Weight Training for Women

Who said weight training was only for men?

    Weight Training for Women
    If I had a Pound for every time a woman has asked me ‘Wont I get big if I lift weights?’ There would be no such thing as http://www.total-fit.co.uk- I would be lying on an exotic beach thinking about what other lavish, expensive and ultimately useless bit of tat I could buy for my new mansion. I would be thinking this having just eaten a breakfast prepared by my own personal chef and delivered to me by my personal butler.
    Developing big muscles is a worry for millions of women in gyms around the world- many restrict their resistance training intensity just to prevent it from happening! Let me just clear something up- LIFTING WEIGHTS WILL NOT MAKE YOU LADIES MUSCULAR.
    There, I have said it.
    Muscle building is a very complex process, involving hormones, energy requirements, suitable training methods, sleep, correct nutrition etc. If you think by lifting weights you are automatically going to develop muscles, you are in for a very big shock.
    In this article I will outline in very basic terms how muscle is built through resistance training, and explain why women cannot build muscle at the same rate as men.
    An Introduction to Skeletal Muscle
    First of all, skeletal (joined to the skeleton) muscle has an important job to do in the body- it allows it to move, via contraction. Skeletal muscles work in pairs to allow a limb to both move and return to its natural position. When a particular muscle contracts, it forces the movement of a bone, which moves at a certain point (the joint). Using the arm as an example, we bend our arm by contracting the biceps muscle group. This contraction works with the triceps, which relax. The nett effect of this action is the arm bends at the joint, which in this case is the elbow.
    Muscles have an ability to contract or produce force. With weight training, we teach the body to use these abilities more effectively. The muscles respond by developing the capability to produce more force. Although the exact biological mechanisms by which the body produces this increased capability are still unclear, we are fairly certain the nervous system plays a large role by developing more neural pathways. We also know the body produces more myofibrils (contractile fibres in the muscles) which improve its ability to lift weights and increase strength.
    Once a myofibril reaches its maximum size, it splits, resulting in two separate myofibrils. This means muscle growth (hypertrophy) is a result of muscle cells growing, rather than the number of individual cells growing.
    After training, the muscles are suffering from ‘microtrauma’. This is characterised by tiny damage to the muscle fibres. The recovery process of microtrauma involves the rebuilding of tissues. The body rebuilds the muscles bigger and stronger, which leaves it better prepared for future weight training sessions. It is for this reason we get stronger very quickly when we start weight training.
    Nutrition
    Nutrition plays a massive role in hypertrophy. Without an adequate amount of energy, muscle simply will not grow. Imagine a builder trying to build a house out of no bricks- it just can’t happen. The food we eat is broken down during digestion- these food molecules eventually turn into tissues, be it muscle, liver, skin, hair etc. Unfortunately for those trying to build muscle, excess hypertrophy is not high on the list of priorities for the body, so we need to supply too much energy- the extra will be converted into muscle, and the left over will be stored as fat. Fat gain is almost inevitable when trying to build muscle- we cant account for EVERY single calorie, so any extra is going to be stored as fat for later use.
    Sleep
    Evidence suggests that sleep may be the optimal time of healing and growth for the body. We know that during stages 3 and 4, or slow-wave sleep, growth hormone levels increase, and immune function changes. Some studies have highlighted that sleep deprivation can lead to reduced immune function, and extreme, extended deprivation can lead to altered metabolism. These experiemnts aside, sleep deprivation has not been conclusively shown to significantly alter organ, muscular, cardiac or other somatic (bodily) functions in ways that suggest that any of these systems are primarily influenced by sleep. What this means is that sleep is important to growth and regeneration, but is not necessarily a primary factor in its success.
    Testosterone
    We have all heard about testosterone, but not many people know what it actually is. Testosterone is a steroid hormone, present in both sexes. The effects of the hormone are more clearly displayed in males than females, due to its higher abundance in the male body. The common factors associated with testosterone include…
    The Maintenance of muscle mass and strength
    Maintenance of bone density and strength
    Mental and physical energy
    Body Hair
    Deep Voice
    Testosterone is the primary human growth hormone in the body. It works directly by increasing the muscles’ protein synthesis, which results in muscle fibers becoming larger and repairing faster than the average person.
    Put simply, this means the more testosterone a person has, the harder they can train, the quicker they can recover and the stronger they can become. Obviously, this will have positive effects on the ability to build muscle, providing the other important muscle-building factors such as nutrition and sleep are present and correct!
    So Why Can’t Women Build Muscle As Easily As Men?
    The answer to this question lies predominantly in the last point of interest- Testosterone. You women simply don’t have enough of it to really pack on the muscle! On average, men have around 8-10 times more testosterone than women, which means they can build muscle much more easily. Even if a woman ate the correct amount of calories, trained as hard as she possibly could, with a perfect routine and had optimal sleep every night, she would still struggle to make any real progress with muscle building and development.
    The female bodybuilders look the way they do because they inject a dodgy cocktail of drugs on a daily basis- normal women don’t look like that! Weight training is one of the best things you can do. A solid resistance training routine coupled with a good nutrition plan will shed any excess fat, leave you in great shape and give you a healthy, athletic look, rather than a skeletal, malnourished look! You will be stronger and leaner than ever if you weight train properly.
    Try one of our resistance training programmes here (link to weight training section). And see the changes in your figure! You won’t ever question weight training again!
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2 Responses

  1. Someone once asked me if weight training actually caused you to produce more testosterone – do you know the answer?

  2. The basic answer is Yes. The hormonal response to resisitance exercise changes in both sexes, although not as significantly as some sites would have you believe!

    The change is also more significant in younger trainees than older.

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