Lifting weights? Lift heavy

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I am to the point that when I hear the word “tone” I twitch.

It’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard at this point. It’s become a word that women throw around when they refer to how they want to change their bodies.

We have popularized this awful word because we don’t want to get strong or — God forbid — build muscle.

We want to “tone.”

Well, toning isn’t going to change your body.

Teddy Bass, nationally certified personal fitness trainer, has put it this way:

“Toning doesn’t build muscle! Tone comes from the Latin word tonus, specifically referring to the normal tension or firmness of a muscle not deliberately being flexed.

Tone can be improved by lifting weights, but it is not something that is visible to the human eye. Having your sights set on improving your muscles in a way that doesn’t give you visible results doesn’t make much sense.”

In reality, the women you see in the workout rooms in gyms across the world with the long, lean, strong bodies (the ones we all secretly hate but want to look like) actually push a lot of weight.

Like all the time on a consistent basis.

It’s time to remove the image you conjure when you think of women and strength training.

The women with deep voices, and huge arms and legs have chosen to look this way with the assistance of testosterone and other synthetics. It’s the life they want and that is all fine and good.

But what has happened is women have begun to think that strength training is only for those types of women. And that isn’t the case.

A woman shouldn’t think she isn’t feminine because she wants to become stronger. It’s not our fault it isn’t the gender norm.

Big bulging muscles will not happen to a woman who hasn’t chosen this lifestyle. We don’t have the testosterone for it.

Replace your image of this “she-man” with a long, thin, strong woman who speaks with a normal tone of voice, and has maintained all the femininity she was born with.

“Men have between 20 and 30 times more circulating testosterone than women, and it is for this reason, as well as the fact that men have more numerous and larger muscle fibers, that men can develop much bigger muscles than women,” according to Irene Lewis-McCormick, an author and personal trainer.

“Keep in mind that genetics and individual differences play a role in the rate and degree to which muscles mass increases in either gender.” she notes. Men and women who train similarly can increase their muscle strength, but because women have lower levels of testosterone and fewer and smaller muscle fibers than men do, they cannot increase muscle size the way men can.”

I believe you shouldn’t just lift, but lift heavy. Lifting light weight with high repetition does complement a well-rounded strength program, but it won’t change your body.

There are several benefits to lifting heavy weight. This doesn’t mean you’re going to the squat rack and get under 400 pounds; it just means you might start lowering your reps and increase the weight a bit.

Fitness blogger and consultant Courtney Green says lifting heavy weights “will cause a flurry of positive systemic changes throughout your body. Your muscles respond by growing (which will also increase metabolism), bones become denser, hormonal regulation improves (that means a much more manageable menstrual period for women, among many other positive benefits), your central nervous system responds by learning how to recruit more muscle fibers to contract on demand and it becomes more resilient to physical stress. Not to mention the real-life benefits of just being stronger.”

So go ahead and forget the 5-pound weights and pick up something that challenges you for six or eight reps. If you can push or pull a weight for more than 15 repetitions then you might consider upping the weight to something that challenges you.

As women, we are a strong people. We birth children, sometimes more than once, and can multitask our butts off while some men can hardly carry on a conversation and walk at the same time (sorry guys).

Work hard when you are at the gym, push substantial weight and watch your body change.

Alyssa Latham, Health Seeker program director at the Walla Walla YMCA, can be reached at alatham@wwymca.org

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