The sheer number of blogs and articles dedicated to debunking the myth that resistance training makes women bulky, and built like the Incredible Hulk (when he’s having a bad day), are proof enough of how much this myth still exists. We have our stance on the matter and going to throw our hat into the ring with the rest so that perhaps this myth can one day become a distant memory. Read on to learn our take on the myth that resistance and weight training makes women ‘bulky’.
It’s popular opinion that the potential for increasing muscle mass is less in women than in men due to the fact that women have lower levels of testosterone. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone that increases muscle mass by enhancing muscle protein synthesis (Griggs R.C. et al, 1985) therefore having less decreases your potential for putting on excessive muscle mass.
Furthermore if you are conscious of the food you eat, which you should be because training doesn’t mean you can eat anything all the time, then you will be in control of the size you can put on.
Body fat composition
In terms of our natural body composition, men and women differ quite significantly. In fact, it is likely that when women begin training they will have a higher body fat percentage than men. This is because 8-12% of body fat is essential in females whereas it is only 3-5% in men (Vehrs P, 2013). These essential levels of body fat are necessary to maintain normal bodily functions and general health.
Incorporating weight training, will invariably build muscle mass but it will also encourage fat loss. Hence while your weight – a non-essential measurement on its own – might fluctuate even increasing (as muscle weighs more than fat) you will still be able to achieve the shape and look you want.
Don’t Forget: Weight will tell you how much mass you carry as a whole but your desired look will be more a function of your body fat and how you feel as it is possible to weigh a certain amount but have differing ratios of lean muscle mass to body fat.
Being bulky is also associated with a loss in flexibility. Studies show that making the decision to improve your health and taking up weight training won’t disadvantage you by reducing your flexibility. In fact, a study (Ribeiro a. et al, 2017) indicates that resistance training actually improves flexibility or at the very least preserves the flexibility of the joints in both young women and men.
Yes! That’s right, there is high probability that including resistance training in your workout regime or just beginning will help improve how you feel about your body and how it looks to you. A study (Ahmed et al, 2002) that involved a sample of 49 college women who participated in strength training, twice a week for a total of 12 weeks reported that the women felt healthier, more fit, had an improved body image and a better attitude about their physical selves after strength training.
Can’t I just do cardio?
You can. However, you must be aware that opting to do cardio like running in isolation will likely not help you develop the body you want if you are after a toned and full physique. This is because cardio breaks down both muscle and fat in an effort to use these as sources of energy to cope with the demands being put on the body. We recommend combining cardio with your weight training as this will reduce loss of muscle mass. Similarly, using the right supplementation can also reduce muscle breakdown.
Benefits of a life of lifting
Male or female, if you engage in heavy weight training they can look forward to the following benefits:
- Improve your mood and confidence
- Reduce the likelihood of injury by enhancing the strength of muscle tissue, joints and ligaments
- Boost your metabolism and burn more calories
- Improve your posture
Nutrition and supplementation
Lifting weights is a taxing exercise, which is why it is important that you fuel your body the right way to not only get the best out of your exercise but recover from it too. Powerhouse stocks a wide range of supplements from the leading brands. To find out more browse our online store.
Griggs RC1, Kingston W, Jozefowicz RF, Herr BE, Forbes G, Halliday D., Effect of testosterone on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis, Journal of Applied Physiology (1985). 1989 Jan;66(1):498-503.
Vehrs, P (2013). Assessment and interpretation of body composition in physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 46-51
Ribeiro et al (2017)Effect of resistance training on flexibility in young adult men and women, Isokinetics and Exercise Science, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 149-155, 2017
Ahmed C., Hilton W., Pituch K., Relations of Strength Training to Body Image Among a Sample of Female University Students, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2002, 16(4), 645–648 q 2002 National Strength & Conditioning Association.
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