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Weight Lifting 101

by: Kevin Valluzzi

Weight Lifting Myths

Let's first clear up some of the misconceptions about strength training and the truth behind these myths. This first myth is the "biggie" and it has prevented many of you from weight lifting (especially women). It sounds a little something like this; "I don't want to lift weights because I don't want to get big and bulky." It's a shame that a lot of people think like this because it is so far from the truth. Let's explore that myth a little. When you think of weight lifters, you probably think of body builders, right? You think of the men and women on ESPN parading around in little swimsuits with big bulky muscles popping out all over the place. There are three reasons for this:

  • These people are an extremely minute percentage of the population.
  • That is their livelihood and they spend 4 to 5 hours a day in the gym.
  • Some of them are using performance-enhancing drugs (steroids, etc.) to look like that

  • So if you can get that image of the "bodybuilder" out of your head and think in terms of the average everyday person, you will see why the myth about getting bulky is just that, a myth! What we're going to talk about next I will try to explain to you in an easy to understand way, without using any medical or professional terminology. When you lift weights your body builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn (even at rest). The more calories you burn the less you weigh. It's as simple as that! Let me give you an example of this that might make it a little easier to understand. We'll talk about 2 women in this example. Let's say you and your best friend are sitting on the couch watching some T.V. You personally strength-train 3 times a week, but your friend does not. After an hour of watching T.V goes by, who will have burned more calories? The common answer to that would be that you both burned the same (almost nothing), since you weren't doing anything. But the actual answer would be that you burned more calories, and I'll tell you why for one simple reason. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn!

    Now you might say to yourself, "But if I lift weights, my muscles will get bigger and I will appear big and bulky." This does have a tendency to happen to men sometimes, and that is because of the male hormone testosterone. But what also happens to men, just like the women, is that they will get rid of the fat and replace it with lean muscle. So the lean added muscle will now be there instead of the soft jelly-like fat. With that said, keep this in mind. Evan though men have more testosterone, it would still be very difficult for a man to get big and bulky. You would have to train like a real bodybuilder in order for this to occur. Being genetically blessed doesn't hurt either. And if you did see yourself starting to "bulk" up a little, and that's not what you want, just decrease the amount of weight you are lifting. Very simple. Women on the other hand, do not have enough testosterone to even come close to "bulking up". Which brings us to another myth. That myth being one of the most popular in the world of exercise, which is, "Muscle weighs more than fat."

    How ridiculous is that saying? That's like the old joke, "Which weighs more--10 lbs. of steel or 10 lbs. of feathers?" Hopefully by now you know that the answer to that question is that they both really weigh the same. 10 lbs. is 10 lbs. no matter what it is made of. Let's go over this in a little more detail. Muscle is much more compact and dense than fat. It actually takes up less space than fat does because of that. That makes sense, right? Fat, on the other hand, is very soft and jelly-like and is a lot bigger than muscle. By that I mean it takes up more space than muscle does. Let me give you another example to clarify this a little more.

    If you were to take 10 lbs. of fat and 10 lbs. of muscle and roll each of them into a ball, the 10 lbs. of fat might be the size of a bowling ball. In comparison, the 10 lbs. of muscle would be about the size of a baseball. Let's take this a step further and use you and your friend in an example. You and your friend, for argument sake, are both 5' 5" tall and both weigh the exact same weight of 130 lbs. Your friend, as we mentioned, does not lift weights or do any kind of strength training. Her dress size is a size 12. You, on the other hand, lift weights and follow a strength-training program 3 times a week. Your dress size is a size 8. If you and your friend were standing side by side people would definitely think that you weighed less than your friend. But in reality you both weigh exactly the same. How can that be? It all relates back to what I said earlier. Muscle does not weigh more than fat, it weighs the same. It is more compact than fat and it takes up less space. So you, the strength trainer, have more muscle than your friend does which means you will take up less space.

    That's why it's also not a good idea to let the scale be your judge of your progress. You can very well have lost weight, but it won't show up on the scale sometimes. A good indication of progress is how your clothes fit. If you are getting smaller, or should we say more compact/dense, you will notice that your clothes are getting a little looser. Well all right you say, "I'll lift weights, but I'm only lifting light weights and doing lots of repetitions." This is another mistake a lot of you are making. Now I'm not saying that this is the wrong way to lift, but it is not the optimal way to go about strength training if you are looking to lose weight and change your body. So, is it all right for you to lift heavy weights and fewer repetitions? ABSOLUTELY!! There's another statement you need to clear your head of---"I shouldn't lift heavy weights because that is for bodybuilders." You absolutely can and should be lifting heavy weights if you want to change your body! Let's take a moment now to recap some of the main ideas we have just covered;

  • Lifting weights will not make you bulky (it will make you leaner and more toned)
  • Muscle doesn't weigh more than fat; it's simply more compact and denser than fat. (Remember, muscle actually takes up less space than fat)
  • The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn (even at rest!).

  • Now you are well informed of why strength training will help you look and feel great. Hopefully this cleared up any confusion you might have had and now you are ready to "hit the weights."

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