Debunking the bulking myth, done better


Jamie Eason. Muscular? Yes. Feminine? Yes. Sexy yet able to kick your ass? Oh hell yes.

Well look here. Fellow Belgian Mehdi from Stronglifts included “weight lifting makes women bulky” in his list of Fitness myths.

Myth #5: Weight Lifting Makes Women Bulky. Those muscular women you can find in muscle magazines had to use steroids to get to that point. As a woman you can build muscle, get stronger and improve your physique. But you’ll never build as much muscle mass as men can because you have lower testosterone levels. You’ll always stay feminine unless you use steroids.

He still assumes women take “bulky” to mean “gladiator woman”, whereas most women already freak out from going up a pants size. But he adresses  it without rediculising women’s fears, and doesn’t mock women’s potential for putting on muscle. The takehome message is both reassuring and to the point: you can be muscular and feminine. Good job!

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Summer endurance

This summer I’ve been taking liberties with my gym schedule in order to work on my endurance. Jogging? Hell no! Stairmaster? Oh, please. I’ve been taking advantage of the summer by hiking through beautiful parts of nature.

Trading in the squat rack for something more idyllic

Trading in the squat rack for something more idyllic

If you’re looking to get into hiking, I only have one tip for you: get someone experienced to tell you about the best locations!


Walking through dense forests, climbing over roots, rocks and branches, a pretty good workout!

Rather than just walk out the door into a random direction, I asked a coworker of mine who is an avid hiker. He happily gave us maps to the most beautiful trails in the country, explained where to park and what route to follow.

After a few 12-14 mile hikes, we’re ready to round off the summer in style. We’re packing up this weekend on a four day trip, walking our way through the Ardennes, a very rural and pretty area of Belgium. About 40 miles in total. Not bad for a couple of gym monkeys, eh?

We’re going in style, though: every night we’ll arrive in a village hotel that has been booked for the night. This serves two purposes:

  1. We get some comfort for our trouble
  2. We’d better keep walking all the way to our destination, or we’ll have to sleep in the grass!

We booked the entire thing through an agent, so all we need to do is show up and walk. When we get more experienced, we can start on making our own (cheaper) trips. But for now, we’re not going to get our inexperience get in the way of our hikes!

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Programming is easy

How's that for inspiration?

How's that for inspiration?

The New Rules for Women program was my first introduction to a real program. Hell, to real lifting. It really got me interested and in a matter of months I was reading everything I could find: books, websites, forums. One of my favorite topics was the mythical programming. Gradually I grew more annoyed at the NROL4W workouts. They were very long: some of them took 2 hours to complete. Some exercises hurt my knees. I longed to add in other exercises that would help strengthen my weak spots. But I was convinced that I could never make my own program.

This all changed when I stumbled on to the most important article on the internet: Program Design for Dummies. If the internet was a house on fire, this is the article I would rush to save.  It explains in clear language how to make a program that balances push- and pull movements, includes unilateral work, core, and everything. It even includes a template.

I played around with it and made a three stage program that I then put back on the shelf. Sure, I now had an idea of how to make a balanced workout, but I still didn’t know how to decide on reps and a periodisation of sorts. This all changed when:

  • I did NROL’s 4×4 workout, and decided that low rep training was the coolest thing ever
  • I went back on a diet, and decided I didn’t want to spend 1,5 hours in the gym for every gruelling session

So I made my program. It’s made up of

  • one big lift (5×5),
  • two smaller lifts (3×8),
  • two accessory exercises (2×12)
  • cardio: either 10 minutes of 70% HR or (once a week), 15 mins of intervals.

The program takes me 55-60 minutes. My numbers are going up. I look forward to every session. I don’t have to cancel fun stuff in order to train. Hell if I skip the cardio, I can do it on my lunch break. I couldn’t be happier.

And if I ever stop being happy with it, I know I only have myself to blame.

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Look what I got!

It’s a foam roller! It was a present and it’s full of win!

What does a foam rolller do? It rolls the aches out of your muscles in a painful but very effective way and give you more mobility back. Or, in the words of Tony: “With a foam roller, you will break up all those knots, adhesions, and scar tissue that tend to accumulate over time and not only will you improve range of motion (no more knots), but you’ll also improve overall tissue quality as well.”

That’s me baby, high quality tissue.

In case someone also knocks on your door to unexpectedly give you a foam roller, you should know how to use it:

That should get you started. Get rolling, folks!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

back again


Back definition coming along okay. 10 pounds less would really make it happen though. Sadly exam months means sitting on your ass burning bugger all calorie wise, making it rather unpleasant to eat in a deficit.
If only stress burned calories, eh? Eventually I would like to end up here (though not in yoga class).

Posted in Fitness, nutrition | 6 Comments

some recipes

I know many lifters eat the same high-protein things the way way, day in and day out. Tuna from the can, grilled chicken, eggwhite omelettes… I get too bored doing that. Just because you’re eating healthily, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and interesting meals, right? Here’s a few recipes from the blogosphere that I’ve tried lately. They offer nice protein value AND taste good, too!

Chicken satay – Very good, moist chicken. Good without the peanut sauce, but heavenly with it.
Hoisin Pork chops – Great chops with sticky sweet sauce.
Top drawer Chicken Salad – I eat this a few times a week for lunch. Great wrapped in a tortilla.
Baked felafel – Beans have lots of carbs with some nice proteïn. Since you’re baking the felafel instead of deep-frying it, it’s low-fat too. An ideal post-workout meal!
Ratatouille – If you’re not getting enough vegetables in, or are low-carbing, give this one a whirl.
BBQ Meatballs – You may want to go easy on the sugar in the sauce there, but otherwise a very nice midweek meal.

Posted in nutrition | 1 Comment

I know what I want, but not how to get it.

Reading these books has made me dissatisfied. There’s so many great programs out there, but none of them are perfect for me. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want, but no idea how to get it.

What I want: Strength and power, and the health benefits they bring. I’ve built muscle, now i want to use it to its full potential
What I don’t want:  Hypertrophy or fat-loss. I’m very happy with my body composition right now. Sure, a few bf% less couldn’t hurt, but if I want that I’ll skip the oreos.
I know my limitations:

  • I want to train only three times a week
  • I have imbalances and weaknesses. I want to work on them. I do not want my main goal to be accomplished at the cost of my body.
  • I know I’m not an advanced lifter, and that there are siginificant gains for me to be had in full-body workouts.
  • I know an experienced trainer will make a much better program for me than I could make myself.

So where does that leave me?

  • NROL4W is great. It does a wonderful job at tackling my weak points (upper back, unilateral work, glute activation).  But it’s not a strength program, it’s a strength/hypertrophy/fat-loss mix.
  • NROL itself has a strength program, but that one still includes hypertrophy, because, hey, all men want to be buff, right?
  • Maximum strength looks amazing mobility and strength wise, but it is an upper/lower split program, and seems to be a program I want to do after a few years.
  • Most other strength programs like stronglifts, etc. are very basic. They just include 5×5’s of the big exercises without regard to mobility and/or weaknesses.
  • Having a trainer make a custom program for me sounds wonderful, but I just found out how much that costs, and I’m not prepared to pay prices like that.
  • Finally, making my own program would be fun, but it would most likely be horribly ineffective until I got better at it.

So i’m at a loss. I’m considering adapting NROL4W’s two hypertrophy phases to a 1-8 rep range. It’d be a hack-job, and the periodisation of NROL4W would be affected… but it would get me everything I want. Or I can suck it up and do the hypertrophy parts at a deficit, the fat-loss parts at a surplus, and go on. But it seems absurd to me to not train for your goal.

I’ll need to give this more thought.

Posted in Fitness | 8 Comments