Looking Good (for a mom)

has been moved to new address


You will be automatically routed to the new site...please update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Who's afraid of a little muscle?

Now that I've whittled myself down to a mere 110 pounds, I've decided that it's time to focus on increasing my muscle mass. This requires a whole different mindset from me, including increasing the amount of calories I eat (while still eating "clean"), increasing rest during my weightlifting sessions, and dropping most of my cardio from my workouts. It's an interesting experience, and I hope that it will be successful for me.

But talking about this with people brings up some of the comments I so often hear from women who are looking to get fit. I'm sure you know what I mean -- maybe some of you had the same reaction when you read the beginning of this post!

Things like:
  • I don't want to look bulky
  • I'm afraid of looking like a man
  • I really just want to "tone" my muscles, not build them up
Sounds familiar, right? Well, I have a newsflash for you. The BEST way to look thinner, leaner more feminine, and more "toned" is to build muscle. No, really!

Well, most of the bulky women you've seen pictures of have one thing in common: they are on special supplements and a training program designed SPECIFICALLY to give them big muscles. Some of them may even be taking steroids. Frankly, they have to trick their bodies and work their tails off to do it because women's bodies do not have the levels of testosterone required for building muscles the way that men's bodies do!

So now that we've accepted that weight training and building muscle won't make you look like a man, let's talk about what it WILL make you look like!

The first image is of Jessica Biel, after she worked out for her role in Blade: Trinity. The second image is of trainer Jillian Michaels, best known as "TV's Toughest Trainer" from the show, The Biggest Loser. I don't know many women that would turn down a chance to look like either of these ladies, and both of them lift weights as part of their exercise regimen!

So now let's talk about how to build muscle. There are a few key things to remember:
  • Resistance training. Whether you do bodyweight exercises or lift free weights, resistance training for at least 20-30 minutes, 3 times per week, will help you gain muscle. Do 6-12 repetitions of each exercise, at a weight that's challenging. I love Turbulence Training workouts for this, but any similar resistance training program will do.
  • Get enough to eat! Some women are so focused on losing weight that they starve themselves. Never eat less than 1200 calories (on average) per day, and if you hit a weight loss plateau, try adding MORE calories to see how your body reacts. Many times, more calories will cause a counterintuitive weight loss.
  • Get enough rest. Okay, so clearly I'm the pot calling the kettle black on this one, but getting rest is key to allowing your body to repair itself and build muscle. I've actually noticed my body telling me that it needs more rest since I started muscle-building, and I'm doing my best to listen!
So now, let's say you decide you are going to get with the program and build some muscle. Here are the benefits you'll gain:
  • Smaller physical appearance and measurements. While a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same, the two take up extremely different amounts of space. Replace muscle with fat and although your weight may not change, you will appear smaller and leaner.
  • Higher metabolic rate. Increased lean body mass (the part of your body that doesn't contain fat) results in a higher metabolic rate. What does this mean? It means that the amount of calories your body burns without activity is greater. Your calorie needs will increase, and yes, that's right, you'll be able to eat more!
  • Lower risk of osteoporosis. As you increase your muscle mass, your bones will adjust, becoming more dense in order to support the muscles. You'll gain a stronger skeleton and lower your osteoporosis risk.
The good thing about muscle building is that it's fairly easy to cut back. So if you start to see something you don't like, you have time to adjust before you end up looking like the women at the beginning of the article. I hope those readers who stick purely to aerobics classes and cardio machines will consider adding a little resistance training this week!

I've just finished the first week of my 5-week muscle building regimen. I'll be sure to let you all know how it goes when I get to the end!


  1. Great post! It's true women say the same things all the time. You get gasps when you utter the words deadlift or squat!

  2. Hah! I'm one of the only women that goes anywhere near the squat rack at my gym. In fact...I'm doing squats tonight! Hurrah. Let's hear it for strong women!

  3. Great Post! Good luck with the build. The not wanting to get big is just one of those excuses people have for not doing hard work - good on you for putting in the effort.

    As a man i am not in fear of getting big. but i've notices something interesting in my transformation. i have a arm band MP3 holder that has always been too tight. I thought that as a worked out more it would get too tight to use. but now eventhough i've increased my strength considerably and got tone that i'm proud of the strap is now loose. Muscle doesn't make you big, just strong.

  4. Great post Liz! I see you have downsized and now your are muscle building. I am sure you will accomplish what you have set out to do.

    Keep up the great work... that way you will have plenty of advice for me when I am in need of it. *smiles*