Last week I was invited to discuss strength training with Amy Hopkinson, Digital Editor of Women’s Health and Lululemon ambassador, as part of her series ‘The Wellness Mindset’.
The talk was hosted at the Lululemon European flagship store on Regent street, in London.
We discussed how we both found, and fell in love with, weight lifting, how we gained confidence at the squat rack, and how weight training not only worked wonders for our physical health, but also our mental health.
I wanted to discuss one question Amy posed to me, as I often get asked by many of those who follow my blog and social media:
“Hazel, did you fear that you’d “bulk”? Why doesn’t lifting weights make you bulk?”
This question makes me laugh, but in all honesty, YES!! I did worry that lifting weights would make me bulk once upon a time.
We often associate ‘weight lifting’ with ‘body building’, and assume that body builders develop their sculpted bodies through lifting heavy weights alone.
The truth is, it’s really hard to build muscle. Trust me. I’ve been lifting weights for 4 years now and despite training consistently, lifting more than my body weight, and eating more food than I ever have. During this period I’ve built a moderate amount of muscle, but I wouldn’t call myself ‘bulky’ in any shape or form. I would, however, call myself strong.
Muscle growth is influenced by three fundamental things
- A form of resistance (i.e. Weight lifting)
- Nutrition (most importantly calorie intake)
- Sex and Hormones
Competitive body builders often train twice a day, everyday.
They have to eat around the clock every 2-3 hours in order to consume enough calories to gain weight and build muscle. In many cases, although not all, they take supplements, and even anabolic steroids. Following their ‘bulking season’ of gaining weight, they go through a ‘cutting’ phase, where they diet down to extremely low body fat levels in order to reveal the muscles that they have worked so hard to build.
The condition they are in before they step on stage is what you see in photographs online and across social media – Lets just say you will rarely see them topless on their off season! I totally understand why they do this, of course they want to show off all the hard work that they have put into building their physique!
It’s no walk in the park, that’s for sure, and I have so much respect for people who do compete in bodybuilding. However these images of tanned, lean, muscular bodies can be misleading for many and I fear that it paints an unrealistic expectation,and a skewed perception, of what weight training does to your body.
In addition to nutrition and training, hormones also play an important role in the development and growth of muscles.
The reason men can build muscles much more easily than women can, has a lot to do with the sex hormone testosterone. I think most people know that men produce testosterone, however what many people don’t realise is that women produce it too! We just produce it in much smaller quantities.
In men testosterone is important for the development of secondary sexual characteristics which include things like; facial hair, a deep voice, a prominent ‘adams apple’, larger hands and so on, so forth. In both sexes, it is important for both bone and muscle strength and development, and it regulates libido – more commonly known as our sex drive.
So in summary, lifting weights will not turn you into the hulk.
Lifting weights will give you strength, power, confidence, energy, and drive.
It will allow you to carry your groceries to the car, run around the garden after your kids, tackle the stairs instead of queuing for the elevator, lift up your grandchildren and throw them in the air.
Strength training, or weight training, will make you an all round stronger, more functional, and healthier person – now and in 20 years time.
Pictures of the day
Wearing: Lululemon Jacket and Leggings.
Photographer: Jon Payne