Monday, October 4, 2021

Women and Resistance Training, Some Considerations :

Women and Resistance Training, Some Considerations

Periodically I'll get questions or concerns about resistance training for women. Many relate to a concern about "getting big or bulky muscles" from a weight training program.

First of all, I am a proponent of resistance training for women. I encourage all women and especially those women nearing menopause to engage in some program of resistance training. In my view, the health benefits far outweigh the costs.

As a result of the concerns that many women have who are considering a regular program of resistance training, I offer some research so that a more enlightened decision can be made about the role of weight training as a regular physical activity. Pick up any exercise or sport physiology text (like Wilmore et al, Physiology of Sport and Exercise) and you will find lots of applicable research for this topic.

Women will increase their strength at the same rate as men or even faster. When expressed relative to body weight, the lower body strength of women is similar to that of men while the upper body strength of women is far less. Comparing strength relative to muscle cross-sectional area, there is no significant difference between the sexes; muscle quality is not sex specific.

Female track and field athletes, bodybuilders, and weightlifters NOT using anabolic steroids most often demonstrate substantial muscle hypertrophy (muscle size) quite possibly from high-volume or high intensity resistance training programs. However, it is possible that testosterone levels vary with training and that women with relatively high testosterone levels may have potential for more increase in muscle size and strength.

A genetic predisposition to develop a large muscle mass cannot be overlooked nor can the probability that more complex movements like squats, power cleans, and bench press may influence a greater degree of muscle hypertrophy than less complex movements (biceps curl).

Because the physiological characteristics of muscle are the same for men and women, there is really no reason to train the sexes differently. Not all women will hypertrophy in a dramatic manner.

Women don't have the testosterone levels, there may not be a genetic predisposition, and most likely we are not performing the complex exercises, the high volume or the high intensity programs that would result in such increase in muscle size.

The health benefits of being on a consistent weight training program are invaluable. Such a program will help with injury prevention, improving upper body strength, decreasing percentage of body fat, increasing fat-free mass, increasing resting metabolic rate, and improving bone density. These health benefits will likely enable us to live independently, longer.

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