As personal trainers one of the most common obstacles we have to overcome with clients is breaking down long standing myths about exercise, nutrition, weight loss and resistance training. Resistance training is a vital part of any exercise programme, whether for weight loss or long distance running. It’s especially useful for women who want to lose weight and change their shape as it increases basal metabolic rate and so helps to burn fat all day every day; have a peek at our resistance training fact sheet on the Knowledge page. The fear in women that weight training will make them too beefy, or give them the stringy “Madonna” look is really common, but completely unfounded for several reasons.
The first reason is that women produce only a small amount of testosterone. Unlike men, the female endocrine system is more busy making the female hormones of progesterone and oestrogen. As testosterone is a big player in the development of muscles it makes it much harder for women to develop bulky muscles; indeed for you to do this you would have to go on a very specialist nutrition regime and train in a low range repetition zone to failure for several hours each day.
Once you are also training in the correct weight and repetition zone you will tone the muscles (a look and feeling of firmness in the muscles) as opposed to increasing your bulk. Once your personal trainer has you in this zone everything will begin to re-shape and firm just like you always wanted. The correct range for this is 12 to 14 repetitions, and for 2 to 3 sets of each exercise.You could go even lower, 8-12 repetitions, without much danger of getting to beefy. It is also important to go to loss of form, where for the last few repetitions of any given exercise it’s getting hard, as opposed to exercising to failure where you simply can’t do any more.
Women also have a higher percentage of body fat than men, and subsequently a lower amount of lean muscle than men. This is part of nature’s survival tactic, ensuring that should there be a famine then the child bearing-perpetuators of the species-women will survive in one piece and have children successfully.
So don’t think that bulky muscles will ever be a problem, your personal trainer would have to work you very very hard for ages to even get close. Resistance training for women is just a way to get toned shapely limbs while keeping strong bones, strong connective tissue, and burning more fat by increasing the metabolic rate!