Women and Bulky Muscles

Nearly every woman I have ever trained has expressed some concern about becoming bulky from lifting weights.

I think it’s safe to say that it would be a fairly traumatic experience for most ladies to roll out of bed one morning and look in the mirror only to realize they have woken up looking like Arnold Schwarzanegger.

The good news is this is very, VERY unlikely to happen for a few reasons.

First of all, loosing weight can be potentially be a very rapid process. Take somebody who’s very overweight, remove all starches from their diet and it’s very possible they could loose multiple kilos in a week. This happens as a result of caloric reduction and dropping water weight (for every gram of carbohydrate your body stores it also stores 3 – 4 grams of water).

Gaining muscle is a much slower process.

A man doing intense resistance training 3 – 4 times per week in an optimal calorie surpluses (a modest amount to ensure he is maximizing muscle gain and minimizing fat gain), focusing on nutritional quality, managing hydration, sleep and stress would be doing very well to gain 1 kg of pure muscle in a month.

A woman would be doing very well to add 1/2 kg of pure muscle in a month under similar conditions.

Why does the man gain more muscle?

Because Men have between 10 – 30 times more testosterone than women, a key hormone in building muscle.

Women and men have different elements of training they are superior at compared to each other.

For example, women can train at higher intensities more frequently, maintain their peak strength levels for longer during a workout and also recover quicker than men do.

However, adding pure muscle tissue to our physiques is a training element which men will accomplish easier than women.

Even if women did have the same testosterone levels as men, muscle is denser than fat. It takes up less space so loosing fat and gaining muscle would actually make you smaller, not bigger!

On the training note, I know some women would be of the opinion that you should…

“Lift light reps with high reps to tone muscles”

Almost like a bootcamp style class or something along those lines…

Now “Hypertrophy” is the term for building muscle. There are two types.

Myofibril and Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

I don’t want want to go into the details of these in this article but Myofibril hypertrophy is the one I wish to focus on for now.

This occurs as a result of strength training. Heavy weights lifted for less reps.

Something along the lines of 4 sets / 6 reps or 3 sets / 8 reps. Not enough time under tenstion to a get “burn” but instead there is mighty effort required to perform the exercise for a short period of time because of the weight of resistance.

A key characteristic of this type of training is greater DENSITY of muscle. That’s the smaller, more “toned” look for lack of a better word.

So please don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights ladies.

Nutritional and cardio requirements will vary from woman to woman but resistance training is one of the best things you can do for your health and your figure.

Embrace it! 💪

Thanks for reading,

Paul Taylor PT