Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Myth: Women Who Strength Train Will Get Big

Question: I am a 17 year old gymnast who is beginning to look at the possibility of NCAA offers and progressing my training far beyond what I have done up until this point. I have been following a lot of bodyweight routines and feel as if strength training would help me but I am afraid of the bulky look. Do you have any tips of how to not gain that size? 

Anna-Texas USA. 

TWM Response:

It is great to see that you are trying to take your training seriously and it is a very common question that I get asked by many females. I would like to address a few things on this subject so I hope this helps out.

Myths behind women who strength train

More commonly for women, the amount of weight you choose does not correlate to muscle bulk and will not effect you the same way it does for men. Repetitions are the cause of this and transfer to the training effect you will see. Lifting heavy has many transferable athletic attributes and also improves stress management, quality of life and overall athleticism.

Hypertrophy (training to build muscle at a high rep range to promote growth) in women is dependant on a few things:

1.Heredity (the percentage of fast twitch vs. slow twitch muscle fibres that you are genetically predisposed to and have developed throughout training). The more fast twitch muscle fibres you are predisposed to the greater the likelihood of hypertrophic potential. This is generally and easily noticeable in world class sprinters who have the right build to preform at such a high level-we will address this below.

2.Body Type- Their are three types of body types. Mesomorphic, Endomorphic and Ectomorphic.
Mesomorphs have a greater potential to build muscle due to genetic makeup of the frame and muscle fibre type. See image below to refer to your body type.

3. Type of Diet- During hypertrophy training (for males AND females) a high protein intake in necessary for muscle growth. The average athlete does not take in quality protein in solid form and therefore over trains the body and does not supply it with a good enough fuel source to see any benefits yet alone achieve an anabolic state of growth. 

4. Level of Adrenal Secretion (Testosterone)- This one is simple. Women who naturally produce more testosterone will be able to build muscle at a greater rate than those who do not. This is very genetically based and therefore does not effect most females the way it does for some elite athletes who have been "gifted" with this ability to produce the hormone necessary for adequate muscular growth. 

5. Birth Control Use- Birth control increases natural testosterone. Studies have shown this MAY provide a training/recovery advantage due to the increase in T-Levels being secreted. 

Repetitions, intensity, time and rest between sets and the energy system targeted for your specific sport are generally the indicators of whether you will be training in a hypertrophic state. 

So to get away from the scientific basis-women who train will not only see athletic benefits-but do not need to worry about gaining "bulk" or being too muscular. Train to be an athlete, train smart and see the health benefits that come along with it. 

Whether you are an athlete or just want to be in shape-strength training for females has countless benefits and is generally misinterpreted by most. Eat properly, train properly and let the work get you that scholarship Anna. If you/anyone else needs more information just send another email and I will send a couple research papers and sources that will thoroughly prove what I stated. 


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