Ask any fitness professional what request they hear most often from clients, and their reply will most likely be: “I don’t want to get bulky” and “I just want to get bigger”.
This generally comes part and parcel with a lack of understanding in reference to adipose tissue, (more commonly referred to as fat), and lean muscle tissue. The reality is EVERYONE NEEDS STRENGTH TRAINING, but few are aware of the reasons why it is so important. Through this article, I will dispel some myths and clear up at least some of the misunderstanding related to this topic.
- Testosterone and Muscle are LINKED: An individual’s potential for putting on muscle is directly related to the amount of testosterone their body produces. With that said, each person’s body responds differently to Strength Training. This is why everyone should seek the guidance of a professional. Their expertise can help make sure what you’re doing will actually give you the results you want.
- For men: Think of the guy you know who could just look at a weight and grow. Chances are he may, naturally or unnaturally, have a higher level of Testosterone than the average man. However, if you do not fall into this “gifted” category it does not mean all is lost. Regular, Periodized Strength Training increases lean muscle tissue, which in turn increases your Testosterone levels.
- For women: Regardless of gender, your Estrogen to Testosterone levels are carefully balanced; as one rises the other adjusts to maintain the balance. In women this balance is obviously shifted toward Estrogen. This relationship is one reason why you can Strength Train, receive all the benefits of increased Testosterone levels, and not gain the unnecessary bulk you may not want. Again, a Regular and Periodized Strength Training program designed for your body can achieve this.
- Adipose Tissue and Lean Muscle are not interchangeable: Fat does not turn to muscle, nor does muscle turn to fat. Strength Training is designed to increase muscle fiber size, but only does so with the muscle fibers you have. Adipose tissue is stored energy, and will stay that way unless it is burned off. The “bulky” feeling or appearance can come from increasing the size of your muscles through Strength Training, without lowering your body fat percentage. Adipose tissue is stored at the subcutaneous level; between the skin and the muscle tissue. If your muscles are growing, but you’re not shedding the excess fat you will appear “bulky” or bigger.
- Lifting “heavy” weight does NOT add bulk by itself. Properly designed Strength Training is supposed to be difficult because you should always be lifting a weight which challenges you on the last few repetitions of every exercise. Additionally, your body is designed to find and improve efficiency. The more times you do the same thing, or use the same weight, the more efficient your body becomes. This means the results you obtain initially are much higher because your body has to work harder and use more muscle tissue. Over time, your body utilizes less energy and less muscle to do the same thing(s). The result is you burn fewer calories and strengthen less muscle. In essence, you are actually becoming weaker. This is why working with a fitness professional is crucial for changing your body composition. They can make sure you’re properly progressing by periodizing your training.
- What you eat matters. Adding or reducing the “size” of your body requires eating which supports it. The only way to add a substantial amount of muscle or reduce a substantial amount of fat is through proper eating. If you’re Strength Training appropriately, and eating correctly to lose body fat, you will drop excess weight. This will highlight your newly developed muscles. On the converse, if you’re combining proper eating to gain muscle with a proper Strength Training program, you will gain muscle mass and still shed excess body fat. The assistance of a professional can guide you toward choices which align with your goals and your body.
Adding Lean Muscle Tissue to your body is never a bad thing, but you have to know how to do it properly for your goals! Hopefully this has cleared up some of the misconceptions out there surrounding Strength Training. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list so to learn more stop by Santé and set-up an appointment with one of our Coaches. Let us help make sure the work you’re putting in will give you the results you’re looking for.
Look for next month’s Newsletter for more tips and advice on making THIS year YOUR year!
Nathan Steinmetz M.S., C.S.C.S.
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Santé Fitness and Wellness at the Chase Park Plaza
Nathan has a B.S.Ed. in Exercise Science, a B.S.Ed. in Physical Education & Health, a M.S. in Sport Psychology, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.