Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

The myth of heavy lifting for women

by Ron Kennedy • September 01, 2016
Woman share just as much enthusiasm for fitness and strength training as men, but more often than not they are psychologically programmed with a sub-conscious deterrent for reaching their peak fitness potential. The message has been stressed and frowned upon since gyms and workout routines have been in existence; Heavy weight lifting will create “Bulk” muscle and make women look masculine.   
As a personal trainer, I know how vital it is for my female clients to push their maximum strength levels and lift heavier weight, within safe and sensible planning of course. In addition to simply staying strong, heavy lifting is one of the only ways to increase bone density. We all know that women are at the highest risk of osteoporosis as time goes on, and taking steps to expand those cells is critical for prevention. In fact, there is a specific biological process that makes your body lay down more bone material in response to the kind of stress that we only get from heavy resistance training. Considering the biggest fear of women in their 70’s is falling and shattering a hip, common sense would dictate that heavier strength training to increase muscle mass and bone density should be a designed part of every women’s fitness training program.

Now to go a step further, ladies fear not! There is a major ingredient to building bulk muscle mass that most of you reading this do not have the necessary large quantities of to do so…. Testosterone.

Testosterone and human growth hormone are the two major hormones involved in building muscle. Everyone has them both, but men have much more testosterone than women. In general, women have about 15-25% less concentration of testosterone in their body than men do. Without that extra testosterone, women simply can’t build the big muscles like guys. It’s simple science and math. $10 dollars no matter what the domination, can’t be worth the same as $50 dollars, no matter how crisp the bills are!
Exercise science specialists (like myself) have known for a long time that it is possible to manipulate the body’s hormonal response with different kinds of training protocols. For instance, a heavy training protocol increases serum testosterone concentration. Yet, though testosterone will increase in both genders from heavy resistance training, females are unable to build the type of muscle mass men do simply because of their genetic makeup. Women can’t grow new muscle tissue to the same degree from the lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of estrogen and progesterone.

“But Ron... what about female body builders? They are bulky! Many look like men.” To be very clear, I greatly respect the strict dedication and hard work it takes to compete as a female body builder, and have formed friendships with many during my career, but let’s get one painfully obvious thing straight: Most women who have a physique that could be compared to a male use “unnatural” tactics including performance enhancing substances. Testosterone is required to build muscle, and there is no shortage of synthesized hormones in the world to garner those results. So ladies, please put your fears aside.

The word that most females use to describe their fitness goals is “toning.” “I want to tone up my arms” or “make my stomach more tone.” Muscle tone, also known as muscle tonus or residual muscle tension, is an unconscious low level contraction of your muscles while they are at rest. Essentially, muscle tone is what makes your muscles still feel somewhat firm while you are resting and not intentionally tensing them. To be quite honest, there is no such thing as “toning” a muscle or a specific area of the body. No one can change the shape of their muscles; that’s determined by genetics. When women say they want to “tone” a muscle group up, what they are actually saying is that they want to lose some body fat, build some muscle, and get tighter and firmer. A good personal trainer knows that the major key to achieving a tight, lean, firm physique, is proper nutritional practices. “Abs are made in the kitchen” is one of my favorite phrases, and it defines the truth most overlook in regards to “toning” the stomach muscles.
In closing, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you lift heavy and workout hard that you’ll end up looking like a professional woman bodybuilder, I assure you it takes much more effort than that. Remaining a natural athlete while utilizing a very healthy, nutrient-dense diet, proper supplementation, proper exercise programs and recovery techniques will help you achieve a lean, firm, tight, athletic body.