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November 10, 2006

Question: How do I lift weights if I don't want to get big and bulky?

I get this question from about half of my female clients.  They are always afraid of getting big, bulky, man muscles.  It's a valid concern.

But I very rarely get this question from a girl who is really lean.

Kendra started to get really lean and hot right about when she started doing full unassisted pullups and dips.

My leanest and sexiest clients have been lifting for a long time already.  In fact, they're usually pretty strong before they even come to me.  The clients that come to me at 23%-26% bodyfat are almost always lifting weights already, and are pretty strong.  And working out with me, they get even stronger.

Girls that are "rockstar lean", like 17-21% bodyfat, are always lifting weights.  You just can't get that lean without a good lifting program, a good cardio program, and a good eating program.

Hilary gained muscle and got leaner. It was only after adding in weight training that she finally got lean and sexy abs.  Now she deadlifts over 200lbs.

Unless you are genetically gifted, you cannot get to rockstar lean, toned, and sexy, with just cardio and eating.  You have got to be lifting weights also.

That's why all of the marathon runner girls that come to me are "skinny fat".  All cardio.  No weights.  Usually no diet either.  They're skinny and they still have a pooch on their belly.

How strong are the strong hot girls?  Bodyweight pullups for starters.  One legged squats all the way down butt to the floor.  "Boy" pushups?  That's just for starters, they are moving on to much more advanced pushup variations like "Hindu" pushups and "screw" pushups.

I show all of the girls in my gym the picture of one training client who has 19% bodyfat and almost a carbon-copy of Jessica Alba's body.  She's lean, hot, skinny, and small.  Girls are often shocked to find out that she does pullups, bench presses her bodyweight, and does lunges with 40lb dumbbells in each hand.  If you want to be "Jessica Alba Hot", you are going to need to be strong.

All of the group exercise instructors lift weights.  And they are strong, strong women.  Sure they use the Group classes for their cardio, but that's not all they are doing.  Sure you can love your Pilates, but it's not enough to get you a rock star body.  You've got to lift, and you've got to lift heavy.

Some girls still swear that if they lift weights they bulk up.  Here is the answer:


It takes a huge amount of food to gain significant size.  Just ask all the guys in the gym who are "trying to get big".  It takes a lot of food.  If you are "bulking up", you are eating too much food.

Studies have shown that some women unconsciously eat more when they work out.  Or they "feel like they've earned eating more" when they lift.  Regardless, the problem is eating more food.

Let me clarify - it doesn't take a huge amount of food, it takes a huge amount of calories.  The two are not the same thing.  If I eat at Taco Bell, I get relatively little volume of food for the amount of calories I am consuming.  On the flipside, if I cook at home with fresh whole food, I might get three times as much food for much less calories.

I beat this to death: Keep a food log.  If there is one thing that you get out of reading my blog, let it be this.  Keep a food log.

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you spelled concern wrong.

Bravo to this. Also need to dispell the myth of "toned." But your model there looks anorexic and not fit at all. I'm an olmypic lifter who is 112lbs and squating double bodyweight and trust me, there is no way to avoid big muscular thighs if you're actually working. I'm even a vegetarian. However, my body does look "toned," lean and ripped in places. But it ain't ever gonna look like that picture. I'm glad you're advocating women pushing themselves and lifting big weights, and yes, women are rarely gonna get big bulky muscles without juicing, but the woman you put a pic of doesn't even look HEALTHY.

"She's lean, hot, skinny, and small." Almost all the girls mentioned or shown have tiny arms and legs. I, after over 5 years of highland dance and soccer no longer those tiny limbs. Is it possible to get them or no? I sit at about 23% bodyfat currently and my bicep measures about 18 inches.

A fat belly can erodes your health with diabetes,pain in the back,high blood pressure and increased cholesterol in the blood.It is very important to lose belly fat


I understand the theory behind this article. I have been trying to put into practice for a long time now.

I work out pretty hard and am trying to bulk up just a little bit. I look fairly good but could do with a little more mass. So what I am trying to do is eat just a little more. But I find instead of putting the weight on to the muscles - like the legs and shoulders, it goes straight to my stomach. What am I doing wrong here?

I am eating fairly healthy also. And no I dont have a food log because I am in India and Indian food is very varied and difficult to assess in terms of calorie content.

Mr. Hong, I changed the old picture to pictures of my clients who are lean and strong and healthy.


1.) Focus on QUALITY food, and

2.) Make sure you are getting stronger in your workouts.

Building muscle is much slower than adding fat. 1/2 pound of muscle per week is considered very good.

Anything eaten on top of the fuel for that muscle gain would turn to fat.

It could just be a matter of eating faster than you can add muscle.

Hi , thanks 4 this post. It opens some new ways of looking to muscle building and fitness in general. it is just very sad when people are not open for learning new ways and tactics. problem is people are getting confused and even negative about weight lifting when those people start teaching others and preaching their "visions" . it is therefore important to have places like you have here . I wish you best results !

Hey Josh
I love working out my legs but i have a shoulder roblem.This prevents me putting a bar on my neck or shoulder, otherwise i'll get pain for days. Any suggestions how I could work out my legs with freeweights without the bar?

Sometimes dealing with Type II Diabetes can be overwhelming.

Our doctors prescribe medications to stabilize our symptoms, and suggest things we can do to be as healthy as possible. Soon, you notice a theme. The dreaded phrase "Diet and Exercise” occurs over and over. Chances are you've tried diet and exercise before, with varying degrees of success. So you look at your options, and none of them thrill you.

Usually, when someone decides to start moving more, they go to the gym or they walk. Urban Poling Inc. would like to help you get moving with a safe, easy exercise that uses ninety percent (90%) of the muscles in your body, and is as easy as walking. In fact, it is walking, only smarter -- it's Urban Poling also known as Nordic Walking.

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The Canadian Diabetes Association’s 2003 Clinical Practice Guidelines recommend that individuals with Type II Diabetes aim for 50 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (like walking, swimming or cycling) three days week. They also recommend resistance exercise (like wall push ups, lifting soup cans or propelling yourself with Nordic walking poles) be done three times per week.

The founder of Urban Poling Inc., Mandy Shintani an Occupational Therapist in British Columbia says “Because Urban Poling involves more muscles than regular walking, it burns substantially more calories.” And that’s good news for people who are interested in weight loss, adds Shintani

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Weight lifting can literally reverse the aging process. Just working the major muscle groups twice a week can replace 5 to 10 years worth of muscle loss in only a few months.

Hi there, I really like what you are saying although I can't agree fully on all things you are saying. But I really appreciate your efforts to explain details on muscle building and fitness in general. I would like to see more sites/blogs like this one. Cheers , Sasha

Most women (and a lot of men) don't have to worry about getting "too big." First off, it's a nice problem to have! If you believe you're getting too big, go lighter and with less intensity on the weight training. But odds are, you won't have to worry. It's very difficult to get bodybuilder-huge.

You posting are wonderful and informative.

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