Lifting Weights Doesn’t Make You Bulky; Cupcakes Make You Bulky

By Christopher Shkreli

It’s a meme we have all seen at least once in the past few years and it might be the most truthful thing I have ever read on the internet.  There is a common misconception that lifting weights and lifting heavier weights will make you big, bulky and/or manly. On the contrary, lifting heavy weights burns fat and creates lean muscle mass.

It is what you do outside of the gym, what you put in your body, that determines how your body will react to lifting weights.

Time to Get Comfortable With the Uncomfortable

No offense to anyone who loves cardio, but if you want to burn fat, strength training is the solution.  The more muscle you build, the more your body burns through its fat resources throughout the day. Our bodies are like our cars, they need fuel to operate.  The majority of the energy we burn through during the day is designated for powering our muscles, but not just the muscles we use in the gym. One of the best sources for energy is fat.  Fat contains 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates (another fuel source), contains 4 calories per gram. The body will determine which source of energy to pull from based on your activities during the day.  During low intensity activity, like typing a blog for everyone to read, the body will pull primarily from its fat resources. As you increase physical intensity and your muscles are in need of fuel faster, your body will pull from its carbohydrate resources, which are quicker to break down for energy.

This is where lifting weights and lifting heavier weights comes in to play.  The heavier you go, the more depleted of energy your body will become, which will cause your body to burn through its carbohydrate and fat resources creating a higher lean body mass.  Lean body mass equals greater muscle definition.

In August 2018 I had decided to try and lose a bunch of weight for a wedding that I was attending in September.  I went in with the plan to go hard core on the cardio. I was burning 1000 calories a day on the bike while also doing WODs and eating healthier.  During the workouts I was sticking to lighter weights because I wanted to move faster, sweat and still have energy to get my cardio calories done for the day.  I lost 20 pounds while doing this, but I only lost about 4% body fat. My clothes didn’t really have a better fit, nor did I change much visibly. Fast forward to October when I decided enough was enough and I had to get my shit together.  I had put back on the weight I had lost for the wedding and was the heaviest I had ever been. I was 281 pounds with 31% body fat. In my first month I dropped 27 pounds and 3% body fat. In month number 2 I dropped 23 pounds and 7% body fat.  What was the big difference? I got comfortable with the uncomfortable. This didn’t mean I was going Rx in workouts just to lift heavier weights. In fact, I was only doing about 60% of the workouts at Rx. I was chasing the stimulus of the workout rather than worrying about the weight I was doing.  The place I focused on the weights was during our strength portion of the day. I pushed myself as hard as I could for this. I knew the harder it was to stand up a back squat, or press the bar overhead, the more energy my body would have to replenish. All I thought about while I struggled with the weights was how much I loved being able to put on clothes I hadn’t worn in years.  I recently put on a medium t-shirt and it fit perfectly. I haven’t worn a medium t-shirt since high school. You have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable to reach your goals.

The Proof Is In The Pudding…I Mean Pictures

The biggest enemy we as trainers have to battle, when it comes to convincing clients that heavy weights are not a bad thing, is the scale.  Too many people determine what their body looks like by the number they see on the scale. Not every 200 pound male is created equal. Not every 125 pound woman is created equal.  You can be the exact same weight as someone else, but look completely different. That isn’t genetics (although genetics can play a small role in that). A 200 pound male with 10% body fat will not only have a ton of muscle definition, but they will also not look like they are 200 pounds.  They will look lighter. Standing side by side with another 200 pound male with 20% body fat, the male with the higher body fat percentage will have very little definition and may even look heavier than 200 pounds.

What to Take Away From All of This

  1. Push harder – the best way to build lean muscle mass and burn fat is by lifting weights and lifting heavier.  It is okay to go a little heavier and fail. Failure is our best learning tool and sometimes pushing to failure will only help us push through plateaus in our training.

  2. Write everything down – if you are not writing everything down you are not helping yourself.  If you increase your weight on a back squat by 1 pound every week, you can increase it by 52 pounds in the year.  Increasing your numbers will only lead to you getting stronger which will in turn lead to you creating a leaner better you.

  3. Heavy weights does not equal a bulky body – What you consume throughout the day will determine whether you create lean muscle mass or generate more mass on your body.  You CANNOT out exercise a bad diet.

  4. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable – if you have trouble doing this, ask a friend or your coach to tell you what numbers you should be hitting for the day.  What’s the point of paying for coaching if you aren’t going to utilize it or if you are going to ignore it.

  5. Take photos – The scale is not always right!!! Photos will tell you more about your body than the scale.  Take progress photos every month. Try on smaller size clothing. Find other ways to determine whether your fitness regiment is working.