Women’s Muscle Building Myths


Sarah Cann Training

Don’t let one of these COMMON WEIGHTLIFTING misconceptions come between you and a calorie-burning, body-sculpting workout.

After nutrition advice, there’s nothing more rampant with lies, half-truths, and downright garbage myths than weight lifting advice for women who are trying to lose body fat.

Follow any of this inaccurate advice, and you may wind up wasting time, energy, and money, or even injuring yourself.

Let me save you some time and mental energy, today I’m sharing the five most common, persistent misunderstood notions about building muscle, dropping body fat, and achieving body recomposition.  

Here’s the truth to help you build a strong, lean body.

Myth 1. You can't lose fat and build muscle at the same time.

TRUTH. You absolutely can lose fat while gaining muscle. From a nutritional perspective, although a caloric deficit is needed to lose fat, a caloric surplus isn't necessarily needed to build muscle. This is because stored fat is stored energy. So, those stored fat calories are available for the body to use as fuel for the muscle-building process.

Basically the more body fat and the less muscle you have, the greater your ability to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. This doesn't mean you should go get fat. It just means your biology is working in your favor when you want to pack more muscle on, but have some fat to lose.

Myth 2.  You can ‘tone.’  

TRUTH. There is no such thing as ‘toning’, and ‘tightening’ the muscles. Instead, what most women need to be focusing on is building muscle and losing fat, which is essentially the cornerstone of the Chiseled program. Many women are scared by the idea of gaining muscle, but this shouldn’t be the case. When you build muscle, you’ll burn more calories through an elevated metabolic rate, and as a result get leaner and look better!

What is muscle tone?  Scientifically speaking, muscle tone refers to the unconscious low-level contractions of your muscles at rest, or in layman’s, the firm feeling of the muscles when you are resting.  However, we can’t ‘tone’ our muscles. We can only increase or decrease the size of muscles, much like our fat cells.

So how do we get ‘toned’?  By gaining muscle and losing body fat! Following on from the first myth, the number one reason women get ‘bulky’ is if they have too much body fat, so this should be our first point to address.

Myth 3. You should only do light weight for high reps  

TRUTH. So you understand that lifting won’t make you big & bulky, and that instead of getting ‘toned’ you need to build muscle and lose fat.

Now what?  

Many women fall into the same trap.  They start performing endless sets of high repetitions with baby weights.  The problem is these marathon sets using a door stop serve zero use towards their goals, besides possibly improving muscular endurance. Instead, women need to focus on providing a real stimulus for change in their body by lifting heavy weights in the 5-15 rep range.

Progressive overload for women is paramount. With each workout, we (women) should always strive to improve on our previous workout’s performance, whether it is through increased weight, volume or decreased rest periods.  More females need to embrace strength and the physiological and psychological benefits it brings, so they should look to add weight to the bar where they can.

Myth 4. We Only Need to Do Cardio to lose body fat

TRUTH. First of all, if you only did cardio then muscle and fat would be burned for fuel. One needs to do weights in order to get the muscle building machine going and thus prevent any loss of muscle tissue. Women that only concentrate on cardio will have a very hard time achieving the look that they want.

I’m a big fan of “do what makes you happy.”  If you happen to enjoy running or zumba or step aerobics or jazzercize, that is awesome.  More power to you. However, if you are ONLY doing those things to lose weight and you’re not seeing results, stop.  There’s a better way.

Believe it or not, strength training will produce a more efficient weight loss effect than an equal amount of cardio.
When you strength train, your muscles are broken down, and then rebuilt over the next 24-48 hours. While your body is rebuilding those muscles, it’s recruiting more calories and energy to make the process happen (generally referred to as the ‘afterburn’ effect).  What this means is that your metabolism operates at a faster level even while you’re sitting on the couch after a workout

Myth 5.  Lifting will make you gain weight

TRUTH. It's not so much a myth as a misunderstood truth. "Leaner" and "lighter" are not interchangeable terms; that means the scale may not tip much and may even go up. Make no mistake: The physical results can be dramatic. The more muscle I've gained, the smaller and more compact I've gotten.  My jeans are looser, and I've gone from a medium top to a small. Stay off the scale and use your jeans to measure your progress.

As a women’s strength and conditioning coach, I’ve lost track of how of the number of times new clients talk with me on their first day of training and tell me they don’t want to do heavy weights because they don’t want to be bulky.

Listen, all those rumors you've heard about lifting heavy weights are just that: Rumors.

Whether you want to rock that bikini on the beach, feel more powerful in the gym, or improve your overall athletic ability, weightlifting and building muscle can help.  

Ladies, it’s time to put down those pink dumbbells, get off the treadmill, pick up a barbell, and finally start seeing results!

If you’re ready to transform your body into a fat burning machine by building lean muscle, you’ve got to grab a copy of my FREE Guide to Metabolic Conditioning.  

You’ll learn how this style of workouts will help you achieve fat loss and body recomposition FAST! The guide also includes 5 of my favorite fat burning Metcons so you can get started right away!

Download your free MetCon Guide copy here

Talk to you soon


Reshape Your Glutes & Hamstrings with These Five Moves

Sarah Cann Training

Let’s establish something right off the jump of this post...

A majority of women choose to work with me in the Chiseled program because I build killer glutes.  

*Yes, they also shed body fat, get stronger, faster, and feel more confident.

But the feedback I receive most often from my clients in the program is that their waist got smaller but their booties got bigger (out not wide haha!).


Ladies, it’s totally ok to want to reshape your legs & glutes. Own that sh**.

So how does one get on track for a banging booty?


*Squats are the simplified answer. So much goes into building our glutes & hamstrings but one step at a time Grasshopper!
Squats are probably the best lower body exercise there is, and not just because they work the glutes. Squats are functional, targeting every muscle in the lower body and mimicking a move you do all day long.

know the basics of a good weighted squat:

  • A heavy weight is ideal for this exercise.

  • Hold weights in each hand. You can hold the weights either at your sides or over your shoulders.

  • Begin with feet about hip-distance apart.

  • Bend the knees and lower into a squat, sending the hips back behind you like you're sticking your butt out.

  • Think of sending your butt back to you when you squat, putting the emphasis on your glutes and thighs instead of on the knees.

  • Go as low as you can, then push back to start.

Now that you’ve got the basic squat down, let’s get to work.


Sumo Squat. The sumo squat is a wide-legged squat with a focus on the inner thighs, a great variation on traditional squats. Because your toes are turned out at an angle, the key to keeping this move safe is to make sure your knees stay in line with the toes. How far you squat will depend on the flexibility of your inner thighs, so only go as far as you comfortably can.  Watch the demo here.

Wall Squat with Medicine Ball Hold.  A variation on the wall squat is to squeeze a medicine ball between the knees. This targets more inner thigh at the same time you're firing the muscles of the quads, glutes and hamstrings for added intensity. Watch the demo here.

Goblet Squat.  Goblet Squats are a fantastic squat variation, especially if having a weight on your back, like in barbell squats, is awkward or uncomfortable. Holding the weight in front and close to your body will help you keep your torso upright as you squat down, protecting the back and the knees. Watch the demo here.

Marching Wall Squats.  I love to use these to fire up my glutes as part of a warm-up for leg day.  They build endurance and pre-exhaust your legs to maximize muscle growth. As an added bonus, this move challenges us to engage our core to stay balanced. Watch the demo here.

Plie Squat Pickups.  Plie Squat Pickups is a dynamic version of a basic plie squat by adding some intensity. The idea is to squat low to place the weight on the floor, stand up, then squat back down to pick up the weight in the other hand. The key to this squat is to, first, use a heavy weight to get the most out of the move. Second, try to get as much squat as possible - In other words, more squat, less reach. Keep your torso up rather than rounding at the back. If you're inner thighs are tight, you can straddle a step or raised platform to make the move easier. Watch the demo here.

If you’ve been sticking with basic squats week after week, shake up your routine with these variations!


P.S.  Registration is closing soon for the next round of the Chiseled program.  We start on Monday and there a just a couple of spots left! You'll complete effective fat burning training sessions partnered with science-based nutrition strategies to help you achieve your best body ever.  Click here to register.

**Don't forget discounts are available for Returning Clients or when you sign up with a friend.  Scroll to the FAQ section here to checkout all the options.