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If I Lift Weights Will I Get Bigger Muscles?

INSHAPE NEWS Q ‘N’ A

Reader Michale Armatichi asks:

“I want to use weights in my workouts. Will theses help me to get bigger muscles?”

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Photo Credit: Chris Moody 2005 Muscles –

Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer

The simple answer to this question is yes and no. Yes you will get bigger muscles, however the word ‘bigger’ can be interpreted in a couple of ways. No is for 98% of females and even some males will struggle to put on size. This has a lot to do with your genetics. Does ‘bigger’ mean increasing your muscle size to look like a body builder, or does ‘bigger’ mean increasing your muscle mass and muscle fibres but not necessarily make your muscles look ‘big’?

Any resistance training will increase your muscle mass, muscle fibres and your muscle strength. However, it all depends on your training goals and what you want to get out of your planned workout.

If your goal is to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, then your resistance training workout will most likely incorporate hypertrophy and pure strength training methods. To increase the volume and size of your muscle, enabling you to achieve the aesthetic appeal of ‘bigger’ muscles.

The aesthetic look of ‘bigger’ and large muscles may not be the goal for, let’s say, an older adult. As we age, our muscular strength declines by 30% between the ages of 50-70 years. Please click here for more information regarding the age-related decline and the importance of resistance training. Hence your goal may not be to have aesthetically ‘bigger’ looking muscles but instead, have ‘bigger’ and improved muscle mass and fibres to assist with maintaining their muscle strength. This concept does not mean that their muscles will look huge, but the density and strength of them will improve.

All in all, it does not matter what type of weight training you do. Whether it is lifting heavy weights or completing body weight exercises, any weight or resistance training will enhance your muscles and give you ‘bigger’ muscles. It is the type of exercises and training methods which will determine how aesthetically larger your muscles get and how much stronger you get.

Females will always struggle to get “big” because they lack the essential ingredient, testosterone, to be able to make the muscles grow. So any girls out there avoiding weights in fear of looking like a man, you can put this myth to rest and go and hit the gym. Of course, if you take a testosterone supplement, then this could be a different story.

Good luck on your journey!

Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training.

Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.

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Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author, Speaker and Health and Business Coach

The answer to this question is not simple. The truth is lifting weights (or resistance training) produces vastly different results in men and women. It’s true that the amount of muscle you have is due to your testosterone levels – 200-1200 ng/dl in men while 15-70 ng/dl is pretty typical in women. So naturally for men, resistance training yields much more muscle mass than it will for women, who have lower amounts of testosterone.

But muscle mass is not only influenced by testosterone levels, but also the amount you eat, what you eat, how often you work out, how hard you push your workout, the type of resistance training you undertake, the amount of rest between sessions, and your age.

So how do you unwind this complex web of variables and achieve the results you’re seeking? Let me break this down into separate answers for women and men.

Women

Unless you have an unusually high level of testosterone, eat massive amounts of protein and work out using the Arnold Schwarzenegger method of resistance training there’s just no way on this earth that you’re going to build any over-bulked muscle. What you’re going to achieve, at best, is great and toned definition – which is what most women are seeking.

The benefits of resistance training are well known but are worth repeating. These are as follows:

1. A reduced risk of illness (including chronic disease especially osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes and obesity);

2. Improved functional strength and balance, enabling you to achieve more in you day with much less effort;

3. A higher metabolism because of the muscle fibre repair process and the fact that muscle uses more energy than fat;

4. Greater muscle definition – yes, that tighter butt is at reach if you’ll just get off the couch.

And if you want to know how to get that tighter butt with a minimum of effort all you need to do is follow this simple 11-point plan:

  1. Daily Calories need to be your bodyweight (kg) x 22 to 26. Example: 70kg = 1540 to 1820 calories.
  2. Your pre-workout meal at least 2 hours prior should consist of low-fat, low fibre foods that are easily digestible, e.g. low-fat yoghurt and berries.
  3. Eat 2.2 to 3.3 grams of pure protein per kg of body weight each day, with 25g consumed after a workout and the balance spread over the rest of the day. Example 70kg = 154 to 231g of pure protein (note: lean meat is about 50% protein).
  4. Eat low GI (complex) carbohydrates (max 25 to 30% of calorie intake) except after a workout which should include 30-50 grams of higher GI carbs to replenish your energy and jump-start recovery.
  5. Warm up adequately for 5 to 10 minutes (e.g. bike or orbital trainer) to get your body prepared for the workout while preventing the very real possibility of injury.
  6. Fatigue your muscles in every workout by using the heaviest weight you can lift and perform your reps (slowly in both directions) until failure (also known as dropsets). Then immediately continue with a lighter weight and repeat to failure for your second and third sets.
  7. Include 15-20 minutes of high-intensity interval training cardio in each workout to keep your fat levels down and your fitness up.
  8. Don’t follow the same routine every workout. It’s important to keep your body guessing (and keep it stimulated) by changing your weight, rep scheme, exercises or even simply flipping your grip on the weights or doing your workout in reverse.
  9. Stretch and cool down after every workout – never miss this part.
  10. Rest in between exercises for at least 48 hours (no cardio or weights) to allow the muscle tears to start to regenerate and build even more muscle.
  11. Stay hydrated by drinking at least 45mls of pure filtered water per kilogram of body weight, more when working out. Example 70kg = 3.15 litres plus workout water.

Men

While I have studied personal training and lifted weights for many years, I’m not a guy, so I can’t give you my personal experience. But what I can tell you is for men who want to build big Arnie-style muscles, please know that it’s going to take a HUGE amount of commitment to your training program despite your testosterone advantage. And, as we women know you guys aren’t great at commitment to anything over a long period, you’re also going to be relieved to learn that the completely ripped look turns very few women on. Sure it’s nice to look at from time to time, but the truth is hugely muscled men often have anger issues due to elevated testosterone. Plus if you look too ripped we might feel a little inadequate and ashamed of our bodies in the bedroom. All women want is some nice definition in their man. Truly.

Look the way to successful bodybuilding is pretty much the same as I outlined for women, except men can lift much heavier weights for more reps and sets. So first up I recommend you spend a bit of time working out a good plan that’s easy for you to follow. Look for some drug-free role models and check their workout routines for something that piques your interest (although I can admit that Arnie’s workout books are a good read and very informative).

Again your plan should include a mix of high-intensity interval training for cardiovascular fitness, and a balanced workout of arms, chest, back, abs, thighs and calves, focussing on any areas that need resizing to balance your overall look. For example, you can rectify a common lack of natural V-taper by emphasising your upper back and middle deltoids to a greater degree in your workouts – if that’s your thing.

Now it can help to keep your motivation in check with a workout buddy. But the bottom line is you’re going to need to set your expectations accordingly and not expect results overnight. It’s going to take time. In fact, a 2kg to 5kg increase in muscle mass over a year would be an outstanding result.

My final advice for men? If you’re building muscle to ‘pull the chicks’ or improve your chances in ‘dorkville’ just don’t prioritise your workout over your lady’s needs … we’d rather have a weedy dork who treats us right, than an Arnie-sized muscle man who puts us second.

Sigrid In Fat-Pants SMLSigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market.

Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.

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Your Questions Answered

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column is the author’s professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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