Exercise! - Need advice from the Weight Lifters

05-13-2004, 08:24 AM
Hello all :)

As part of my exercise, I have started to use our Bowflex weight system. I'm wondering though just how much to use it and how much I should lift. The reason I ask is last week I was using the Bowflex every other day, doing 2 sets of 12 repetitions each, which took me around 40 mins in total. When my weekly weigh in came, I found I had gained 3.5 lbs. This may or may not be connected to the weight lifting, it may have been due to what I ate over the weekend.

One of the ladies here suggested I may have bulked up a little, or experienced some muscle swelling and another suggested to avoid this I should reduce the amount of weights I lift but increase the reps and only lift 2 or 3 times a week in order to give myself a rest between resistance workouts.

This I found to be great advice but after talking to my husband about it, his advice was to lift heavier weights and do more repetitions.

Having received this conflicting advice I am a little confused as to how to use this home gym to my benefit. I do not want to bulk up. I want to tone my muscles and have a little more muscle to help burn fat.

I concentrate on exercises for my arms, back, legs and shoulders when I use it. Movements like bench press, bicep curl, leg press, nothing too complex.

So I ask you ladies who use weights reguarly, what would you suggest? Lighter weights at less frequency with more reps? Heavier weights with more reps at less frequency? I really want to make this work for me!!

Help! :dizzy:

05-13-2004, 09:16 AM
Hi Lynne! There's a whole group of us who lifts weights in the Ladies Who Lift (LWL) Forum, right below the Exercise Forum. If you don't get many answers here, please stop down and post with us -- I think you'll get lots of advice. We'd love to have you join us -- we're all about lifting weights to build strong. lean bodies. :strong:

First of all, I doubt that your 3.5# gain had anything to do with your weighlifting. It's impossible to add 3.5# of muscle in a week (it takes a lot of hard work and a long time for a woman to add that much muscle). True, sore muscles can retain a little extra water, but probably not that much. I'd look to what you're eating as the culprit. We've all discovered (to our chagrin) that we can undo all our hard work in the gym with just a little bit of unplanned eating. If you tighten up your nutrition, I'm guessing you won't see unexpected gains.

Most women -- absent hormonal imbalances -- simply cannot bulk up regardless of how heavy they lift. We lack the hormones necessary to build those big, bulky muscles. Muscle, being smaller and denser than fat, will make you look smaller and more toned. Check out the muscle vs. fat photo at the top of the Exercise Forum: http://www.3fatchicks.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=17582 And here's a link to an article about women and weights (and check out the web site -- tons of great info): http://www.stumptuous.com/weights.html

One note: it IS possible to start looking bulky as you're building muscle IF you're not losing the fat that lies on top of the muscle. The muscle will push out the fat, giving you that bulky look. But it's FAT, not muscle causing the problem. The solution is to burn fat by doing cardio as you build muscle for a tight, toned look.

On a personal note, I lost all my weight while lifting as heavy as possible. Building muscle has made me smaller, not bigger. I don't think I would be a size 4 at my weight without having a lot of muscle! And you should check out Karen (MrsJim) in the LWL Forum -- she's a size 4 at 150 pounds due to all her muscle! So building muscle rocks if you want a strong, slim body. :D

So if your goal is to build muscle, the way to do it is by lifting as heavy as possible (I'm agreeing with your DH here). You want to go to failure -- that is, until you can't do another rep. You'll pick a weight that gets you to failure in say, 12-15 reps, and go until you can't lift one more time. I like to stay in the 10-15 rep range myself -- a guy looking to build mass would probably be in the 6-8 rep range.

Most of us lift 3-5 days a week, so you doing it every other day fits right in with that. Many of us do "splits" -- working out different body parts on different days. For example, a three-day split might be: Day 1: chest and tri's, abs; Day 2: Back and bi's; Day 3: legs, shoulders, and calves. There's all sorts of different ways to split it up. For each body part, I typically do 3 - 4 exercises, 3 sets each.

I hope this answers your question a bit and is not too confusing. Please jump in at LWL for more help -- we have experienced lifters and a personal trainer who regularly post there who are more than happy to answer questions.

05-13-2004, 10:02 AM
Hi Lynne,

I'm the personal trainer Meg mentioned. I agree with everything she said. "Toned" is just another word for fat-free muscle. As for bulking up, unless you are taking anabolic steroids, some forms of HRT, or have metabolic or specific hormonal syndromes such as PCOS, any bulk is due to fat. It is possible to build more muscle than you yourself find aesthetically pleasing, but that is easily changed by changing your lifting program. And it takes YEARS of heavy lifting to get to that point for women, unless you have one of the above conditions.

Have fun with the bowflex!


05-13-2004, 12:23 PM
I'm curious about the statement that PCOS can cause a woman to build bulkier muscle than normal. I have PCOS and I lift (sporadically :P). I'm fairly well read on both subjects and I've never heard that before.

05-13-2004, 12:31 PM
I don't pretend to know very much about PCOS but my understanding is that when you have PCOS, you have a higher testosterone level than most women. Testosterone is the male hormone that allows for muscle building in men, who DO get big and bulky muscles. Most women have about 1/100th that men have -- but I think it's different with PCOS women?

Have you had a chance to check out our PCOS/Insulin Resistance Forum yet? There's lots of good info there and they may be able to help with your question.

I think lots of PCOS women still lift weights, but they may need to use a slightly different strategy than the rest of us.

Hope that helps! :)

05-13-2004, 01:46 PM
Thanks for the replies Meg and Mel, I shall certainly visit the lifting forum :).