“I don’t want to get big and bulky”
Sharon and I hear this all the time. When it comes to lifting weights, women are still afraid of getting too big.
I imagine they envision this:
Yes. I’d be afraid of that too. However, it is impossible for a woman to get this big and muscular with a well designed strength training program. Here’s why.
Women naturally have lower testosterone levels than men do. Testosterone is the hormone that promotes muscle growth (along side human growth hormone). Good thing, too, because testosterone also promotes body hair and it deepens the voice. That does not mean that women can’t build muscle. They can, but they are able to do it through other hormonal means. It has come to my attention that women secrete more human growth hormone than men, and women are equal to men in the amount of IGF-1 that they produce. IG-1 is a hormone similar to insulin in structure and it works in conjunction with human growth hormone to reproduce and regenerate cells.
Women have less cross-sectional muscle mass than men to begin with. This is the more valid point about the difference between men and women. According to an article titled The Natural Muscular Potential of Women, women can gain as much size…and sometimes more strength than men. The difference is the overall muscular size between men and women. Men simply have more size and strength to start with.
Let me be very frank here. Even many men who want big muscles, and are willing to train very hard to achieve that end, will never build the big muscles that you see on the professional bodybuilding stage. I know this from first hand experience. I started lifting weights because I wanted to be a bodybuilder. I trained very hard. A few times I trained so hard that I got sick and I had to take a couple of weeks off from training (that was smart). Through all of that, I did gain muscle…quite a bit of muscle, but nothing compared to what a professional bodybuilder is able to do. My point is this: since most men cannot get that big and muscular look naturally even if they want it, it would be near impossible for women to get that look from intense strength training. The only reason they do is because they take muscle building drugs. Dianobol, insulin, IGF-1, and other such steroids in large dosages. Very dangerous amounts if you ask me.
But for women to have the toned, shapely looking body that they desire, they do have to train with a high level of intensity. Women have to train hard enough to work the fast twitch fibers because the fast twitch fibers are the ones that become more defined when they grow. The slow twitch fibers do not. Sadly, most women train only with enough intensity to work the slow twitch fibers. As an example, the typical workout women do with weights consist of three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions for a given body part with a load that’s easy enough to accomplish this task without any real effort. This is common, and it never produces the results women are looking for.
It takes intensity of effort to work the fast twitch fibers. Whether one chooses to do one set or three sets on any given body part does not matter much. What matters is that by the end of the set…or series of sets, that last couple of repetitions are so hard from fatigue one could barely finish them. Shaky muscles, labored breathing, and a feeling of exhaustion are all good signs that the fast twitch fibers are recruited in a workout. This should be the goal to strive for with every workout.
Sharon is a great example of what a good and intense strength training program can do for the female form. Here is a photo:
Sharon takes all of her sets to failure, and she uses weights as heavy as she can handle for 8 to 12 reps. Clearly, she is not big and bulky.
Women. Don’t be afraid of intense strength training. You will not get big and bulky. Instead you will get a leaner, shapelier body.