Weightlifting is not just for men

Gavin Van DeWalle


 Ladies, would you like to improve your sense of well-being, reduce body fat, or even burn calories more efficiently? If so, it is important that you actively engage in resistance training. Resistance training is an important tool for overall health and fitness. However, some women will not touch a dumbbell with a ten-foot pole for the fear of “bulking up.” Ladies, grab a pair of dumbbells, it’s time to debunk the “bulking up” myth. 

The almighty steroid hormone, testosterone, is well-known for its role in increasing muscle mass. Both males and females produce testosterone daily, but the daily production for males is about 20 times greater than females according to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Thus, women have a very hard time adding muscle mass because they do not have the same muscle-building hormonal profile. In fact, building muscle is even a hard task for men to accomplish. Well-developed muscles are the result of years of hard resistance training combined with proper nutrition and adequate rest for recovery. 

But that may not be enough convincing for you, so let’s review current research. This last year, the American College of Sports Medicine held their annual meeting where more than 6,000 researchers, educators, sports medicine professionals and exercise scientists gathered together to share the latest research information. In one particular research presentation, the myth in which women can build muscle or “bulk up” quickly was put to the test. Four sedentary women and six sedentary men (aged 23- 24 yrs.) alternated days of high-intensity interval rowing with maximal-intensity weightlifting for 5 weeks. The women had no significant changes in body composition, whereas the men added approximately 3.5% of lean body mass. 

I am on a role with these fitness myths, so let’s bust another one. The idea of “toning” is thought to be a result of very high repetitions with little resistance. Muscles do not change from soft to hard or vice versa – they shrink or grow. Meaning, muscles do not “tone” or “firm.” Building muscle (women and men) requires you to exercise against a greater resistance than normally encountered – this is known as the overload principle. If you use the same amount of weight for the same number of repetitions for every workout, there is no need for your body to adapt and you will not grow. Therefore, simply using extremely high repetitions will not stress the muscle enough to facilitate change. So don’t shy away from relatively heavy weight. Generally, using a resistance that produces fatigue between 8-12 repetitions is ideal for most. 

Ladies now you can do shoulder presses or bicep curls without the fear of looking like a chemically-altered professional female bodybuilder. Hopefully those sleepless nights fearing the “bulked up” look is finally conquered.