This seems to be a regularly recurring conversation I have with a prospective client, most often a woman…
Prospect: “I tried lifting weights once and I developed big, bulky muscles.”
Me: “Once? You mean like a 12-16 week hypertrophy (muscle growth) program?”
Propect: “No, I mean ONE time. I went to the gym a few years ago, lifted weights and got all big and muscle-y. I don’t want that to happen again. Maybe I should just do yoga?”
Me: (while ramming the nearest screwdriver deep into my ear) “GRRRRAAAKKKKKK!!!!!”
In the old days, I would’ve taken as much time as necessary to reassure this one-time weightlifter that unless she’s using massive amounts of anabolic steroids and has parents named Helga and “Bear”, it’s highly unlikely she’s even capable of building too much of that “icky” muscle.
Today, I’m more likely to hand over a card for some random yoga quack, er… instructor, and wish her good luck in getting “toned”.
In the interest of being a nice guy (and I have no idea what’s come over me right now), for one last time, I’ll walk you through my over-simplified explanation of how it might be possible to get ‘big/bulky’ muscles after one trip through the weight room. Ready? Good. Let’s go.
If you hit your thumb with a hammer, what happens?
Yes, of course I know it hurts, but what else?
In case you’re struggling, inflammation is the answer I was looking for.
When your body experiences soft tissue trauma, it is usually accompanied by some degree of pain and inflammation of the surrounding tissue. It serves to immobilize the area to prevent further damage. If nothing else, it’ll remind you not to hit your thumb again, ya’ big dope.
Weight training is sort of like repeatedly hitting your muscle fibers with a hammer – a lot of ’em. Initially – like ANY soft tissue damage – you can expect inflammation and localized fluid retention. This will “inflate”the tissue temporarily until your body adapts to this new found stress and makes the appropriate adaptations. If you really over-did it, you may even experience a good deal of post-workout soreness as a not-so-subtle reminder to take it a little easier the next time. Exercise is all about progression, ya’ know. But immediate muscle growth? No way – no how – ’tain’t gonna happen.
But if you still insist that you really do put on muscle that quickly…
“Lady, if you have some kind of training technique where you can only train ONCE and build anything meaningful, there is a huge market of high school geeks (and jocks, too) all the way up to 40-something-year-old-men sitting in their corporate cubicles, wearing suits off the rack just wishing they could somehow recapture their mis-spent youth and finally get those bulging biceps they were never willing to work for in the first place.
“If you’ll be so kind as to let me in on your little secret, I’d be happy to write the book and do all the marketing. All I want is a measly 10% of the profits. By the way, here’s a yoga instructor I’d recommend…”