If there were one thing I heard more than anything else it would be something like this:
How do I build longer muscles? How do I build lean muscle? I feel like I’m getting bulky whenever I lift – should I stop lifting?
The answer is a resounding NO. No, you should not stop lifting. Even if you feel you have a genetic propensity to building “bulky” muscles, you should continue to lift. It’s going to continue to help boost your metabolism, thereby increasing the rate at which you burn fat. That said, if you truly want to fight back against this perceived bulk there are things you can do which will physically change the shape of your muscles; making them appear longer, leaner, and more…lady like.
Someone posed an interesting question to me on the blog just a few days ago. Kim E. wrote:
I always notice women who are regularly doing yoga or pilates have a certain “look”. They’ve got longer and leaner bodies, without much body fat. Their muscles are almost always toned and appear to be longer than mine. Do you think people with these types of bodies are drawn to yoga/pilates, or does yoga/pilates help them build these kind of bodies?
I admit, yogi’s do have a certain look to them that is hard to deny. Being a relatively novice, and somewhat clumsy “yogi” myself, I spoke to a couple of our yoga trainers to see what they thought. Based on our conversations, it was pretty clear my assumption was correct – yoga/pilates is largely responsible for building that long and lean look. This wasn’t exactly surprising considering what I knew about stretching and its effects on the body, particularly the muscles. Both yoga and pilates place a heavy emphasis on stretching and lengthening movements, which in effect have the same benefits of a stretching routine. I’ll explain a bit more below…
The Key to Long, Lean Muscles
When you stretch a muscle, use a foam roller, or otherwise test your flexibility you’re not only loosing up tendons and ligaments, you’re also stretching your myofascia. Myofascia are essentially a sleeve, or cover, that holds your muscle in place. When your myofascia are tight and compact, your muscle stays tight and compact. When you stretch the sheath that covers your muscle, you give the muscle room to grow. When a properly worked muscle begins to grow AND has room to grow, it begins to take a different shape. The muscle gets longer, it gets leaner, and it gets less “bulky”.
So when you hear women say, “I don’t lift heavy weights because I get bulky” you’re now in a position to understand what they’re really saying, which is: “I’m getting bulky because I have poor flexibility and my myofascia are tight – not because I’m lifting heavy weights”. A combination of heavy lifting AND great flexibility training is the magic bullet to a tight, toned, and athletic looking body.
There are a ton of great strength workouts on this blog to help get your weight training in order, but something that is largely lacking from nearly all fitness blogs, is specific, flexibility workouts. Considering this is such a key component to your workout plan, it became absolutely vital that we set out to change that. After consulting with one of our yoga trainers, we asked her to put together an entire yoga lesson specifically designed to stretch and lengthen your muscles while improving flexibility of your myofascia, thus allowing muscles to grow longer and leaner.
Your Long, Lean Muscle Workout
This “workout” may not seem like a workout. Yes, it’s yoga with a variety of flexibility holds, and some people have a tough time thinking of this as a workout, but trust me, I followed along with this video on Sunday, and let me tell you…it’s a work out! I felt soreness in places I’ve never felt, I could immediately tell I had increased flexibility, and my muscles just feel nice and proportioned on my body. Being an aspect of my fitness that I’ve neglected for some time, I’m making a commitment to keep up my flexibility training 2x a week for the remainder of the year…..and I recommend you do too.
The great thing about workouts like the one I’m about to give you, is the fact you can do it frequently, on back-to-back days, on “rest” days, on days you don’t want to make it to the gym. It’s a full-le yoga stretch workout – you can do it from your computer, your tablet, your TV…doesn’t matter. Just follow along with Julia your yogi, and get a nice, good stretch, and start lengthening those muscles and turning yourself into one of those long, lean, and toned bodies you see walking in and out of the yoga studio.
This class is an hour long – so if you don’t have time for the whole thing, don’t sweat it. Just 20-30 minutes of flexibility training, a few times a week, is enough to make a difference. I would argue going for the full hour will unlock more benefits, but the important thing is you’re doing what you can and giving it your all.
Clicking on the link will prompt you to sign up for Share It Fitness – but don’t worry it’s quick, easy, and FREE!
As an added bonus, anyone signing up for a free membership is will get a five day sample of premium workouts and a two week trial to FitPlan, our customizable video fitness program. So check it out, get your flexibility on track, do some free workouts, and start living that happy and healthy life you deserve!