“Looking at weights will make my muscles big”


This topic comes up all the time. You hear someone say they can’t pick up more than 5-10lbs in fear of looking incredibly fit and sexy, I mean strong, ok ok, dare I say it, muscular… Maybe this is something we assume, or maybe it’s something we’ve been told. Let’s start by saying what must be said, the very idea that simply lifting weights will make you jacked is false. That would be like saying “looking at weights will make my muscles big” It just doesn’t happen. In truth, strength training, especially big muscle movements like squats & deadlifts, are incredibly beneficial.

Movements that demand large muscle groups are like getting more bang for your buck. Take squatting for example. The concentric phase of the squat (coming up) your body requires your hip, knee, and ankle joints along with over a dozen muscles. (Brookbush Institute) That’s just part of the squat! Utilizing all of these muscles demand energy from the body. This can be helpful in weight loss because muscles require more energy than fat. Another added bonus is we also tend to use these movements every day. Ever try pooping without squatting?

Strength training can have many goals. We train our muscles for endurance, power, size and strength. Saying that all strength training programs produce the same results is like saying every shoe serves the same purpose. You have heels, flip flops, sneakers; all for your feet – not the same functions! Let’s use big man Dwayne Johnson’s workouts as an example. Almost every workout you find claiming to be “The Rocks” workout includes 3-5 sets. This means he’s doing each set of exercises three to five times. So if he does front dumbbell raises 4 sets of 12 reps, he’s doing 36-48 front dumbbell raises in all. This many sets and reps falls under the category of “muscle hypertrophy” which is a fancy way of saying making muscles bigger. He’s also doing a higher % of reps closer to his max rep.

For the average Joe, the goal is muscular fitness. That program would include 8-12 reps 1-2 sets. That’s about 8-24 front dumbbell raises in all. Starting to see the difference? You’d also be doing each rep at a smaller % of your own 1RM. (1 rep max) Training volume is backed by science. The many variables of sets, reps, how long you rest in between, and your 1RM% all play a large part in the overall outcome. That doesn’t even touch hormone levels, age, muscle types and lengths and so on. So even if you do increase weight and reps doesn’t mean you get she-hulk muscles if you wanted to!

In closing, strength training is awesome and you shouldn’t be afraid of weight because you don’t want to “bulk up”. If you’re concerned about some physical limitations or health issues always check with your doctor prior to starting a workout routine. If you’re still not convinced, check out a few more benefits per American Heart Association:

  • Increased strength of bones, muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments)
  • Lower risk of injury
  • Increased muscle mass, which makes it easier for your body to burn calories and thus maintain a healthy weight
  • Better quality of life

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