- Many people, especially women, dismiss weight lifting over concerns it would add too much bulk.
- The actor/athlete Brooke Ence argues lifting weights is great for building a lean, defined physique.
- She says most people won’t end up looking like bodybuilders, and more muscle can help burn fat.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
If you’re looking to get fit for the summer, don’t shy away from the weight rack.
The actor and athlete Brooke Ence sees strength-training exercises as a great way to reach your fitness goals.
Ence, who has competed in the CrossFit Games and played an Amazon warrior in the DC movies “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League,” says too many people make the mistake of steering clear of barbells, kettlebells, or even dumbbells, especially heavy ones, for fear of getting too big.
“I hear this primarily from women,” Ence told Insider. “They want the shape, they want the tone, but don’t want to get bulky.”
It’s a myth that lifting weights will inherently add bulk to women – or people of any gender, for that matter. Getting bodybuilder-huge muscles takes years of hard work and dedication, so don’t worry about it happening by mistake, Ence said.
What weight lifting can do, she said, is help you see better results from your workouts by improving your overall strength and body composition (ratio of muscle to fat), and you don’t have to be a superhero to do it.
Getting ‘bulky’ doesn’t happen by accident
While Ence is proof that women can and do put on a lot of muscle while weight training, she said her physique was the result of lifelong athleticism. Most of us can’t expect to look like an Amazon with a few days a week of weight training.
Ence said it had taken years of hard work to put on muscle mass while staying relatively lean. Her gains developed as a result of training for serious athletic endeavors, such as CrossFit.
“That doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “I’m the same weight and have been most of my athletic career, and I was training hard every day.”
More muscle can help you burn fat effectively
It’s a persistent misconception that you should avoid big weights if you want to slim down or look more svelte. You can’t change the shape of your muscles by “toning” them – muscles can get bigger or smaller, and they’re more visible if your body-fat percentage is low.
“If you want definition and tone, that’s going to come from applying stress and hard work,” Ence said.
Lifting weights helps you build muscle, but it also torches calories since compound movements like squats and deadlifts require numerous groups of large muscles to work at once.
While it can be difficult to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, gradually building muscle will ultimately make your fat-burning efforts more successful, since it increases your overall metabolism.
Bodies are unique, so focus on strength instead of a specific look
Genetics also play a major role in how your body will look, which means it can be an exercise in futility to try to look a certain way, whether that’s slim and svelte or swole and ripped.
Instead, if you focus on lifting weights to get stronger, your body will naturally adjust toward whatever athleticism looks like for you.
“Muscle has a lot to do with genetics,” Ence said. “If I do what I’m supposed to do, my body has a muscular shape. I wasn’t training to work on a specific body part. I was getting stronger.”
Weight lifting doesn’t have to be scary, even for beginners
Regardless of your experience level, there’s no need to feel intimidated at the gym, Ence said. While it’s easy to worry about getting hurt or looking ridiculous, research has found that lifting weights isn’t riskier than other forms of exercise for either your physical health or your ego.
If you’re new to the weight room, your first step should be to find a good coach so you can perfect your form. If you’ve got the basics down, it’s helpful to have a solid plan and a routine for your specific goals.
Ence’s app, Naked Training, offers one such program, with tips on nutrition, workouts, and mobility routines to improve your performance and help you meet aesthetic goals, too.
“Everyone should be confident in their own skin, that’s the focus,” she said.
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