2000-05-20 / Columnists

Fitness Forum

Dear Shaun,

About a year ago I began exercising in order to lose weight and tone up. I’ve been doing cardiovascular training such as jogging and bicycle riding, and I am happy to say that I’m just about down to my desired weight, but I have no muscle definition. I’ve been told that I should start using the machines and free weights, but I’m afraid that I might bulk up. How can I tone my muscles without adding mass to my body?



Sheila, I hear your cry and I am more than happy to help. The notion that a woman will gain massive size from weight training is a myth that has been blown way out of proportion. It’s not true, but some women are still afraid that lifting weights will cause them to bulk up in an unfeminine ways. I promise you will be left with no fear after reading this.

Even with those encouraging last words, why shouldn’t you be a little apprehensive or fearful about weight lifting, especially after seeing men swelling up after only a few months of training.

Before you give up, know this. Numerous studies have been done involving thousands of women, and never once has anyone ever complained about bulking up. Females typically do not gain mass from strength training. Compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause this increase in size or "bulking up."

Believe it or not, weight lifting will actually cause you to lose pounds. The average female who trains two or three times a week for a period of eight weeks, gains 1.75 pounds of muscles, but loses almost four pounds of fat. As you add muscle, your metabolism increases, which in turn has you burning more calories all day long.

It’s that simple Sheila. Now, the bulking up myth is finally put to rest for good. Try lifting weights, especially if you’re already jogging and bike riding. As you lose the fat, the muscle that you haven’t seen in years will strengthen, take form, and gradually appear. You’ll look great, but most importantly, you’ll start to feel great too. Good luck, and I’ll see you at the gym.

(Questions to ask personal trainer Shaun Ruskin can be sent to Fitness Forum, c/o The Wave Newspaper, PO Box 97, Rockaway Beach, NY 11693)

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