Why Lifting Weights Scares Most Women

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Why are women scared of lifting weights? Is it because they’re afraid of bulking up? or maybe they just don’t like training in a gym full of men? As coach who specialises in female body recompososition with a focus on metabolic resistance weights training, I know all to well about the myths which circulate the fitness industry.

So, if you are female and you’re reading this post in an “unsure” state about whether to start resistance based training, this post is for you. I’m going to go into detail the physiology & hormonal differences between men & women, but also explain the benefits of why women need to start incorporating resistance based training today.

The Major Hormonal Differences With Women

By far the largest biological differences between women & men are the differences between primary reproductive hormones. Testosterone in men and progesterone / estrogen in women. Women only have around 1/10th to 1/30th of the testosterone levels of a man, and similarly men have much lower levels of estrogen and progesterone.

These hormonal difference alone have an enormous effect on female physiology, especially when it comes to the menstrual cycle. The changes with female hormones will rise, decrease, cross paths all at different times each month. This is very different to a man’s relatively stable levels of testosterone (which gradually decreases with age).

I’m not going to go too in-depth here but just remember, on a biological level, the hormonal differences and the levels of testosterone which would be required to reach large amounts of muscle for a women, just isn’t possible.

The Physical Differences With Women

A male and female physique in a physical sense are not too different, women’s muscles are basically the same structure as a man, however still genetically smaller. Our organs are the same on a cellular level and the largest physical differences being genitalia. Women have wider hips than men and joints / tendons are also more flexible.

Women have fewer fast twitch muscle fibers, which are the most likely to stimulate muscle growth through hypertrophy resistance training phases. For this reason women actually need to be lifting heavier than men, and implementing a strength & hypertrophy phased training program. All the top female physique coach’s know that they need to train their clients with as much volume as possible. Resistance training & high volume is an absolute must if you are wanting to either compete in a fitness model, bikini or physique contest / event. 

What Are The Benefits of Resistance Training For Women?

In general, I find most women put far too much focus on cardiovascular & endurance type training. The research & studies show much more superior benefits of resistance based training over cardiovascular.

One of the most positive impacts from resistance based weights training is the increase in your metabolic rate as you build lean muscle mass. This increase in lean body mass keeps you in calorie burning mode all times of the day, including when you’re at rest.

If you’ve been on crash diets in the past which restrict calories and you find that your weight loss always stalls, this is a clear sign you need to increase calories, boost your metabolism and increase your activity levels through resistance training.

If you’re over 50 or postmenopausal, then the benefits of resistance training don’t just become important, they are fundamentally necessary. Just some of the benefits include:

  • Increasing bone density
  • Decreasing the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reducing overall body fat
  • Increasing your metabolism
  • Increasing lean muscle tissue
  • Enhanced and improved mental health
  • Improves posture
  • Improves flexibility

 

Wrapping Everything Up

So as you can see, the differences between men & women on a physical level are not that different, however on a hormonal level, the vast changes in a women’s physiology which occurs each month during the menstrual cycle is far more complex than a man’s stable testosterone levels year round. The chances of women bulking up or developing like a man, is on a hormonal level, impossible. An exception to this would be women who have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) which correlates with an increase in lean body mass.

As you can see that the benefits of resistance based training for women is important, but as women age, resistance training becomes fundamentally important. Let’s put aside the myths about women and weights training. If you’re unsure of where to get started with a program based on resistance training & designed specifically for women, I highly recommend checking out the 90 Day Fitness Model Challenge. This program has a strong body recomposition focus, meaning you learn how to build lean body mass while decreasing body fat.

Happy lifting & leave a comment below with your current physique goals!

References

Graham TE.Exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med. 2001;31(11):785–807

Kreider RB. Dietary supplements and the promotion of muscle growth with resistance exercise. Sports Med. 1999;27(2):97–110. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199927020-00003

Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38(11):1918–25. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000233790.08788.3e

Pedersen BK, Bruunsgaard H, Jensen M, Krzywkowski K, Ostrowski K. Exercise and immune function: effect of ageing and nutrition. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999;58(3):733–42

Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, Bush JA, Putukian M, Sebastianelli WJ. Hormonal responses to consecutive days of heavy-resistance exercise with or without nutritional supplementation. J Appl Physiol. 1998;85(4):1544–55