Wednesday, 23 January 2013

How to lift 3lbs

Sitting in work the other day between clients, my thoughts turned to Tracy Anderson. They do this every now and then - bizarre, I know. For those who don't know, Tracy Anderson is personal trainer to Gwyneth Paltrow and (previously) Madonna, amongst others. If you google her name you'll come up with a host of things about her - good, bad and ugly - but I'm not going to jump on any bandwagon.

One of Anderson's main teachings is that no woman should ever lift more than 3lbs for fear of bulking up. This is a clever use of words, if nothing else!

Firstly, most women fear bulking up (some even cite it as a reason not to exercise at all), although it's impossible without a lot of work and a lot of eating (here's a post I wrote last January - worth reading just to understand how you don't accidentally bulk up).

And secondly, the term bulking up means different things to different people. Personally, when I see Anderson herself, or Paltrow, I see women who are thin but without much shape or definition - however you might look at photos of Paltrow and see your dream body. My dream body would be this one. I would not want to aim for this.

See, we're all different, but when the term bulking up is used in Tracy Anderson's context, we all become fearful!

I'm not going to use this post to knock her Method (although it's been suggested the diet she recommends only provides 700 calories a day which is beyond dangerous, especially with the one/two hour exercise per day she suggests.)

Anderson is helping people who are looking for purely aesthetic results - she's picking on women who are insecure and want very quick results - whereas when I train myself and others, I train so that when I'm 80 I'll still be able to carry my own shopping bags, walk up stairs, and get up out of a chair without several different aids. All of this (assuming you are in good health) should be more than achievable, it should be expected.

To ensure that I lift weights heavy enough to build muscle (no I'm not bulky!) and maintain the muscle I have. At my age this muscle should be naturally and slowly decreasing - when muscle decreases, your body needs less calories, if you eat the same as you did ten years ago you'll start putting on weight. I am doing everything I can to prevent that

The weights in my gym are in kilograms - 3lbs is equivalent to roughly 1.4kgs.

This is what I lift:

  • Bicep curls: 6kg
  • Tricep extentions: 4kg
  • Dumbbell chest press: 8kg
  • Dumbbell bent over row: 10kg
  • Leg press: 85kg

In the grand scheme of things, these are still light weights - certainly not enough to give me a Jodie Marsh-style body. My aim this year is to increase all the weights I lift.

I like the fact that I can lift boxes of books, sofas (with help), pick up my 8 year old (still). If you limit yourself to lifting 3lbs, you will eventually not be able to do very much at all and you will stay relatively weak and (in my opinion) a little shapeless. You won't be lifting enough to build muscle and gradually it will start to decrease - meaning you'll put on weight, and I'll be carrying your shopping bags for you!

Here are some things that weigh more than 3lbs:
  • A bag of potatoes at the supermarket
  • Your Sunday roast
  • Your recycling/rubbish bag
  • Your baby
Have you heard of/tried the Tracy Anderson Method?
Do you think I'm being harsh?
How do you work out when you go to the gym?
Do you use weights, or stick to cardio?


  1. See, Annalisa, everyone's idea of the perfect body is different. Tracy's clients are obviously of a certain type. You have to decide ont he model that suits you and go for it.

    Personally, I'd think I was a saint if I got to do the basic yoga asanas of a morning. I like my body just the way it is except for the fact that I'd love to lose about five kilos, especially around my middle.

    1. I've never actually tried yoga - it requires too much concentration for my liking :-)

  2. You're right when you say what everyone wants to achieve is different. I personally would prefer to have the willowy limbs of Paltrow as opposed to the Diaz's ripped arms. But that probably because that what happens to my arms when I work out a lot no matter what. Maybe we all want the opposite of what our body types give us. Although eating 700 calories, really? That's awful!

    1. I once trained a lady who was convinced her arms got huge every time she looked at a weight. I asked her to trust me for six weeks, measured her arms before and after MY routine, and there was no change ;-)

      Yep 700 calories - I eat that before lunch!

  3. Reminds me I need to start getting into a weight lifting routine again-- I was doing so well up until Christmas. I don't worry about bulking up. I like to lift, and I love the challenge of increasing my weights or reps. I'd totally have to do more protein and be more disciplined about the kind of lifting, the amount and the reps to even begin to worry about that kind of physique.

    1. There's nothing better than managing to increase your weights. If you need any help, just let me know!

  4. I really don't like muscly arms on women - even Cameron Diaz's are too much in my opinion. Perfection to me is a toned-looking arm without the muscle definition - probably pretty impossible to achieve! I agree with the whole idea of keeping strong - since I have started an exercise class (ok, only once a week but it's better than not doing one!) I feel strong and can feel my stamina improving. I was thinking exactly what you've said, while I was exercising last week, that I want to be a fit and strong old lady one day!

    1. Tone is definition in my mind, Linda. I'm going to have to take lots of arm photos at my gym to use as a scale :-) A once a week class is a great way to start, it's the way I had to start do to time and a small baby!

  5. Standing ovation!!!! See, you could motivate me. I don't give a rat's butt about looking anorexic and waif like, but I do NOT want have to call the grandkids to carry my Ensure to up the steps to my house either!
    And more muscle = more calories tolerated? Pass me the weights!!