Your grandma is stronger than you.
Okay, maybe not today. But when she was your age, your grandma probably could have kicked your behind without even breaking a sweat. Don’t think so? Maybe you’re in the minority here, but recent evidence has shown a dramatic decrease in strength, lean muscle mass, and fitness ability among all humans, but especially noticeable in women.
How can this be? With a new fitness blog popping up every few minutes and a bevy of other sources telling us how to build muscle, how to lose excess fat, blah blah blah..it’s not for a lack of knowledge. There has got to be something else that is making evolution turn backwards…. Let’s take a look….
The Issue Begins
You remember those fitness tests we all took as kids in gym class? Sit ups, pull ups, shuttle run, maybe a mile run for good measure? If you were like most kids, you probably hated doing them. Well these things are still going on in schools across America, but it wasn’t until recently that Dr. Grant Tomkins, senior lecturer in health sciences at the University of South Australia decided to look into this data. In the US, UK, and Canada, it seems kids are growing weaker by the year. The ability to deliver repeated force (sit ups) has decreased roughly 10% since the 1980’s.
In a similar study, Dr. Gavin Sandercock, a sports science professor from Essex University tested the muscular strength of 315 kids in 2006, then compared the data to similar subjects in 1998. In just eight years time, the 2006 group of kids performed worse on arm strength (26% decline) and grip (7% decline). Clearly, current generations of kids are building less muscle, losing their strength, and realizing the consequences of (you guessed it) the sedentary American (or Western) lifestyle.
The Issue Perpetuated
The problem is two-fold though. Generations of Americans losing their strength and muscle mass isn’t the sole results of video game playing and junk food eating. Remember earlier I said the problem was particularly evident in women? Take a look why…
Make a run through the magazine aisle at your local supermarket. It’s pretty impossible to not see rows of stick thin bodies on the cover of these magazines. Every now and then you’ll catch a glimpse of a healthy looking woman and feel a bit better about yourself…until you read the caption: “Celebs who are letting themselves GO!”. Our entire media culture has created a disillusioned version of what fit and beautiful really means. By and large, women strive to be thin, not strong and healthy. The idea that thinness is the epitome of beauty is the reason so many women a) don’t know how to build muscle or b)care to build muscle. They associate muscle with bulkiness, masculinity, and everything a woman “shouldn’t be”, so there is no emphasis placed on building muscle, increasing strength, or building a well-rounded and fit body.
Many women these days seem to search for the best fitness program for weightloss…or the best fitness program to get burn stomach fat…or the best fat blasting fitness routine…you get the picture. This current generation of women, more so than any preceding generation has placed such an emphasis on weight loss and caloric burn, that all other aspects of health and fitness seems to get lost in the mix. In reality, the best fitness program isn’t one that simply focuses on weight loss or cardio, but takes a multi-pronged approach to helping you improve yourself. As a general guideline, a great fitness program will:
- Cardiovascular endurance through cardio exercise
- Increase lean muscle mass through resistance exercise
- Improve flexibility through stretching and/or other techniques.
In my opinion, these are the three pillars of health that any “best fitness program” should include. If a fitness program isn’t helping or at least showing you how to build muscle, you should be showing it the door.
“I’m not an athlete. I’m not a dude. Why do I need to build muscle?”
I’m realize I’m beating a dead horse here, but judging by the amount I still hear this, here comes my spiel again. Weight training to increase muscle mass is vital to any human being, man or woman, athlete or not. Muscle building workouts increase bone density as well as improve metabolism (more fat burn). Since muscle serves as “armor” on your body, having an abundance will help protect your bones and joints against falls, as well as fight poor posture and accompanying back pain.
Many women hang on to a perpetuating thought that lifting heavy weights will turn them into Arnold Schwarzenegger. In an effort to avoid looking like a roided out bodybuilder, they forgo lifting anything heavier than a phone book. To make matters worse, they think they’re “toning” by lifting these light weights. Ladies, for the 247th time on this blog, lifting light weights won’t get you toned. Toning or toned simply refers to greater muscular definition, which is achieved by having an adequate amount of muscle mass AND burning the fat that covers the muscle so they become more visible or defined. That’s all toning is. You want to know how to build muscle? Put down the dinky weights, pick up something that actually causes your muscles to ache a little, and notice the difference between what you were doing and what you are now (hopefully) doing. It’s like night and day..and so are the results.
The Diet Problem
Now, with all of these women wanting to be so thin, they often maintain a poor diet in an attempt to imitate their pipe cleaner-bodied idols on the cover of those celeb magazines. More than lifting heavy weights, women seem terrified to actually feed their bodies the nutrients required to build muscle. Think about it. How can you expect your body to build muscle if you aren’t giving it the nutrients it needs to do so? Muscle doesn’t grow out of thin air. If you aren’t taking in adequate amounts of protein and calories, your body simply isn’t going to build new tissue.
Bodybuilders and other bulked up guys are eating a massive amount of calories each day. THIS is why they are so large and muscular. You don’t need to eat anywhere CLOSE to what they’re consuming to make noticeable gains. Don’t want to look like a bulky man? Simple; don’t eat like a bulky guy eats. Aim to consume roughly 13-14 calories per pound of body weight. Of these calories, shoot for roughly .5-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. An average 130 lb woman who’s eating a (healthy) ~1,700 calories a day and ~100 grams of protein stands a good chance of adding lean muscle to her frame without experiencing unwanted fat gain and/or “bulkiness”. Of course, each individual is unique and you may need to experiment with those ratios until you find what works best for your body type.
How To Build Muscle Made Easy
So before you tell me you don’t have any idea how to build muscle because you don’t know what you should be doing, I’m going to make things easy. Below are three Share It Fitness tried-and-true programs that have delivered great results in the muscle-building department. Yes, we’ve got real-life women who have used these programs, ate healthy, and achieved the “toned” look they’ve been after. And no, they didn’t get bulky in the process. Check out these three workouts that are designed to help you build muscle and improve your body and health in the process…
- The Speed/Power Workout: How To Build Muscle When All Else Fails
- The MetCon Challenge: High Performance Metabolic Conditioning Workout
- The Strong and Sexy Workout: Develop a Strong, Powerful, and Beautiful Foundation
These are just three fitness programs we’ve put together that maintain a strong focus on heavy weights, complex lifts, and helping you add muscle mass to your frame. Again, the best fitness program is one that takes a comprehensive approach to your body and health, so consider including these with some high-intensity cardiovascular work or plyometrics to ensure you’re taking the best approach possible.
Hope on the Horizon
With the whole “fitness is a sport” campaign and the countless pictures of inspirational athletic looking women making their way around Pinterest and the like, mentality is beginning to shift. The idea that being strong and toned is sexy is slowly overtaking the rail-thin model look that has dominated (and still does) the media since the late Seventies. More and more, you’ll find women hitting the free weight section of their gyms or performing Crossfit-esque workouts in their homes or gyms. Slowly but surely, women are learning how to build muscle, seeing through the gimmicks and trickery of some of those “authority figures”, and understanding that the best fitness program probably isn’t one that’s been recycled umpteen times over by People magazine.
Remember, if your workouts aren’t pushing you outside of your comfort zone, it might be time to re-examine things. Shoot for a fitness program that focuses on helping you build a lean, limber, and athletic body. You’ve only got one body, so don’t let it waste away and succumb to the mold you think you should fall into. Go hard, go strong, and show a little work ethic that would make even grandma proud.