I have been in this industry for over a decade and have worked with many female clients. The most common remarks I hear from women when they start working with me are: “I don’t want to bulk up;” and “I want to get long and lean.” Women I have worked with tend to shy away from strength training with any kind of resistance other than their body weight for fear of bulking up and looking like a man. I’d love to address these concerns with a few facts.
First, let’s talk about the “bulking up” issue. Women, in general, have 10-15 times less testosterone than men. Testosterone is one of the main hormones needed to build mass or “bulk up.” Along with high testosterone levels, you also need to adopt a very high-calorie diet, and possibly the use of supplements to drastically increase muscle size. Further, there are many ways to lift weights. You can lift for hypertrophy (increased muscle size), endurance, or strength.
While all of these types of weight lifting will cause the muscle to react and grow in size and strength, none of them will be significant enough to “bulk you up” without the proper hormones or associated diet.
Many women also request “long and lean” muscles. Truth: your muscles can and will only lengthen to a predetermined size and shape for your body. In fact, if you were to literally try to lengthen your muscles, you would be pulling on the tendon attachments and likely causing long term damage and pain. To get lean, you need to reduce body fat composition. By building lean muscle (not bulking up), you are giving your body the best tool needed to burn fat.
Strength training for women has many benefits outside of aesthetics. Science tells us strength training increases bone density leading to a reduced risk for osteoporosis. Additional research shows strength training increases insulin levels and reduces the risk for type-2 diabetes, reduces Body Mass Index (BMI), reduces body fat percentage, and decreases risk for cardiovascular disease.
A certified and educated professional coach/trainer can help ensure you are using the correct weights and repetitions to achieve the results you are looking for. A coach/trainer can help you with your form to make ensure you are not putting yourself at risk for injury, which would only delay results. A coach can also help you regulate your strength training sessions making sure you get enough rest in-between, maximizing results.