November 8, 2013
Strength Training for Women: How not to get "Big"

Ladies, are you worried about strength training making you too big? Fearful of looking too masculine from your exercise program? Are you doing lots of cardio and not a lot of weight lifting because of this fear? Well, worry no more. Today we will be discussing the most common myths associated with female strength training.

One of the most common sentences I hear from women in the gym is, “I don’t want to lift heavy weights because that will make me big and bulky”.   Usually women believe that the “big and bulky” look is caused by frequent, progressive, heavy weight lifting.  To be honest, the culprit is not typically caused by those factors at all.  It’s usually caused by excess body fat (or Steroids)!  Bottom line, it is difficult for women to naturally get that bulky appearance they fear, mainly due to their genetic makeup.  The testosterone hormone in women and men vary significantly.  Women tend to have much less testosterone than males, about 1/14th as much, which in turn effects the metabolism, motor unit recruitment, central nervous system excitation, and other neuromuscular factors.  So can heavy weights be lifted without getting too big?  Of course!  Although women have less testosterone than men, we are built the same, and also recruit motor units in the same way to cause muscle contractions.  The only thing that is different is the degree of the results.  What I mean by that is both men and women can both perform heavy compound exercises, but heavy is relative.

Let’s take a clean & jerk for example.  A clean & jerk works the same muscles in men and women. This makes sense right? It is the same movement. The Olympic record for this lift in the 56 kg weight class for men is 168 kg (370 lbs). For women at in the 58 kg weight class, it’s 138 kg (305 lbs). That’s only 80% of the male record, and the ratio is fairly consistent. With similar weight classes, body size is somewhat accounted for. So why the big disparity? Partly because of the higher levels of testosterone and other hormones that a man has. This suggests that muscular gains will be much more significant in terms of strength and size.  This in no way means that women are less efficient when doing lifts, it just means it is not in their chemical makeup to get as big as men.

What about cardio?  Will cardio help balance out the heavy strength training?  The combination of both cardio and strength training is one of the best things women can do to ensure they do not get too big from strength training.  I mentioned earlier that one of the main reasons women might look a little too bulky when they strength training may be due to excess body fat.  We also know that cardio is one of the best ways you can blast body fat, but strength training really helps to get that “toned” look that many women strive for.

Strength training will not get you too big in terms of muscle size, but it will leave you with a major boost in your self-confidence.  I’d like to encourage all women to challenge themselves and discover what their bodies are capable of.  Consider making an appointment with a personal trainer at PRO Sports Club today!



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Written by Lindsay Exley

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