Why You Should Be Weight Blind
When walking through the gym, the sound of clanging weights radiates through the air. Have you ever walked up to free weights or machines and had no idea what to pick up? Or maybe you have become self-conscious of what weight you are lifting compared to the person next to you. In this post, we will be discussing everything about picking what weight to lift in the gym for you and your goals.
One of my favorite workout buddies... my mom has been one of the hardest people to convince lifting weights are good for women. A few years ago, we worked out together every day doing all sorts of workouts, and I was able to teach her everything from burpees to single leg deadlifts. The most substantial barrier to overcome was a mindset that "lifting weights will make me bulky." I am not sure who put this crazy idea in beautiful women's heads, but they could not be more wrong!
LIFTING WEIGHTS DOES NOT MAKE YOU BULKY
There are many ways to lift weights dependent on your goals. The truth of the matter is, building lean muscle is incredibly challenging and lifting weights will not automatically turn you into a bodybuilder from one heavy workout, just like one salad won't make you a health nut when you are eating like poop all the other times. A likely culprit of this so-called "bulking" is more possibly center in on your diet, so take a look at what you're putting in your body, especially on days you workout. (I am not a registered dietitian but I can indeed refer you to one if you are interested!)
Regarding weight lifting in women, in particular, we do not produce significant levels of testosterone, meaning the amount of free testosterone in the body is significantly lower than that of men, which is one reason men have more muscle mass (typically) than women. Scientifically speaking, basically they have the parts that make hormones for muscle growth, and us women produce the hormones that can make a human grow...
Who's really doing the heavy lifting here????? Let's be real...
All jokes aside, since testosterone is thought to be the main hormone driving muscle growth and development, it can be incredibly challenging for women to get "bulky" with only lifting weights. While producing testosterone at a much slower rate than males, females have less of the chemical to bind and thus facilitate muscular gains on a smaller scale than the average healthy male. If you have narrowed it down to lifting weights making you bulky in a few sessions you better tell all those meatheads in the gym how you are getting shredded because they will be the first to tell you it ain't easy!
While we are talking sciencey stuff, we are going to go over the many different types of muscular change that can take place in the body. Contrary to popular believe you can do much more than merely gain or lose muscle mass. Whatever your desired results/goals are regarding your physique or strength capabilities, the workout process will look drastically different for such specifications. For example, if you are training for a powerlifting competition, you will likely focus on a lot of high weight low rep activities as the nature of the goals are to lift heavy weight for a rep while on the competition platform. Comparing that to those looking to get more defined muscles will likely couple low weight high rep activities with a cardiovascular component addressing body composition as well.
The bottom line: weight and reps depend on your personal goals and desired outcomes with a variety of higher or lower options... Easy enough right???
Well if you are anything like me, you might ask yourself, well how heavy is heavy and how light is light?? Because if you want me to throw around weights like biscuits in the gym while breathing funny, I can make that happen!
Here is where we focus on how you feel. For me, I personally hardly look at the weight numbers in front of me with reps and sets and blah blah blah. It can be that challenging, but it does not have to be. Some days a 10 lbs dumbbell feels like a biscuit and other days it feels like I'm holding the world in my hands... it just depends on the day. It is better to push to whatever your capabilities are on any given day instead of shaming yourself for not being able to lift as much as the week before or the day before even. For me, sometimes I know I will need lighter weights than usual but sometimes I won't but here is my trick, grab the weights and figure it out as you go! There is nothing wrong with getting 1 rep in and realizing "Not today!" and that is completely fine! I always carry my handy invisible weights, and when I need to focus on muscle contraction or engagement, I have no shame in pulling those bad boys out because at the end of the day I am better off doing what is right for me that day.
Now, where do I start even if I am having a good day?
My recommendation for others or clients is to go to a challenging level where it isn't super easy, but not super hard either. Depending on your training goals, but for most muscular goals, you should be able to do all but maybe a few reps from failure (if you had to keep going the muscle would not be able to do it). For example, I train the majority of my activities with endurance style training with a relatively low-moderately challenging weight for about 12-15 reps. If I were doing a bicep curl, I would want to select a weight that is challenging for the set, but by 12 reps or shortly after, I am stopping just shy of my muscles not being able to contract.
I know this is a challenging concept and when I was becoming a personal trainer I struggled with this the most. Long story short, your form is the most important. If you cannot complete the majority of your set with proper form and safe body mechanics, drop down a little in those weights and work from there.
When it comes down to it, the numbers do not matter. Listen to your body and it will tell you what feels good and what does not. Science has also proven that when using burnout activities until form or muscular failure, the weight does not matter, so toss those in there every now and then and see what you can do! So get out there beautiful. Test it out and see what works. Not every day is the same, and there is nothing wrong with that! Keep workin hard and let the world see those #gainz.