Will resistance training make you big and bulky?
How beneficial is Resistance Training to women?
Should women be lifting heavy weights?
The general consensus amongst the general population is that after first time a woman touches a barbell she will awake the next day looking like some awful concoction of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wonder Woman and the Hulk. In reality, there is more chance of you driving through Cambridge city centre without encountering a single cyclist, it just isn't going to happen!
The fact is, as a woman, you just aren't naturally and genetically put together to put on huge amounts of muscle. For starters women have less muscle to begin with, so even doubling your entire muscle mass would have far less visual impact than it would on a man.
Furthermore, testosterone is main driver of muscle protein synthesis (growth) and men have about 15 times as much testosterone as women. Do me a favour and take a look around your gym next time you're there, I’m sure you will see countless numbers of young men throwing around heavy dumbbells in an effort to be as big as humanly possible, and let’s face it ladies, they aren't getting too far are they? What I’m saying is that as men we have genetics and nature on our side and there are plenty of men who have a tough time “getting big” so believe me when I say “Resistance Training will not make you big and bulky!”
Ok, so you get the idea, picking up a barbell isn't going to make you huge. So you may be thinking, what is it going to do to for me? Could it actually be of benefit to me? Now you're asking the right questions! Resistance training can offer you a plethora of benefits and in my opinion one of the most significant of which is how resistance training can empower you as a strong and confident woman.
As a Personal Trainer, I remember my first female client well. She lacked body confidence, always covered up for training and like most this lady was intimidated by the free weights area in the gym - “That’s where the smelly and sweaty men train” well, she's right. However the resistance training or “free weights area” is also where a woman can build her strength and along with it, her confidence. I can vividly remember the first time she pressed the 12kg dumbbells, I subtly told her that 3 months ago she was lifting the 4 kilo’s, the euphoric look on her face said it all. After that moment I watched her persona completely transform into a lady who was much more confident in and out of the gym, she knew how much more she could be capable of and resistance training in gym gave her a platform to express her capabilities. It wasn't long before she was out- squatting most of the men in the gym, now if that doesn’t empower you as a woman, I don't know what will.
Along with the empowering effect of resistance training, women can expect to see significant and rapid changes in their bodies. You can expect to build some muscle and probably of more interest to most of you, burn fat! In a study carried out by Wayne Wescott, Phd, of over 700 women found that those women who partook in a 45 min training program predominantly consisting of resistance training 2-3 times per week gained on average 2lb’s of muscle and lost 4lb’s of fat in just 2 months. Thats incredible!
Now you're thinking, “but he said you wouldn't get big and bulky? And now he’s saying I’ll put on 2lb’s of muscle?!” Well, yes, you can expect to build muscle with resistance training, however, that shouldn't scare you, it should thrill you! For starters, the visual impact 2 pounds of muscle will have on your body will not be monstrous, in fact it will help add much desired “shape” to many sought after areas, think of what that 2 pounds of muscle could do to emphasise the look of your best pair of jeans (remember ladies, muscle doesn't jiggle!). That’s not the only good piece of news from this 2 pound muscle gain, you see, muscle is calorically expensive. Per extra pound of muscle, our bodies metabolic rate increases and we require anywhere from 35-50 kcal’s more per day. This makes maintaining a caloric deficit easier, put simply, it gives you more potential to burn fat.
If that hasn't won you over yet, just look at the fat loss results of that study, 4 pounds of fat in 2 months. That is a significantly noticeable amount of fat. Remember, fat is less dense than muscle, 4 pounds of fat mass is significantly larger in area than an equal mass of muscle. Basically, losing 4 pounds of fat will most definitely be noticeable in the mirror, those are the kinds of results you can expect to see with resistance training.
In my opinion another often over-looked benefit to resistance training is “the enjoyment factor”. It’s clear to me one of the most important factors in reaching your goals is how much you enjoy your training. If you don't enjoy what you’re doing, you need to make a change, because in the long term it isn't going to work. It’s common sense that if you enjoy something, you’re much more likely to keep doing it, so if your program is enjoyable you’re much more likely to stick at it and see long term results.
Let’s face it, plodding away on a treadmill isn't fun, it’s a mixture of clock watching and desperately trying to pass the time with a e-book until the iPad runs out of charge and your left staring at the builders bum of the gentlemen in front of you on the spin bike. Doesn’t sound like fun to me. Resistance training, on the other hand, throwing around kettlebells, lifting equivalent to your bodyweight and showing up some of the unsuspecting gents in the gym, now that sounds like fun! Remember, resistance training doesn't have to mean lifting barbells and dumbbells, at Gymbo’s we believe in the benefits of using a variety of resistance training equipment, from sandbags to kettlebells, medicine balls to monkey bars, there’s certainly more than one way to create an enjoyable resistance training program for you.
Lastly, another frequently asked question is should women really be lifting heavy weights? I said it myself, women are not genetically predisposed to build muscle or lift heavy weights, so surely it can't be “good for them”? Well that logic simply doesn't ring true.
Resistance training regardless of age or gender has been shown to have a multitude of health benefits. Research has shown that resistance training decreases the risks of osteoporosis, diabetes, certain types of cancer and even depression. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have been told weight training is bad for your blood pressure and heart health, well according to a 2011 literature review by Strasser and Schobersberger “resistance training is at least as effective as aerobic endurance training in reducing some major cardiovascular disease risk factors”. Clearly resistance training has nothing but health benefits to offer!
So ladies, be inspired to step off the treadmill and start enjoying your training, your body will love you for it.