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Question: Does lifting make women bulky?

Answer: Of all the many fitness myths, this one is the most persistent, and the most false. Women have very low testosterone levels — only 5% of the testosterone that men have.  Testosterone is the hormone that allows your body to build muscle. Without it, your ability to build muscle is very limited. Fat is 3 times the size of muscle. This means that if you were to replace 10 pounds of fat with muscle, you would look as though you’ve lost 20 pounds, when you’ve actually lost zero. Muscle makes you more compact, not bigger. Ask any woman who trains. Strength training gets you lean, and keeps you lean.

Q: Can intense training make up for a bad diet?

A: For most people, eating well is much more difficult than training hard. When people don’t reach their fitness goals, food is the most common reason. No matter what kind of training you do, food will always be crucial. So if you’re ready to start a training program, make sure you’re also ready to tighten up your diet.


Q: Does cardio build muscle?

A: Sorry, cardio only burns calories. Any activity that you can perform for any extended period of time is not difficult enough to force muscle to adapt by growing. Cardio can improve muscular endurance and neurological efficiency, but it doesn’t improve the strength or shape of your muscle. 


Q: Does yoga build long lean muscle?

A: You may feel longer after a yoga class, but it’s physically impossible to lengthen a muscle. All muscles have a fixed origin and insertion point. The only way to lengthen a muscle would be to surgically detach and reattach it. Yoga doesn't stimulate muscle growth because there isn’t enough load. And it doesn't burn many calories because it doesn't require much oxygen. Yoga is an incredibly useful activity. It can absolutely change the way your body functions. You should do it as often as you can. Just don’t expect it to change the way your body looks. There is no such thing as a yoga body. If someone in your yoga class looks amazing, ask them what else they’re doing. It’s not the yoga.

Q: Do high reps at low weight create better muscle definition?

A: No. This is a common misperception. Your body changes as an adaption to exercise. If your exercises aren’t difficult enough, there is nothing for your body to adapt to. It’s vital that you get close to failure on every set. If you can lift a weight for more than 15 reps, it’s too easy. It will not change the shape and/or definition of the muscle. 

Q: Does cardio burn a lot of calories?

A: You burn 5 calories for every liter of oxygen you take in during cardio. The average net calorie burn of a female running a 9-minute mile is 90 calories. A bagel with nothing on it has 250 calories. You can run two miles and still not burn off that bagel. Your fitness app tells you that you’ve burned far more calories than you actually have. A recent study showed that 91% of current fitness apps miscalculate aerobic caloric deficit. So if you like cardio, absolutely do it. But never think of it as substitute for eating clean. 

Q: Does exercising on an empty stomach burn more fat?

 Q: An empty stomach actually makes you more likely to burn muscle. Fat is most easily burned in the presence of carbohydrates. Once carbohydrate stores are depleted, the body's only other source of fuel is protein. Your body breaks down protein into amino acids to make sugar. So if you do cardio long enough to run out of stored glucose, your own muscle tissue can become the source of protein. And keep in mind that having low energy due to a lack of food limits your ability to push yourself. So always eat a very small meal about 30 minutes before you train.

A: Does my back hurt because my core is weak?

 Q: It’s remarkable how many trainers (and doctors and chiropractors) claim that your core is the solution to lower back problems. There is no muscle that people ignore more than the back. The truth is, if your back hurts, it’s because your back is weak. A strong core helps, but a strong upper back, and especially strong glutes, are the real solution to lower back tightness and pain. 


A: Should women train differently than men?

Q: No. Your body adapts to physical challenges by getting stronger. This is equally true for men and women. Because of hormonal differences, the rate of change in muscle differs between men and women, but the biological process that causes those changes is exactly the same, so the methods used to affect progress are also exactly the same.  

Q: Can strength training cause injury?

A: If done incorrectly, absolutely. If you’re working out on your own, and you don’t have a lot of experience, stick to the simple things, like machines. Machines were originally designed for physical therapy. They control movement for you because the goal is to strengthen one muscle at a time, around an injury. The goal of strength training is to strengthen all of your muscles, all at the same time, so that your body develops as a single unit. And the complexity of the exercise determines how likely you are to injure yourself. The biggest mistake you can make is to train in a large class devoted to complex movements, like squats or deadlifts. Performed incorrectly, any exercise can cause an injury. And the more complex the exercise, the more likely you are to get hurt. So be careful. If you want to do the challenging stuff, don’t try it in a class. There are far too many people for the trainer to coach effectively. Either research the correct form on your own, or find an expert to help you.