As a fitness professional, I have heard some crazy things over the years. There is so much misinformation in the training world, and most people don’t have to research the facts.
While teaching group fitness classes and working with individual clients, I have had to debunk many of these misconceptions. One that paints a vivid picture in my mind, is a few of my female clients being afraid of lifting heavy weights for fear of getting “too big” or “too heavy”. There is a plethora of science to debunk this myth, but for the sake of this post I will keep it simple. These four areas will explain why a woman will not get “big“ from lifting heavy.
1. Hormones: these chemical messengers in our body send signals responding to various stimuli. Two key hormones differentiating the male and female physiques are testosterone and estrogen. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, meaning it aides in the process of muscle building. The resting level of testosterone in females 10 to 20 times less than that in males and therefore does not invoke the same degree of muscle growth when performing resistance training (1).
2. Nutrition: There are many amazing physiques out there on the cover of fitness magazines of ripped, lean woman. The reality of it is, to achieve this look, one has to follow a strict diet and exercise regimen, often consisting of weighing out food, monitoring macronutrient consumption, and spending at least a couple hours in the gym per day. Prior to competition or a photo shoot, some cut calories and dehydrate in order to achieve a leaner, vascular appearance. However, if you were to see these amazing woman a few days after, they would appear to look “normal”. The point I am driving home is even those these woman look like they have “HUGE” muscles, the reality of it is they aren’t that big. One of my all time inspirations, Adela Garcia, has an amazing physique and from looking at her photos its hard to believe she is a mere 5’1” 120 lbs! A true testament to sound nutrition and training- and she is far from “HUGE.”
3. Physiology: Resistance training is a process that taxes the body’s muscle fibers. By choosing a heavy resistance, the muscle fibers tear apart and build back up. Through repetitive taxing of the muscles, they will grow in size, but only to a certain extent. This is especially important to keep in mind when training upper body. There is a huge physiological difference between the upper body strength and size of a man compared to a woman. Not only do woman have fewer muscle fibers then a man, but they are also smaller in diameter (1). It is important for females to train heavy in order to develop upper body strength. If a strong enough resistance is not selected, there won’t be an opportunity for the muscle fibers to adapt.
4. Body Composition: Lifting heavy weights will actually improve overall body composition by increasing lean muscle mass and decreasing fat mass. In turn this adaptation will increase one’s metabolic rate. Giving you a leaner, sexier physique J. Not too mention, it will help boost your confidence!
Dwayne Johnson & Randy Orton lift heavy weights, you can too, and trust me, you won’t look like him. So next time, skip over the 10 lb dumbbells and go for the 30’s!
1. Zatsiorsky, Vladimir M. & Kraemer, William J. Science and Practice of Strength Training: Second Edition. Chapter 9: Strength Training for Woman. Human Kinetics. 2006. Champaign