Look what I got in the mail!

What a nice day. I’ll be back with reviews on these babies soon (well, not too soon, exams are coming up). I’ve leafed through NROL a bit and it looks very good. MS also looks good, but all the workouts are upper/lower body splits and i prefer full-body workouts. Still, I’m very interested in progressing to strength workouts, and this book seems to have all the information.

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Debunking the bulking myth – you’re doing it wrong.

One of the regular features of any weight training blog is the post where the author tries to convince women to drop the barbie weights and go into weight training. To do this, they address women’s biggest complaint: “I don’t want to get to bulky”. The author’s do this out of good will. They feel women have been lied to and miseducated, that they could greatly benefit from weight training.  They want to ‘disprove the bulking myth’, and get women in to the gym (and increase their own customer base, i’d imagine).

My complaint

Don’t get me wrong. I think women can get great benefits from weight lifting. I enjoy it immensely and hope I can motivate other women to get into it. But I do want them to be informed before getting into it.

It’s my feeling that they don’t do a good job at addressing women’s concerns. Worse, they sometimes end up lying to women, creating new misunderstandings, and insulting real female weight trainers in the process. They also make assumptions about the type of body women want to have that aren’t always correct.

Misunderstanding #1: Bulking

The core of these misunderstandings is the definition of “bulking”.

What bulking means for a man: “Going into a period of intense weight-training with a program specified to make muscle gains, while eating agressively over maintenance”.
What a man thinks bulking means for a woman
:  “Ending up looking like a female gladiator”.
What bulking actually means for a woman: Gaining width on ANY bodypart.

You can see how this leads to misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding #2: Your dream body

As far as the internet can tell me, Angelina Jolie is considered to be the most attractive woman in the world. This means many women will have *this* as their dream body:

Not this (Sorry, Rachel! I worship you, you’re my musclespiration!):

For many women and just as many men, Angelina Jolie’s body is preferable to Rachels. I know this stupid, and that it’s clearly Rachel who should be worshipped as a goddess, not miss stickfigure. You know this. But the rest of the world disagrees. As the song goes: “You can’t argue with popularity. Well you can, but you’d be wrong”.

Can you really promise your target audience that weight training will make them look like the underfed waif they want to look like? Because that’s what your doing when you say ‘picking up the weights will get you your dream body’.  The body that men will swoon over? Because last time I checked, a woman with visible muscles still gets an audible “eww” from most men.

What’s being said

Once again, all these people have the best of intentions, and don’t meant to mislead anyone. But they do, and I want to point them out.

From Elite Female fitness:

“Seriously, if one more woman says to me, “I don’t wanna lift cause I’ll get too big,” I’ll lose it! Look, if you think all you have to do to get huge is to step into the weight room and lift a few weights; you’re insane. It takes years of hard, heavy training, plenty of food, and testosterone, which women do not have enough of to get that big. When you see female bodybuilders, they are a product of steroids.”

This picture accompanies the argument.

This is an “argument from the extreme”. The woman is afraid of bulking (i.e. gaining an inch) and the article responds with ‘don’t worry, you’ll never gain 50 inches, it’s impossible”. I imagine this isn’t very reassuring. It’s like me saying “I’m afraid of sewer spiders” and someone reassuring me by saying “Don’t  worry, a 40 foot spider will never fit through your drains, it’s impossible”.

From Figure Athlete:

“But Wet Wolf, I can ‘muscle up’ very easily. I mean, my quads and glutes are really thick and muscular. In fact, I think I need to lose some muscle from my quads. They’re just too big.”

No. The password is… fat loss! Your legs aren’t too muscular, they’re just carrying too much fat. Show me one single Figure Athlete who’s drug-free and under 10% bodyfat, who possesses legs that are too muscular. You can’t do it.

Under 10% bodyfat? Granted, FA is not a site who caters to women who are currently swinging their pink dumbells around. But imagine a woman who has been lead to believe that pumping iron will give her her dream body. And who then gets told “yeah, of course you don’t have your dream body, you’re too fat! Your going to have to go on hardcore diets to drop yourself down to a very low bodyfat% that your body will continually struggle to get away from. Suprise!”.

Strange how that didn’t get a mention, isn’t it? Picking up the weights will give you ‘that nice toned look’, but who’s going to drop your bodyfat by 10 percentages?

Tony Gentilcore on FA (don’t hate me, Tony! I love you!):

Lifting heavy weights will not make you “big and bulky.” Eating bagels and drinking Starbucks (aka: liquid McDonalds) for breakfast everyday makes you “big and bulky.”

The take home message is, again, if you’re bulky, it’s because you’ve been taking too many dips into the cookie jar. Diet down, fatty. Funny though, before you started lifiting, you fit into your jeans fine. Now you need to diet down to compensate for the muscle width you gained. They didn’t tell you that before you started, did they?

Ok, let’s lift

So, a women wants to put down her pink dumbbells and start training weights. Chances are, she’ll start with the New rules of lifting for women. The programme starts with 12 to 18 weeks of 8-12 rep exercises with a low to no deficit. Women reported busting out of their pants in phase one and posted on the forum. They weren’t on steroids, they  were doing three fullbody workouts a week and having a shake afterwards.

The response they got was very different from those initial promises:

Matt from AmpedTraining:

“Sounds like your legs/butt were just un trained and responded how they were supposed to. Some women have hangups about the size of that area. If you’re one of those that prefers the skinny lower half, then building muscle is going to ruin that for you. Accept the changes or stop doing what you’re doing.”

“Some” women have hangups about that area? SOME? Are you kidding? How about “inform people properly or never try to debunk the bulking myth again?”

Or maybe she’ll mail tony about it, and he’ll say:

Ummmmm, 10-12 reps is notheavy, low rep training. It’s HYPERTROPHY training. The reason you can’t fit into your clothes anymore is because you’re probably doing too much volume.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone had mentioned that in their “hey, women, drop the pink dumbbells article?” and had saved you a 16-week bulking cycle?

If weight-lifting will make me hot, why are your blog posts and articles covered in skinny fat girl pictures?

Because that’s what turns your male audience on, and part of what keeps them coming back. We’re not stupid. You may talk the talk, but your pictures don’t walk the walk. Or are these the toned, healthy weightlifting women you’re talking about?

What should be said

The take home message should be a little more detailed than: “pick up some weights, you won’t bulk’.

  • It should take the ‘pink dumbell woman’s point of view into account. No matter how much you hate it
  • It should provide realistic information about what you can expect to change about your body when you weight train.
  • It should explain that weight lifting alone is not enough to lose weight, and that dieting will still be the order of the day.
  • It  should explain what kind of weight training has what kinds of effect on body composition, so they can make an informed choice.
  • Perhaps you need to ditch or tone down the “you will look hot!” argument alltogether. It’s what you use to get men into the gym, isn’t it? Work hard and girls will want to have sex with you. Since most men prefer a skinny fat girl over a toned one anyway, maybe you need to make your selling points a bit more serious.Gubernatrix:
    “Likewise there is potentially more mileage in teaching women that weight training is good for them, than in trying to persuade women that weight training will make them look hot. It will – but most women will only be persuaded of this after it actually happens, not before! In the meantime, the argument that they need to do weight training for health could bear more fruit.”
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Intermittent fasting

Fasting. Sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Spiritual at best, anorexic at worst. But it seems there’s quite some benefits to be gained from periodic, short-term fasts. Health benefits but also mental ones.

When you’re training, you have to put a lot of effort into planning your meals, ensuring they have enough protein, calories, fiber, and making sure to spread them over 6 meals a day. Some days I leave for work with six or seven tupperware boxes filled with tiny prepared meals. Preparing them is a lot of work, and planning them is even worse.  Fasting, in additional to being good for its own sake, is a way to simplify all that, and give you back some of the time and mental space you gave up.

So how does it work? Well, there’s two fasting camps: One camp likes to fast for 24 hours a day, no more than two times a week. The rest of the week they eat normally. They use it for weight loss and/or maintenance. The other camp seems to consist of more bodybuilding types, who want to go into their workouts fully fuelled. They do a daily fast – and make sure to eat before and after their workout. Martin Berkhan (interviewed by Leigh Peele here) belongs to the latter camp, and advocates 16/8 fasting. That means a daily 16 hour fast and a 8 hour eating window in which you take care to get your planned amount of calories. So you don’t eat any less or more than you would normally do. How is this going to help with fatloss or muscle gain?

Well, first off, 16 hours is enough to get most of the physiological benefits from fasting. When you fast, your body goes through a lot of changes, a lot of which are very positive. Be sure to read the six part series What happens to your body when you fast. Even more important: the bad effects you fear are not going to happen:  your metabolism doesn’t slow down, your muscle doesn’t break down, you won’t starve.

Psychologically, the effects can differ. Some people overeat before their fast, suffer through their fast horribly, then overeat again once it’s done. Some people fast and use their eating time to eat junk food because ‘they’ve earned it’. For me, it’s very freeing. I’m very susceptible to the “oh a little bit of x can’t hurt” or “oh, I’ll just have one for the taste”, or “oh, i haven’t had that in 10 years!”  type of argument. Little cheats. But when I fast, i have a solid reason to abstain from even the smallest cheat. So fasting saves me a lot of cheated calories, and in my eating window I get to eat real meals that make me feel full and satisfied. These days I can go to work with one big tupperware box instead of 6 (!) smaller ones. It’s a mental relief, and it helps!

If you’re looking to get started with intermittent fasting, be sure to check this article out first.

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Anterior pelvic tilt repair workout

I’ve been doing some research, and found a lovely article by Mike Robertson called Fixing your force couples: it has an explanation of pelvic tilt, the obligatory picture of some girls ass in anterior tilt, but it also has a workout! Awesome. Unfortunately it’s filled with exercises that don’t get explained in the article, and that aren’t familiar to me. So I went Youtubing.

Since you might also be in Anterior tilt and similarly noobish, I’ll post my movie-filled workout here.

Foam Rolling
Glutes, hamstrings, calves, adductors, quads, TFL/ITB, peroneals (additional focus on quads/hip flexors)

Static Stretching/Activation
1A) Psoas or Rectus Femoris Stretch, paired with
1B) Glute Bridge
2A) Piriformis Stretch, paired with
2B) Side-Lying Clam

Mobility Training
Knee Hugs,
Pull-Back Butt Kicks,
Warrior Lunge with Twist,
Running Butt Kicks,
Crossover Overhead Reverse Lunge

Strength Training Exercise Selection
Sumo Deadlift
Long-Stroke Walking Lunge
Pull-throughs (yeah, I’m looking forward to doing this one in the gym..)
Single-Leg RDL

Out-of-workout lengthening strategies
Reinforcement of good alignment throughout the day. In this case, a stand-up desk or even kneeling at your desk on an Airex pad will get the hips into extension and lengthen the short/stiff muscles.

So that’s it. Truthfully, I haven’t tried it yet. I’l have a restweek from NROL4W soon, then I’ll give this workout a whirl. After that, I might go add one APT workout to my 3 times a week routine. Till this crap is fixed!

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Day five

of weight-loss month. Currently chewing on some chicken slices. My food is pretty blah, lots of dairy, salad, chicken, soup, tuna and other staples. I don’t have the time to make interesting meals right now, I’m busy as hell. How can I stand it? Because I know I only have to stand it for a month. You can do anything for a month, right?

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Leaning time!

My one-month leaning phase starts today! I’ve been gaining a nice bit of muscle, and now it’s time to shed the bit of fat that comes with every muscle gain – my pants are feeling tight again.

Why one month? Because I don’t want to get tricked into dieting forever again, because I’ll need my strength and energy for my workouts, because I don’t want my metabolism to slow down again. You can diet up to eight weeks before that happens, but a month is what I’m going to try. Also, it’ s a lot easier to maintain your diet if you know it’ll only last a month. And to be honest, I don’t need to lose all that much.

How am I going to do it?

By eating a little bit less (300kcal), making my meals even more nutritious, and by moving a lot more. I’m not very active outside of my workouts, and for this month I’m planning to increase my activity, be it stairclimbs, cycling, intervals, hikes, frisbeeing, or whatever.

After a month I’ll take a week or maybe two to go back up to my normal maintenance level. If that isn’t enough weight loss, I’ll wait a couple of weeks and then do another month.

My day:
Breakfast: kwark with wheat bran, proteïn powder and a few dried cranberries
Lunch: Vegetable soup made with chicken broth, steamed fish with spring onions (yay for tupperware!)
Snack: Deviled eggs and avocado slices
Post WO: small shake
Dinner: Chicken tortilla’s with spring beans

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Losing grip (boy, that sounds dramatic)

Ran into a lot of my own limitations at the gym yesterday. I did my deadlifts with 65kg/143 pounds, great! But around the 6th rep, I lose my grip. It’s not the sweat, my hands just can’t hold the bar anymore, my thumb slips, then my fingers slowly give way. Now what to do? I guess I have a couple of options:

  • Do my 24 reps in sets of 4 (instead of sets of 3 like i do now), assume the deadlifts and other exercises I do will strengthen my grip as much as my other mucles
  • Wear gloves. A gym buddy tells me this will help me keep grip, but I’m not so sure. I’m not slipping away, I just can’t grip the weight long enough.
  • Experiment with different ways of holding the bar. Perhaps an alternating grip with one hand ‘backwards’. I tried that, and it feels very unnatural, but perhaps i should try again.
  • Add in grip-strengthening exercises. But which ones?

I don’t know, I’ll have to do more research.

If that wasn’t enough flaws to discover in one day, then it was time for lunges.

My helpful gym buddy:  Wow, could you lean any more forward?
Me: Yeah, I know I should point straight up, but I just can’t.
Me: I think it’s because I have an anterior pelvic tilt. You know, like Kim kardashian.
Gym buddy: You should fix that, your lunges are crap.
Me: What do you mean, fix? I thought it was just a characteristic like your starsign or your bodytype. Plus, my ass looks great now. Badadunk!
Gym buddy: Yeah, how’s your hernia going to look in 20 years?

Long story short, I gotta work on my pelvic tilt. My gym buddy has done a lot of back therapy and gave me useful pointer: to pull my navel to my spine. That sounds slightly unsettling, but by doing that, my lunges became a lot straighter. But if i want to untilt, I’ll need to do a lot more work than that.

Once again, back to doing research (There’s a nice article on pelvic tilt here – it only uses normal english words, not of that physical therapy speak)

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