For women the main concern in lifting heavy weights is the fear of developing big bulging muscles. A bulging physique looks great on a guy, but for ourselves we want to see a slim and well-toned physic (and it is no secret what men like to see).
Luckily there are biological factors that work in favor of what both genders want.
Firstly, women tend to have a smaller skeletal structures than men – we are on average shorter with smaller builds. Biologically the female skeletal structure is not conducive to supporting big muscle and hence more likely to build longer more slender muscles to fit this skeletal structure.
Secondly, hormones drive just about every system and process in our bodies. During muscle growth, for example, testosterone and estrogen are the significant drivers of the type of muscles produced. There are other factors too, but for today let’s keep things simple, so testosterone = bulky muscles, estrogen = slim muscles. Trust me or go Google it. Scientific studies shows that men produces around ten times more testosterone than women. So we simple do not naturally have the testosterone levels to elicit an excessive or bulky increase in muscle mass.
Normally at this point I spin off onto the topic of how significant genetics are in determining your potential shape, and why we should rather focus our attention on achieving our genetically determined best biological shape, instead of longing after some airbrushed-image.
But back on building muscles – When women use heavy weights they will tend to increase absolute strength whilst increasing the muscle mass or size only slightly. However if you don’t stimulate your muscles you will find that they will get smaller and your strength will decrease as well. Again I could go on about how muscles support joints, the vertebrae in your back and neck (ie reduces back pain) and how toned functional muscles support, improves and eases your everyday activities.
But, for me the best part about muscle is that they are a significant calorie burner in the body, that’s why an increase in your muscle mass will help you burn more calories. With a calorie correct diet you will start to shed unwanted fat. Challenging your muscles is also great way to activate your body’s natural defense against “degenerative diseases” – things like osteoporosis, arthritis etc. and it helps to improve your overall quality of life.
So, biologically, women will not build bulky muscles but will get significant positive results across a range of biological factors from high intensity weigh workouts.
Melissa Smit is the owner of 101 Fitness who specialises in working with and Men and Women individually to achieve your fitness goals.