When you work in the fitness industry there are a few especially absurd statements that you hear regurgitated over and over and over. “You can’t workout for more than 45 minutes or you’ll go catabolic.” “If you don’t have a protein shake immediately post workout you won’t see results.” “Ever since I stopped eating carbs I just have so much more energy.”
I have quite a bit to say on all of these but today we’ll start with “I want to lift weights but I don’t want to get too big.” Often followed by “So I should just do, like, a bunch of reps right?”
Let me break this down for you. Getting big is hard. Really really hard. It’s easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The fact that people think they can end up with a bodybuilder’s physique accidentally completely blows my mind.
Like all things related to body composition it boils down to one thing: nutrition. In order to put on actual body weight and a significant amount of muscle mass, you need to eat in a caloric surplus. This is scientific fact.
And don’t try to tell me “Oh but last time I started lifting weights my shoulders got, like, super big and gross!” I’m guessing the last time you started lifting you weren’t sticking to your 1200 calorie nazi diet of chicken and broccoli and ended up binge-eating fistfuls of chocolate cake on the weekends. Am I close?
Yes, some people are more genetically predisposed to putting on muscle size. But I consider myself to be one of these people and I can tell you horror stories of force-feeding mouthfuls of chicken until 3am just to weigh a fraction of a pound more the next day.
Get on a reasonable, sustainable weight loss diet, implement weight training into your workout routine, and you’ll be much more satisfied with the end result. Lifting weights while losing weight is just as important as lifting weights while gaining weight. The reason being when you’re in a caloric deficit your body is going to eat into muscle tissue as well as fat tissue. When you implement weight training, your body maintains muscle mass much more effectively.
Now let’s tackle the second part of the issue: the myth about rep ranges. If you just want to look “toned” you need to do 15-20 reps 100% of the time, right? Wrong. Again, how lean your physique is is entirely dependent on your diet. You’ll get a lot stronger lifting heavier weights, and stimulate more muscle fibers than you would curling those five-pounders five hundred times until it sort of starts to hurt so you put it back in the wrong spot on the weight rack. You know who you are.
In summary, figure out your diet, get on a good weight training program, and stop wasting away for hours at a time on a treadmill. And don’t disrespect everyone with more muscle mass than you by telling them you don’t want to get “too big”. They busted their ass (and probably their gut) to get where they are now, and that’s probably more than can be said for you at this point.
So go pick up a weight.