By Chris Radke
One of the most enduring exercise myths of all time is that women will get big, bulky muscles from lifting weights, when in fact just the opposite occurs. Resistance training makes women smaller, because muscle cells are much smaller than fat cells. In fact, overwhelming scientific evidence indicates that resistance training is the ideal form of exercise for women.
As a woman doing resistance, you will lose inches and become a calorie- and fat-burning machine – because muscle needs calories to survive. Fat does not. So, with lifting, you will get the toned body you always wanted.
Reality is that the response to resistance (weight) training in women is very different from what happens in men. The basis of the difference: women’s bodies are flush with the ‘female’ hormone estrogen; men’s with the ‘male’ hormone testosterone.
“Estrogen produces feminine characteristics, and testosterone gives you male characteristics, including the ability to build muscle mass,” explains Chris Radke, co-owner of UpLift Guided Fitness for Women. “We have to constantly tell women that it’s physiologically difficult, if not impossible, for them to develop big muscles like they see on men.”
While it’s true that men and women secrete both testosterone and estrogen, men typically have a much higher level of testosterone in their bodies than women do. Testosterone, along with weight training, is needed to build muscle mass, often called ‘hypertrophy’ by trainers. So unless women have unusually high natural levels of testosterone (which is rare), or they abuse anabolic steroids, it is almost impossible for them to ‘bulk up’ from lifting weights.
Bill Pearl, one of the world’s leading fitness authorities, put it well in his book, “Getting Stronger,” writing that, “Running, swimming, cycling and aerobics classes are good cardiovascular conditioners and burn calories, but they can’t compare with weight training for developing a shapely body.”
When Women Lift Weights
When women use weight training as the core of their exercise routine, here’s what actually happens: The process of moving resistance through a range of motion burns fat from amid muscle tissues, in addition to many other benefits. “That’s what lets the shape of the muscles show through,” says Jill Strand personal trainer and co-owner of UpLift. “The longer you stick with it, the more change you see.
“Women become leaner, and their feminine shape more pronounced. It’s an amazing transformation, but here’s the secret: you must do it long enough to let resistance training work – don’t give up. Continue it for the rest of your life and you will see the changes you are looking for.”
From the time a woman finishes her workout session, her body continuously burns fat calories at an accelerated rate for about 72 hours, in response to the resistance training. “Our bodies do exactly what you would want them to do,” says Radke, “if your goal is to get healthier and look better. We develop stronger bones, and build lean muscle tissue.”
Lean muscle “gives a woman the shape we’re all looking for,” says Strand. “When we lose fat and gain muscle tissue, the modern image of the feminine physique emerges – lean, strong and toned.”