The Hulk Complex on the increase
With Summer nipping at our heels, I am generally finding myself bombarded by questions from clients about getting in shape. With the fear of fitting into a swimsuit looming, it can be a confronting time to look in the mirror and then curse ourselves for letting things go a bit over Winter with second helpings of Dads Sunday Roast. But never fear, because hope is not lost to get that bod back to swimsuit ready with a tummy to die for.
The most common advice I offer to new exercisers is to combine a variety of cardio exercise broken into about 10 minute blocks with weight training in between. Quite often though the mention of weight training makes the lips of women curl as I am haunted by the age old adage that any kind of weight training makes women bulky, and that lifting weights has no place in the program of a female who wants to slim down and tone up. I am often told, “I want to be toned, but not muscly”.
This common yet misinformed concept is what I like to call the Hulk Complex, because in extreme cases female gym goers believe this is what they will turn into if they begin weight training. It has been traditionally embedded into the psyche so much so that it’s become a nuisance to us personal trainers.
Now my personal opinion to the Hulk complex is, Bollocks I say. And there’s a few points that immediately come to mind when addressing the Hulk complex apart from the Hulk himself. First, muscly and toned is exactly the same thing, though to a lesser or greater degree. If you want to be muscly or toned, it aint going to happen on its own. Cardio will very rarely do it, and so resistance training has to be done. Full stop.
Now I also don’t understand the perception going on when people say they dont want to be muscly but want to be toned. I would consider myself muscly but I certainly don’t perceive myself as any less ‘feminine’ than the next women, in fact I am relatively curvy when compared to others who may be slimmer, so how is that a bad thing? I’m also definitely far from being built like a bodybuilder, about 10kgs of lean muscle mass off to be exact so I can’t help but be tempted to ask if the person wanting advice thinks that all 48kgs of me is too bulky??? (If they say yes, I always reply with well I do break out with green skin and like to smash things when I get angry so that probably explains it)
Also I can’t help but wonder what sort of time difference someone with the Hulk complex equates weight training with to achieving a bulky bodybuilder physique. Do they think that just by touching a dumbbell they are going to wake up the next day with bulging biceps and calves too big to put on their three quarter leggings? Unfortunately, and at the same time fortunately, it just doesn’t happen overnight. Depending on the individual it can take years and years of hard training and discipline just to get toned and have a flat tummy let alone gain the muscle mass and then decrease your body fat enough to grease up and get on stage comp ready. So rest assured there’s always going to be the opportunity after starting weight training when you reach your ideal physique where you can look at yourself and say, well I am pretty toned now, so I will just maintain this, rather than muscles growing uncontrollably, busting through your clothing to the point of being unstoppable, skin turning green, hanging off the empire state roaring and waving your free arm around like king kong as the ol myth would suggest.
Personal fantasies aside, and to put to rest the common myth in a more civilised manner, I have compiled the pink fluffy version of my response to the Hulk Complex below:
Q. I’m trying to tone up & lose fat from my midsection but don’t want to lift weights but I don’t want to be muscly. What can I do?
A. Although we might associate lifting weights with bodybuilding, the average female simply doesn’t have the testosterone levels to develop muscles like a bodybuilder. Resistance training actually develops lean muscle and the more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn which is why lifting some kind of weights is essential to getting fast fat burning results. A recent Southern Illinois University study confirmed that overweight people who do resistance training even for as little as 11 minutes 3 x a week increase the amount of calories they burn per day by up to 130 a day. So don’t be afraid to ask a personal trainer about weight lifting exercises and techniques to assist you in decreasing your body fat and to tighten tthe tummy.