Happiness and Heavy Lifting

It’s amazing how often I hear women say that they don’t lift weights because they don’t want to bulk up or look like a man.  Interestingly, it’s often from the same people who tell me that they like my physique.  They always seem a bit surprised when I tell them that the body I have is the result of serious weight training and not running, putting in time on the elliptical machine or aerobics classes.  Cardio certainly has an important place in the world of fitness.  It’s a critical component of fat burning and heart health but as far as sculpting a pleasing physique, it’s not the only key. Think about it…as far as aesthetic pursuits go, the cardio bunnies are simply making smaller/thinner versions of themselves.  Whatever their bodies look like naturally, they will continue to look the same after hundreds of miles of running or endless hours on the cardio machines…only less large.  If their hips are big in comparison to their shoulders, that will still be the case when they are done.  There’s nothing wrong with that but if creating a pleasing physique is the goal, it’s not quite enough. 

Weight lifting allows you to truly sculpt your body…as a matter of fact, I don’t usually refer to myself as a bodybuilder or weight lifter.  I say I’m a body sculptor.  That’s the power and beauty of resistance training using progressive muscle overload.  If you start out with little shoulders in proportion to your hips, you can make your shoulders wider so that  your shoulder to hip size ratio is more appealing…it results in that nice V-taper that’s so pleasing to the eye.  You can sculpt shapely legs and arms instead of just thin ones. A little curvy muscle is a much better look than skinny. You can see in my own before and after photos what I’m referring to.


If take a close look at my picture on the left, you’ll see what thin looks like.  It’s not horrible but in my opinion the me after hitting the weight room consistently is a much better version.  In the first photo, the width of my shoulders and hips is just about the same.  My arms and legs lack any sort of curve or muscle definition…as a matter of fact, my elbow is the widest part of my arm.  After lots of concerted effort in the gym, I was able to pack a bit of muscle on my shoulders which creates a much more pleasing, toned and still feminine appearance.  How did I do it?  By lifting weights.  That’s right, heavy weights.  I’m pretty sure the women who are worried about what’s going to happen to their bodies should they venture into the lifting area is that they’re going to end up looking something like these women.

 I found these photographs of female bodybuilders on Google.  Out of respect I cropped them so the women could not be identified.  These bodybuilders put in an almost unimaginable amount of work to get their bodies to look like this.  They dedicate their lives to lifting and eating to grow but they still would not be able to gain the mass to create this look unless they enhanced their results by chemical means.  Ladies, this is not going to happen to you.  I think women see pictures of female bodybuilders like these and get the idea that lifting makes you gain extraordinary amounts of muscle. I lift hard and heavy four days a week and I’ve been doing it for years (I started when I was 28, I’m 48 now).  My lifting is specifically designed to help me gain and maintain muscle mass.  Believe me, gaining muscle doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t come easily either.  I’m purposeful and diligent in my pursuit and my results speak for themselves.  I think you’ll agree….I don’t look much like a man.

Ladies, lifting won’t make you look like a man.  It WILL make you tight.  It WILL make you  toned.  It WILL give you that lovely curve of muscle and it WILL make you happy when you look in the mirror.  See you in the weight room!


25 responses

  1. You look amazing. I have a problem where my upper arms got so thin. Kinda like your first photo where you can see that line going down inside the arm. When my arms are at my sides it looks so bad. I have always been thin but this just took away all my confidence. Can you recommend any exercises that helped you in this area? A few trainers told me that if I work out biceps and triceps it will help the gap be less and will look better. I am desperate to fix this area. I’m so self conscious now about it I am only working out at home. Thanks.

    1. Hi Tiffany! I agree with the trainers you talked to about really working your biceps and triceps. That will certainly help. I will concede that no matter what you do, there will be little things you aren’t happy with. For example, although I’m very happy with my physique overall, my upper body is a little asymmetrical. I see it and to me it’s quite obvious. Also, no matter what I do (and believe me I’ve tried countless exercises/routines) my calves stay small. It’s just genetic and not a lack of hard work. I’ve learned to make peace with my imperfections. I think it’s important to remember that nobody except you focuses on individual body parts. Onlookers see your body as a whole entity not just your arms in isolation. A fit body always looks better overall than one that’s unchallenged. This is when you’re going to have to make peace with one side effect you aren’t totally pleased with for the greater good. Don’t let your mind trick you into backing off your fitness goals. Do what you can to mitigate what you don’t like and keep right on going!

      1. Thank you so much for that. I appreciate so much.

  2. Hi Lynn, I was wondering how could I lose some belly fat without losing any muscle? I started doing cardio for about a month and i noticed i began losing muscle. so i stopped, im still pretty thin but i still have a bit of belly fat i wanna get rid of. how can I do that without losing my muscle?

    1. Ah…Patricia, that’s a bit of a difficult proposition but it can be done. I find that I have to carefully balance my lifting and my cardio. When I’m “fluffy” I’ll increase my cardio but still keep up with my lifting. I try to lift heavy at these times so that my body needs to keep the muscle for the work I’m requiring of it. I make sure to approach the fat loss slowly. If I restrict my caloric intake too much or go crazy with the cardio, I’ll end up waving goodbye to my hard earned muscle. Slow and steady is the way to do it. I’ll cut my calories just a little bit but make sure to never go hungry (that’s a recipe for disaster), I keep my lifting on the heavy weight/low rep side and I don’t do excessive amounts of cardio (I keep it between 45min and 1 hour, 4 times a week). I hope that helps. Just keep lifting and don’t try to lose the belly fat too fast. Slow and steady wins the race!

  3. Thank you for that, it’ll come in handy. I’ll let you know if i think of any more questions. 😀

  4. Hey! I’m super inspired by your transformation! I am just about as skinny as you used to be in that old picture of you in the beach. I’m 19 and I no longer wish to have this God given thin body frame. So I’ve been doing jamie easons 12 week live fit trainer on bodybuilding.com, and I’m currently on week 5 but I’m growing impatient I want to see results immediately ( which is probably unreal)
    So I was wondering how long did it take your body to really transform to the point where you weren’t considered skinny? Please help I need encouragement not to quit lol. Thanks

    1. Hi Patricia! I’m so glad you found me here. Whatever you do, don’t give up! You CAN get the physique you want but it does take a bit of time. I will tell you the truth but don’t be discouraged. It took about 16-20 weeks to see a real, marked difference. Tiny changes were visible after three months and I found those kept me on the right track. One of the things I did in addition to the weight training was to dramatically increase my caloric intake on the days that I was lifting (at that time I was on a three times a week rotation). I just couldn’t get enough calories to increase my muscle mass. I drank a product called Ensure which was a meal replacement drink often used by people with medical conditions that had trouble eating solid food. I kept eating my good, healthy meals and added about 2000 extra calories with the Ensure just on the days I was lifting. I found that it helped my body gain mass. The product is still on the market and may be of help to you. You can judge how it’s working by using the mirror. I only had to do that in the beginning (first 7-8 months) and then I was able to maintain the added muscle mass by being conscious, careful and regimented with my eating. To this day (21years later) I have to be sure to eat enough calories so that my body doesn’t get skinny again. It’s a balancing act but don’t give up. You have nothing to lose. Think about it. It may take 6 months to get where you want to be but if you quit, that 6 months will pass anyway and you’ll still be in the same boat. I’m really happy you wrote. Please feel free to write again if you have questions along the way. I LOVE to talk shop!!

      1. Thanks for the reply! i waited anxiously for it.

        16-20 weeks?!? 😳 wow! I’ll definitely try not to give up…one thing though I really struggle with is, consuming enough calories. I’m just not always hungry, like it takes enough effort as it is to eat 3 meals a day and If I manage to eat 4, that’s a great accomplishment for me lol. Also would you happen to have any workout tips for me?

      2. Yes I understand about the calorie consumption. Your body isn’t used to taking in a lot of calories and it’s hard to make the switch. That’s why I relied on the meal replacement drinks. It was easier by far than trying to chew more food! I didn’t replace my meals with them but I used them to supplement in between my regular meals. Workout tips? Lifting heavy is the key to building muscle. Lifting heavy with low reps….between 4 and 10. I usually do 4-6 sets per exercise and more if I don’t feel that I’ve exhausted the muscle. I’m giving you a link to my bb.com page where I posted a typical week’s worth of workouts and my eating plan. This is a good representation of what I might do during any given week. http://www.bodybuilders.com/lynn-carlson.html

  5. Love your transformation! Would love to feature you on our transformations wesite. Hope you would consider it 🙂

    1. Hi! I would certainly consider it…I think it would be an honor! Thank you for all the nice feedback!

      1. What I would like if you have the time or are inclined. Is a before/after pic, your before/after stats and a brief backstory of your journey(optional), You can also include links to your blog, website, youtube, social media. You can email it to transformationphotos@gmail.com or With your permission, I could use before/after photos from your site, & if you have a blog post already on your transformation story, you can include the link to that as well and I could use that. I hope you can contribute.

        Thanks for your time

  6. HEY! You are so RIGHT!!

    1. Hi! I’m a happy lifter, that’s for sure. Love those weights!!

  7. Lynn, in no way shape or form do you look like a man. You are one of Gods beautiful daughters. 🙂

    1. Well hello! I’m very glad you don’t think I look like a man. I really do hear that all the time from women. They think they’ll touch a weight and POW..look like Ms Olympia. Hope you’re having good days. I’m going to stop by bb.com tomorrow. I’ll come say hello…

  8. I wish I could like this post more than once! I encounter the same questions from women, who like the way I look but are quick to give the “I don’t want to bulk up” comment. As a sidebar, you look absolutely amazing! I had to reread it twice to make sure I read it correctly that you are 48, not currently 28. Way to go lady!

    1. Oh…thank you SO much. One of the best things about weight training is that it’s as close as you can come to the mythical fountain of youth. I’m forever letting women know that they won’t turn into a mass monster if they lift. It’s a very common thing for women to think. I WISH gaining muscle was as easy as touching a weight. I’m always trying to put a little muscle mass on or trying to keep it once I get it. Not easy to do but the chase is compelling and worthwhile.

  9. Well, said! You are looking terrific!!!

    1. Hi Al!! Oh it’s been forever since I touched base. I’ll drop you a line tomorrow. I want to catch up. Thanks for the nice feedback on the post and thank you for the sweet compliment as well!

  10. Well said…You look amazing in that pic with the orange swimsuit..amazing sculpted physique Lynn..love your hip and shoulder symmetry..your abs are breathtaking…simply gorgeous ..you can wash clothes on them…lol..amazing transformation…ok i can faint now ..lol

    1. Artie! You made me laugh…what a nice note. Thank you for the wonderful, postitive comments. Hope you’re doing well and enjoying your week. It’s hard to believe it’s almost Friday..gee…how quickly this one went!

  11. Lynn, your blog is “spot on”! I think you should have a guest appearance with Dr.Oz or at a bare minimum write a book! You are the perfect example for females desiring to build muscle to look tight but feminine. Your A-tude is second to none. You keep it real and it doesn’t hurt to be just as beautiful on the inside as the outside! Keep rockin it as you know I’m a fan 🙂

    1. Yeah…Dr Oz! I have to tell you a funny, true story. When I was defending my dissertation, I was before the committee for HOURS. It was traditional for the defendee (me) to bring a catered lunch for the professors to enjoy while the defense was going on. I could have eaten but as you can imagine I was nervous and didn’t have any sort of appetite. I brought wine as part of the lunch and the professors drank it all…and then they talked, and talked and talked…finally, they said I was done and that they would award me my doctorate but only after I wrote to Oprah and suggested my topic for a show. I’m not kidding. I had to sit there and write a note to the Oprah show…and have it typed up by the secretary (who had to look up the address to send it to) before I could leave. I was there for about 5 hours…had a splitting headache by the time it was over!!

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