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Let’s take a minute to discuss something I have been hearing a lot lately. Muscles. To bulk or tone?That is the question.

I have heard from a lot of women, “I just want to tone up. I don’t want to get bulky.” Heck, I’ve even used that phrase several times in the 34 years of my life. If these women ask me for strength training advice I quickly offer up CrossFit. Immediately I get a laugh, a lot of “Oh, I could never do THAT,” and even more of “I don’t want to get bulky.” Let’s get something straight. LIFTING WEIGHTS DOESN’T MAKE YOU BULKY. As the ol’ saying goes, cinnamon rolls do that. Anytime women hear the words weights, barbells, clean and jerk, lifting we immediately think this:


She’s a handsome woman. I’m certainly not making fun of her. 1. She could crush me. 2. This is what she wants, so good for her.

Guess what? Weights don’t do that. Steroids do, or some other hormone supplement. Women do not bulk without supplemental testosterone. We physiologically do not produce enough to render these results. It is not in our DNA. Guess what lifting weights will do: help you lose body fat.

So when we say we want to tone, what does that mean? I believe it means we don’t want the jiggle in our butts, arms, and legs. We don’t want to have to tuck in our “mommy tummies” when we sit down. We want to lose inches and body fat. So, now we are back to lifting weights. Many women go right to cardio. Cardio, cardio cardio. That is the key to looking like you want. You know what? You are right! You will slim down tremendously with a lot of cardio and a huge reduction in your calories. The problem lies in the fact that when your three year old child wants you to carry him through the zoo, you won’t make it past the monkeys. Sure, you could run through the whole zoo, several times depending on how much cardio you do, but you will not have the strength to carry your child, or really even your purse through the zoo. You see, when you do cardio and no strength training you lose fat, but you ALSO lose muscle. Lots of muscle. Is this bulky?


Yes, she’s got come big muscles, but I’d be happy looking like that in a bathing suit. Wouldn’t you? This is one of the top women competitors in CrossFit, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. She can lift ridiculous amounts of weight, and looks amazing in a sports bra and shorts. Yes, I have a woman-crush on her, if you can’t tell. It’s ok. It’s mostly jealousy.

There are countless articles on the Internet about bulking, toning, lifting, and CrossFit. I don’t know everything. I really don’t even know a lot. Just a bit. Do your research. Before you cut your calories down to a low functioning amount (sidebar: the less you eat, the more fat your body stores as it thinks you are in a starvation situation) and spend 2 hours a day on a treadmill (BORING) know what you are doing to your body. If you want to be healthy, be healthy! Pick up a barbell. I dare you. You will feel so empowered you will never go back to three-pound hand weights. I promise.

Photo credits:
1st one: Martin Schoeller http://www.getaddictedto.com
2nd one: http://www.girlswithmuscle.com