"Yea but... I don't want to get bulky!"
"I don't want to get too bulky so I'm not going to lift heavy."
Ever have these thoughts or heard someone say something along those lines?
Are you a Coach or a Trainer? If yes I know you've had this conversation with clients many, many times and each time it aggravates you more and more.
Those of you that train to look good, be strong, lean, functional and healthy must engage in some sort of heavy lifting. That doesn't mean you have to chase a 500lb. deadlift, but compound, multi-joint lifts are necessary in your program. Doing light weight, isolation exercises in excess will NOT get you to look like this:
I understand why older people and/or women would shy away from what they perceive as heavy, compound lifts. Just because social media meatheads obsessively share their 'gainz, PR's, and max-outs' (I'm as guilty as anyone) does not mean that's what YOU have to do. Everyone has different goals they want to achieve in their training. Some want to crush thousands of pounds of iron, while others just want to look good in a bathing suit. Regardless of your individual goals you have to engage in full-body functional lifts on the regular.
Lifting heavy, which is highly individualized, will help fire up your metabolism, shed fat, add lean muscle and make you more functional for everyday activities as well as sports. You WILL NOT become the next strongman of the US by squatting and deadlifting every week.
Without getting too much into sets, reps, strength work, speed work, powerlifting, weightlifting, bodyweight and so on, I will dive in a little bit deeper. Usually when you think of heavy lifting low reps, heavy weight is the prescription. In essence, you're overall training volume is low (sets x reps), which will not produce a hypertrophic (increased muscle size) effect. You will, in fact increase the strength of the muscles being contracted, but NOT the size.
Hypertrophy, or increasing the size of your muscles occurs when you're training volume is higher. Basically when your muscles time under tension (TUT) is higher i.e. more reps, ISO holds, pauses, you increase the blood flow to the working muscles, recruit and breakdown more muscle fibers and get that 'swole' effect. You know, the feeling you get after doing 12 curls, 12 push-ups, 12 pull-ups back-to-back-to-back and can't fit through the doorway after? Obviously you won't remain that swole, but if that's the majority of your training you will definitely add size or 'get bulky' over time.
Goal #1: I want to look good in a bathing suit and I want people to be able to tell that I workout. I don't care about getting stronger I just want to be lean and healthy.
Do This - Train heavy with compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, presses, cleans, lunges, pull-ups, rows. Sets and reps should look something like this for those exercises- 3x5, 5x3, 8x2, 3x3, 4x2. Basically, keep the reps under 6. The lower the reps, the more sets. The load or weight lifted should be heavy for you, but submaximal always putting technique first. Add your high rep conditioning or isolation work in after the big lifts. Eat clean and stay lean! Use the 3 up, 1 down approach- train hard and heavy for 3 weeks, lighten thins up on the 4th week and use as recovery. Rinse and repeat. You do not have to be super fancy or dialed with your programming although that would help expedite your results.
Goal #2: I want to be lean and jacked, but I also want to squat 400lbs, bench press 300 and deadlift 500.
Do This - the same as aforementioned and also cycle in some high volume training. Be aggressive with your hypertrophy training for both the compound lifts and isolation exercises. Depending on your training level you'll need a well-designed program that will get you to reach those numbers. Your nutrition habits must support your goals, which is an entirely different blog post. You also have to assess your weak areas and then devise a plan to improve them with accessory exercises or flexibility/mobility specific to you.
To sum up, whether you're a housewife, a weekend warrior or an extreme meathead, you should engage in heavy compound lifts. They provide unlimited results for everyone. They will not get you to bulk up unless your programming and diet are on par to do so. As always, it's best to invest in a Coach that understands these concepts and provides the results you're looking for as a living.
Dominate Another Day.