Tough Love Regarding Lifting Weights

There are a couple of things I want to get off my chest about lifting weights.  It’s going to involve a little bit of tough love, but it is from love that I make these comments.  I want to help you.  I do not mean to criticize anyone personally, so I ask that you keep an open-mind while you read this article.   If you’ve decided to work out at home using just your body weight, that’s fine, this article still applies to you.  You might decide to buy some weights for your house or join a gym in the future.

5 lb dumbbellLadies – I love you dearly, I am one myself after all, but please don’t be afraid to pick up a dumbbell that weighs more than 5 pounds!  I can’t begin to tell you how many women I’ve talked to who absolutely refuse to pick up a dumbbell that weighs more than 5 pounds.  They tell me they don’t want to because they “just want to tone up” or “don’t want to gain muscle.”  Actually, yes you do want to gain muscle!

Here’s the thing about muscle… for every pound of muscle you put on your body, you burn an extra 50 to 100 calories, depending on your body type, every day.  Every single day.  Without doing a thing!  If you add 10 pounds of muscle to your body (which isn’t that difficult to do for a woman), you can burn an extra 500 to 1,000 calories a day just by having that muscle.  Muscle craves energy in the form of calories.  You could keep your diet the same as before you gained that muscle and still lose weight just by having that lovely muscle on your frame.  How cool is that?  Pay attention to your diet by improving it, which results in you eating fewer calories in a day, and guess what?  You’re losing even more weight.  It’s a double-fronted attack to weight loss.  That’s why exercise and a proper diet is what everyone recommends to lose weight.

Fat cells

Skeletal muscle cells

Skeletal muscle cells

Second, muscles by nature are dense and compact.  Muscle cells are long and relatively thin.  Fat cells, on the other hand, look like big, fluffy pillows.  When you exercise and eat properly, you may make your muscle cells bigger, but that will take time.  On the other hand, exercise will make you lose fat making fat cells thinner.   Since your fat cells are bigger to begin with and will shrink first, the net result is that you’ll look smaller, not bigger.

Ladies, the third thing you should know is that gaining big muscles requires a hormone called testosterone.   That’s the main male sex hormone, but women do have a little bit of it.  (By the way, men have a little bit of estrogen, too.)   Only about 2% of the female population has enough testosterone in their bodies to be able to get muscles as big as a man.  To get to that place, though, takes a long time and requires lifting incredibly heavy weights.  A heck of a lot more weight than 5 pounds!  When you see these monster women bodybuilders on the internet or elsewhere, those women didn’t just get there by simply lifting weights.  They had a lot of help in the form of steroids.  Are you going to take steroids?  No?  Then you will never, ever look like these women.

I competed in competitive bodybuilding for 3 years.  I kept lifting heavier and heavier weights, kept doing more and more repetitions and sets, and I just couldn’t get very big.  I really tried, I swear.  I wanted to get big muscles and I couldn’t.  Why?  Because I’m a woman.

woman carrying grocery bagsThe irony to me about women who say they don’t want to lift more than 5 pounds is when I see women out and about in public.  I’ll see a lady carrying her 30 pound child in one arm or carrying grocery bags into the house that are lined all the way up both arms.  These women are already used to lifting more than 5 pounds!  I’ll also see women with these giant purses that resemble luggage.  (I’m one of them!)  Stuffed to the brim.  You know that purse weighs more than 5 pounds and they carry it everywhere.  But see that same lady in the gym?  She’s lifting 5 pound dumbbells.  Drives me crazy!  (Ladies, are you starting to see my point?)

Men – you’re not off the hook, either!  Your problem is just the opposite.  You feel like you have to work out with impossibly heavy weights or you’re not a man.  You all need to get over that, too.  Lifting really heavy weights before your body is ready for it is a recipe for disaster.  Injuries will put you right back on the couch, which is absolutely where you do not want to be.  There is nothing written in the Man Code that you always have to lift heavy weights.  You need to start off with lighter weights and work yourself up to the heavy stuff.  Even if you’re in great shape, you still don’t have to lift impossible weights.

To prove my point, let’s examine a man I greatly admire.  His name is Milos Sarcev.  He’s a professional bodybuilder from Serbia who started to compete in the 1980’s and retired in 2003. Currently, he owns the Koloseum Gym in Fullerton, California and is still in great shape.  He’s known in the bodybuilding community as someone with beautiful muscle proportion and symmetry.  He’s also known for his workout methods.

Milos Sarcev

Milos Sarcev

Milos believes that you don’t need massive weights to gain big muscle.  He started a method that he calls Progressive Giant Sets.  The theory is this… you start with 1 exercise for a particular muscle using pretty light weights to get warmed up.   For the second set, you add a 2rd exercise and increase the weights a little.  While you do this method, you rest between sets, but you don’t rest between exercises.  For the third set, you add a 3rd exercise and add a little more weight to each exercise.  And on and on it goes.

Milos is known to do 10 sets like that – always increasing the number of exercises and increasing the weights as he increases sets.  I’m in awe of that kind of advanced training. There is no way you can do this technique while lifting seriously heavy weights.  You’d never make it to the 10th set.   You probably wouldn’t make it past the 4th!  And hey, take a look at him.  Are you going to tell me that his method doesn’t work?

My point is this for everyone… get all your preconceived notions of what you should be doing out of your head.  They’re probably wrong.  Maybe I was a little rough on you to make my point, but I put it here because I want to help all of you.  Be open-minded and try something new.  I won’t steer you in the wrong direction, I promise!

Until tomorrow, remember that… there are no excuses when it comes to your health!

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4 thoughts on “Tough Love Regarding Lifting Weights

  1. Right on! For women who are concerned that lifting will make you bulky, I suggest you just look at the other women in the gym who are lifting. Do they look huge to you? I can’t think of a single one that does at my gym.

  2. I can’t agree more with you! There’s a lady at my gym who does bicep curls with an easy curl bar with 80 pounds on it. 80 freaking pounds! You see her outside the gym and she looks like this beautiful, petite flower that the wind could blow over. If she can lift that much weight and still be that tiny, I don’t know what weight you have to lift before you get bulky. Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. im young. Under 15 my mom has 1 pound weights and I really want to take care of my body and health but I can’t do that because my mother seems to not want to buy other weights. I’m just wondering if it’s okay to skip 3 and go to 5 even though I started with one pound?

    • Hey, Fabiola! Absolutely, you can skip from 3 lbs. to 5 lbs. For young people I recommend body weight exercises, and that can mean a lot more than 5 lbs. Pushups, pullups, squats, etc… are all great exercises. In prior articles I’ve stated that young people shouldn’t lift very heavy weights, but I mean squats that are half your body weight or more or bicep curls with 15 lbs. or more for a girl or 30 lbs. or more for a boy. Weights that are so heavy that you have to struggle to lift them. I bet your purse weighs more than 1 lb., so go for it! I’m so glad that you are lifting weights at such a young age 🙂

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