I wanted. I had a huge fear of getting, well...huge. I have learned that I can't get huge. Almost no woman can without some chemical assistance. We just don't have the testosterone necessary to do this.

Mark Rippetoe, well known in power lifting circles, has this to say:

With that in mind, and counter to the conventional industry wisdom, here are some more unfortunate truths:
-Your muscles cannot get "longer" without some rather radical orthopedic surgery.
-Muscles don’t get leaner—you do.
-There is no such thing as "firming and toning." There is only stronger and weaker.
-The vast majority of women cannot get large, masculine muscles from barbell training. If it were that easy, I would have them.
-Women who do look like men have taken some rather drastic steps in that direction that have little to do with their exercise program.
-Women who claim to be afraid to train hard because they "always bulk up too much" are often already pretty bulky, or "skinny fat" (thin but weak and deconditioned) and have found another excuse to continue life sitting on their butts.
-Only people willing to work to the point of discomfort on a regular basis using effective means to produce that discomfort will actually look like they have been other-than-comfortable most of the time.
-You can thank the muscle magazines for these persistent misconceptions, along with the natural tendency of all normal humans to seek reasons to avoid hard physical exertion.

I think my favorite line is about working to the point of discomfort on a regular basis. I mean really, what is the point of working out or exercising if you are not going to work hard enough to be uncomfortable?

Why would a woman want to BUILD (or grow) muscle? If your muscles don't grow, they won't look any better or different than they currently do. So, why not use really low weights and lots of reps? Well, by doing that you would be building the endurance of your muscles, but your muscles wouldn't grow. Your muscles won't grow unless you use challenging weights.

Other than improving physical appearance, is there any reason for weight training? Yes.

From the book, "The New Rules of Lifting for Women", by Lou Schuler:

Consider this: In a study of elderly women who were disabled to varying degrees, researchers for the U.S. National Institute on Aging found that those with the least strength were twice as likely to die from heart disease as the strongest. The researchers on that study, published in 2003, used hand-grip strength as a measure of total strength.
A University of Pittsburgh study published in 2006 looked at an additional measure of strength-testing the quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thighs)-and found a similar effect. The weakest women had 1.65 times the risk of death from any cause, compared to the strongest.

So, at our FCC exercise class, we'll be using some challenging weights--and you'll love it!


  1. Hi Laura! Couldn't agree more with Mark's comments. Most of you know that I've been on a journey of weight loss the past 2 yrs. I'm a gym rat like Laura. Ladies.... unless your poppin steroids.... you will NOT bulk up! Weight training has ENORMOUS benefits and you can literally turn back time doing it!!

  2. Thanks Laurie! I totally agree with the turning back time. I cannot believe how restorative weight training has been. Long time aches and pains are no longer a problem. We were born to be active, to be mobile and to lift heavy things.