Scientific Fact: Weight Lifting Does Not Make You Bulky


Jonathan – Hey everybody, Jonathan Bailor and Carrie Brown, back with another SANE show and we are going to cover one of my favorite topics or bust one of my favorite or least favorite myths today involving exercise, involving our fabulous females out there and involving one of the most fabulous females out there, Carrie Brown. What’s up Carrie?

Carrie – Well, that was lovely. Thank you.

Jonathan – Well, Carrie, stop playing with the zipper on your jacket first of all.

Carrie – Sorry.

Jonathan – Second of all, please thank me for being the gentleman that I am and giving you my jacket. This is like a Hollywood movie where Carrie is like, I’m cold, and I gave Carrie my jacket here in the studio so that she can be warm.

Carrie – But the real reason I need to ask for a jacket every time we’re here is because he keeps the studio at a sub-zero temperature and he’s here in a — shorts and a t-shirt and I’m here in this polar fleece.

Jonathan – It’s hot Carrie, it’s hot. Well anyway, speaking of hot things, the dear Carrie we’ve been talking about, the amazing SANE success she’s been having, and I wanted to get into probably let’s call it the most significant and surprising transformation you’ve had, Carrie, and that’s from going from nearly retching any time we would bring up exercise, especially eccentric exercise at a gym, to being miss post my picture of myself at the gym doing my eccentrics on Facebook, like Instagram style, like the kids do these days, so talk to us about your conversion here.

Carrie – Don’t mock me like that. It was just one picture, just one.

Jonathan – Yes, but it was an epic one. So tell us about how, obviously we know you weren’t a fan of exercise, first of all, I think you said you went to the gym, just because — yeah, well what actually inspired you to listen to me for the first time.

Carrie – So when I — to finally listen to you after hearing you babbling for two years, two and a half years, yes, I finally took note.

Jonathan – You took note.

Carrie – So when I took time off from work and decided that I needed to heal my body and it — that wasn’t from a fat loss point of view but just, I was having some health challenges, I decided that I needed to heal my body, get healthy. One of those things I decided to do was join a gym and do my eccentrics properly every week. Before I had been doing them at home with various, you know, weights and whatnot but I found the leg — what do you call them? The leg..?

Jonathan – At home or at the gym?

Carrie – The squats at home.

Jonathan – Eccentric assisted squats.

Carrie – Those. I found impossible to get enough weight, I just couldn’t. They made my knee hurt, they never — I didn’t feel like I was getting any benefit out of them because I just couldn’t get enough weight. So that was really the final thing that got me to go to the gym was the legs. And because I have — I was a belly dancer for a lot of years and so I have quite inherently strong legs and so I found it very difficult to get enough weight to vex them. And so I joined a gym and I committed to going to the gym for fifteen minutes every week.

Jonathan – Which I love, like I love the fact like joining the gym, that’s a — I get it, but then it’s like, come on, fifteen minutes once a week, you got it, that’s awesome, that’s awesome.

Carrie – Right, fifteen minutes. So I started going to the gym and I have been every Saturday since and I do the four eccentric exercises with the machines and it’s just become something I do now. I can’t actually imagine life without going to the gym on a Saturday, it’s fifteen minutes, I just — it’s what I do, it’s just become part of who I am that I go do that and, you know, it’s fifteen minutes right, how hard can that be. But I gone from — so when I first started, I was doing eighty pounds on the leg press and three months later I’m now doing 185 pounds on the leg press. And obviously if you look at the difference in my dress size, obviously that helped switch on my fat burning hormones and I’m doing all the other exercises as well, but because the muscles are so much smaller I haven’t increased — I have increased the weights but not nearly as dramatically as I increased the weights on my legs. But interesting to note for me was, for all you ladies out there that are worried about getting bulky, I have gone from as I said eighty pounds on the leg press with one leg, to 185 pounds on one leg on the leg press and my legs are significantly smaller than they were when I started, which seemed backwards but it isn’t, so, yeah, my legs are significantly thinner than they were before I started and yet I’m now pushing with one leg significantly more than my own body weight.

Jonathan – So let’s unpack this, because this is so empowering, Carrie, so let’s go back to when you were struggling a couple of years back, if — when you were doing the eccentrics at home, that got you to a point where then when you went to the gym you were doing eighty pounds per leg. We can imagine that, before you were doing the eccentrics at home, that you were probably even lower than that. So let’s say — let’s say fifty pounds per leg, maybe. So let’s say fifty pounds per leg and so here you are Carrie, an individual started out size zero, size two in her youth, so naturally slim, smaller petite person who had gone up to a size eight, whose legs can each individually press around fifty pounds.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – Today, fast forward, ten years later and you are now leg pressing more — so three or four times as much weight and you have legs that are proportionate to a size two body.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – So this myth that, especially the females in our culture have been fed that, don’t weight train it makes you bulky, I promise you that safe, sustainable, intense eccentric exercise is the most effective thing you can do from an exercise perspective to not be bulky.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – It will slim you down faster than anything else you can do, as evidenced by Carrie.

Carrie – Yeah, and my arms are also slimmer, not as much, my arms — if I have an Achilles’ heel it would be my arms, they’re kind of still a little disappointing to me but I know that will change, they already have more definition in them but they’re actually overall thinner because all my sleeves are looser than they were. So even my arms have shrunk, not grown.

Jonathan – And I know this is hard to wrap one’s head around because you see these big bulky people and big bulky people tend to weight train and then we start to think that, Ah, it’s those — it’s weight training that makes them big and bulky. This analogy might be a little bit of a stretch, but when you think that way, imagine then thinking this way. Imagine watching a professional basketball game and saying, Wow, those people that play basketball are all so tall. I don’t want to play basketball because I’m happy with my height.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – Right, so playing basketball doesn’t make you taller, it’s just that tall people are generally really good at basketball, so you see an oversampling of tall people who play basketball, okay. People who are naturally bulky — there are people who are just naturally more muscular, you might be one of them and then there’s people that are naturally slimmer. Naturally muscular people do really well when they lift weights, so chances are they’re going to keep lifting weights.

Carrie – They do it more because they are good at it.

Jonathan – Exactly, exactly. And they would be muscular and bulky without lifting weights. So if you’re already muscular and bulky and some of us are, for example, if you were — in high school you did track and you just naturally were an endurance runner, you’re not a bulky person. Whereas if you were a shot putter, chances are your body inherently is more prone to becoming bulky. So if you’re already prone to becoming bulky, there is a chance that weight training will make you bulkier. But if you are not that way, it will absolutely not make you bulky and even if you are that way, doing the eccentrics that we talked about won’t make you bulky, they will help you burn fat and I can tell you what’s bulky as heck, body fat. Body fat is bulky, so anything that we can do to help switch on our fat burning hormones, heal our brains and heal our guts so that we store less fat, we burn more fat, will do the opposite of bulking us up. It will slim us down and one last super science [??]-bite, if nothing else, know that you actually have a gene called GDF8: growth and differentiation factor eight. And this gene limits the amount of muscle you can have on your body. So there is an upper bound to how muscular you can become. You just can’t — if you know any men who have weight trained for years, for example I have weight trained intensely for sixteen years. The last — the last, let’s say, eleven years of that, you saw no change in my body, because I reached the peak of what my body could naturally hold in terms of muscle. So genetically, there is an upper bound to how much muscle you can hold. Further, your hormones really control how much your muscle you’re also holding and females, understand that you have about the same level of testosterone, the primary muscle building hormone, in your body as a nine year old boy. Nine year old boys cannot become giant muscular hulks. Why? It’s not because of a lack of effort, they can try to lift weights all day long. They don’t have enough testosterone to do it. This is also why women or men, when they take testosterone a-k-a steroids, can turn into these animals. Genetically, commonsensically and hormonally, please don’t fear weight training from the perspective that it will bulk you up, it will not.

Carrie – Thank you. I’m living proof of that, because the more I do, the more — the heavier the weight of the exercise, it’s not the weight of me, the heavier the weight I use at the gym, resistance, the smaller I become.

Jonathan – And it’s an important note, Carrie, that you have increased your resistance so dramatically in such a short period of time. Now, certainly over the next three months I wouldn’t expect you to triple the resistance you’re using because it’s a diminishing margin of returns, but that’s also an important point. Every time we do our eccentric exercises, we need to focus on using more — we safely can, we safely — we’ve got to continuously add more resistance. Think about training your muscles a bit like training your mind. Once you’ve multiplied — excuse me, once you’ve memorized your multiplication tables, memorizing them over and over and over again will not improve your brain. You have to move on from algebra to pre-calculus and then from pre-calculus to calculus and then to quantum physics or whatever comes after calculus. Same thing applies with your muscles. So if you’re using eighty pounds per leg on leg press this week and you use it again next week, unless something crazy is going on, that third week, you should be bumping it up.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – So, just make sure, just like in everything else in your life, if you want to get better you have to continue the challenge yourself. So often we can get in ruts when it comes, oh I just — I use — you know, I put it on level three and I go. You should always be trying, safety first always, to increase that level up.

Carrie – But there is a point at which you will reach where you will not be able to go up beyond there. At some point you will top out and that will be that.

Jonathan – Yeah and I — the good news is, that’s a really good problem to have and I think a lot of people, for example, would be very surprised. Right now, that point is probably something you think you could never be able to do, for example, squatting your body weight comfortably, four reps, even if you’re fifty, sixty, seventy, you can do that. Your body can do that, fairly easily, even if you’re a female. My wife goes into the gym and she is able to squat her body weight comfortably, four reps. Lots of people are, Carrie I would imagine that you would actually probably be able to at this point as well.

Carrie – Yeah.

Jonathan – So that’s a great point to be at. The other great thing about this Carrie, so you’ve mentioned this transition, you’ve had all of this fat loss and you have not had any of the flappy skin problems that sometimes correspond with that.

Carrie – Yeah, the other thing is that my entire body has shrunk. It hasn’t — I’m not left with, you know, the fat’s gone, the skin’s all baggy and, you know, I don’t have any of that. Everything shrunk. And it actually, this is just — it’s a silly thing but it’s amazing to me, is that our body is so clever that it — you don’t — one leg doesn’t get thin and then the other leg gets thin. Both legs get as thin at the same time and that goes for every body part. Your body just takes it off in sync with all the other body parts. And I have found that I have lost weight all over, I’m not — I don’t think there’s — it’s just the whole of me has just shrunk, which has been brilliant because I’m now not left with parts of me that are still very fat and parts of me that aren’t or I’m not, you know, top heavy or bottom heavy or anything, it’s just, it’s — the weight has gone, the fat has gone uniformly from all areas of my body and I’m not left with all that sagginess that you typically can experience when you have a lot of weight loss.

Jonathan – That also —

Carrie – [indiscernible 15:15] from fat loss.

Jonathan – Absolutely, so two things, one you’re not going to get — we’ve heard these stories of people literally having to have surgery and to be clear, if you go from weighing 400 pounds to having a healthy body fat percentage, which would probably bring you down maybe about say to like 160 or something like that, you’re going to have some excess skin, I don’t care how much eccentric training you’re doing, but if you’re not coming from that big of a place, maybe you’re just a little — a few sizes away from where you want to be, you can combat that. Further though, you can avoid all of this nonsense and it is nonsense, truly nonsense around this target training or target fat loss. There is no way — I — this is a fact, there is a — this is a fact. So if someone tells you something else, run or at least ask them why five times and you’ll see that they actually have no explanation. You cannot say, Body, I want you to burn fat in my arms and only my arms. Right, so this idea of individuals who go into the gym, individuals who are really struggling with hundreds of pounds of excess weight and they’re told to do crunches because they want to make their stomachs smaller. Right, Carrie, what you’ve done is by doing these four major exercises, which activates the most muscle fibers, most muscle groups, is you’ve caused a global metabolic change.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – That global metabolic change will melt away fat in the way it is supposed to be melted away, so that it’s proportional and it looks right, because your body can’t do anything else and thank god, because wouldn’t it be weird if, like you said, my left forearm is six inches around and my right forearm is sixteen inches around, that’s a little odd.

Carrie – It’s kind of magical, really, it just — I got to thinking about how my entire body shrunk on a global scale, it wasn’t just haphazard or random or my arms disappeared and left my legs or, you know, whatever, it just hasn’t, it’s just been magical.

Jonathan – Yeah, and that — if you want an analogy to help explain how that works and transitions from seemingly magic to being very, very clear science, if you take, for example, the hormone insulin. So diabetics who are then put on insulin therapy, they become fatter. There’s really — I mean, they keep calories the same, keep quantity of calories the same, keep quality and quantity of calories the same, when you increase the level of the hormone insulin, it’s a fat storage hormone, it will make you fatter. Similarly, globally, all over your body, everything becomes fatter. Not like just your left leg becomes fatter, thank god. Then also think about testosterone. So when individuals take steroids, obviously not a good idea, but when you inject steroids, most people who inject steroids inject them into their butt, or like in between their fingers, places where you can’t really see the marks, so let’s say in their butt. It’s not just their butt that becomes muscular, right. So testosterone is a hormone which tells your brain, Build muscle. So when you inject testosterone in your body, your brain says, Build muscle. So it’s going to build 5 percent muscle in your legs, 5 percent muscle in your arms, it’s going to build muscle proportionally. The same thing happens, but in a healthy natural way, when you do smart, sustainable, eccentric exercise. You’re literally changing this hormonal composition, you’re dropping insulin levels, for example, you’re raising testosterone levels to a healthy point and that causes your body globally to shed fat and build muscle, which is wonderful.

Carrie – Yeah, that is — that has been my experience. Even my feet lost weight.

Jonathan – Yeah, absolutely.

Carrie – Or, I shouldn’t say lost weight, my feet got smaller.

Jonathan – Feet and the other big one is people’s faces. Like, if target training or whatever the heck they call it nowadays was actually true, then isn’t it unfortunate there’s no such thing as face exercise? Because when you lose fat in your face, that, maybe more than anything, changes the way you look.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – If you look at these — when we look at before and after pictures of people on the internet or in magazines, we tend to look below the — below the neck.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – But look above the neck, I mean, that’s what you are, your face, to a lot of people, right, so, you know there’s no such thing as cheek exercises, but somehow your body still figures out that it should burn fat off your cheeks, how’s that work.

Carrie – Yeah, it’s magic.

Jonathan – It’s magic!

Carrie – And that’s all I’m going to say, it’s just magic.

Jonathan – No, well, I love it Carrie and so — and finally where do you, actually we haven’t talked about this before the show, so this is putting Carrie on the spot, well frankly [20:00] we’re always on the spot we —

Carrie – Typical.

Jonathan – No, never talk about anything before the show. Where do you see yourself in the future when it comes to exercise, because I know you started doing yoga, so you’ve got your eccentrics, your yoga, are you feeling like you’re steady state now, just, where do you see yourself in the future?

Carrie – That’s what I do. And I was doing the — when I — back in January, I was doing the interval training on the bike as well, but then when I started melting, I stopped doing that because, as the way to kind of slows things down a bit and right now I don’t feel the need to add that back in. So I — right now my routine is, on Saturday I do 15 minutes of eccentrics and on Tuesday I do an hour and a half of restorative yoga.

Jonathan – And it — it gets back to a few episodes ago, Carrie, we talked about this ability, this sense of control and this sense of mastery that you can get over life, this is a really trivial example, but — so I’m — think about just walking up the stairs, something we all do daily and it sounds silly but for a lot of people it can be a very embarrassing occurrence, because they’re trying to have a conversation with another person, they’re walking up a flight of stairs and they’re like, So yeah how was your — I mean that’s — from experience being with people, that is a humiliating sensation, to not be able to carry on a conversation after walking up a flight of stairs is not a fun thing. But look, with weight training, here’s what you’ve done, Carrie. You’ve taken your body and because you’ve burned up all this fat, your body has forty fewer pounds of fat on it, so it’s just carrying around forty fewer pounds. In addition to that, your legs are basically three times stronger.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – So you are now carrying less weight with muscles that are three times stronger, up that flight of stairs. People often talk about, Oh, I need to go jog and run a marathon so that I’m not out of breath. The way to not get out of breath doing every day activities is to have a body that is strong.

Carrie – Right.

Jonathan – And with — when you have a body that’s strong, you’re not going to get out of breath because everything is easy and you have that sense of control and we could all use a little bit more control in our lives.

Carrie – The other thing that reminded me, the other thing that has changed is that I used to have problems with my right knee. I used to have knee pain and even though I’ve increased my weight on one leg from eighty pounds to 185 pounds, I now have no pain in my knee and I haven’t for probably two months.

Jonathan – Glad you brought up knees, Carrie, because we’ll close on what is a little bit ridiculous and that’s my knee. So I think you know this, but so, listeners you may know this, I actually don’t have an ACL or a left meniscal disc in my right knee. So unpacking that, if someone says, Hey I blew my knee out, or, That athlete is out for the season, they blew their knee out, frequently they’re talking about they blew their ACL, which is your anterior cruciate ligament, it’s one of the ligaments in your knee. I don’t have that, so I’ve blown that out three times and I didn’t get the third surgery. This all happened more than a decade ago. So — and there’s also these minuscule discs that cushion the bones in your knees, I’m just missing one of those, they had to take it out because I tore it so bad. The reason I have been able to operate with — granted I’m not able to play intramural football, or whatever, but function in normal life without any problems, for more than a decade, with a blown out knee, my knee is literally blown out and has been that way for more than a decade, is because I’ve so strengthened all of the muscles that surround it, that it’s been able to compensate for that injury. I — there was a time when I was not able to strength train, my knee started hurting, I really — like my mobility was compromised, it’s only through strength training that I have literally been able to live without a part of my body. So, hey, slim down and do without body parts, that’s a really amazing combination.

Carrie – And I also no longer have lower back pain, I used to have lower back pain when I stood up for any or walked for any appreciable amount of time, and I don’t have that either. And I don’t know that that’s — I think that’s probably a combination of healthy fats, so my joints are lubricated better, but also a combination of the eccentric exercises and the restorative yoga.

Jonathan – Love it. Folks, it’s all about less but smarter exercise, restorative yoga is great, Pilates, Tai chi, stretching, walking, anything that’s restorative and then small, safe doses of that intense eccentric resistance training is good for what ails you. And this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better, we’ll chat with you soon.

Carrie – See ya.