As a personal trainer and nutritionist, the most commonly asked question I get from my female clients is whether or not lifting weights and strength training will make them bulky. And the simple answer to this question is NO.
In this article, I want to take a closer look at why strength training for women is not only beneficial for a long list of reasons, but also extremely effective and important to long term weight loss and developing long, lean muscles. Lastly, we’ll learn some basic resistance exercises that can set you on your way!
DOES STRENGTH TRAINING MAKE ME BULKY?
Lets break it down. As mentioned above, while the short answer is no, lifting weights will not bulk you up as a female athlete, there are several individual factors to consider.
The first is genetics. Depending on our specific genetic make-up, we will respond to strength training differently. Some women are predisposed to put on more muscle mass than others; however, it is still highly unlikely (although not impossible) that you will see bulky muscle mass.
The primary factor we have to consider when thinking of why this is the case for the majority of women, all boils down to hormones. On average, women have about one tenth the amount of testosterone as men, and this is the hormone that tells our body to build muscle.
It is for this reason that we, as women, can do the same types of lifting routines as the man right next to us at the gym, and the results will be hugely different. They will bulk up, and we will not.
Typically, what will happen when women strength train, is the development of longer, leaner muscles. And that is usually what we’re going for, right?
HOW CAN MUSCLE MASS HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT?
First of all, lets debunk one more myth here. We’ve probably all heard that muscle weighs more than fat. In a way, this is true, but that’s not exactly how it works. One pound of muscle weighs the same as one pound of fat (this is basic science). The important difference here is that muscle is about 18% denser than fat, so takes up far less physical space in the body.
Now to the more exciting part, which is that muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and burns far more calories when at rest. While so many women with the goal of weight loss focus their exercise routine on cardio, this is actually quite misguided. Yes, cardiovascular activity is important for many reasons, including increased heart health and improved recovery time.
But, if you think of calories in/calories out, you are simply not going to burn enough calories for effective weight loss only focusing on cardio. Instead of being shortsighted, we need to understand how we can mold our bodies into long-term calorie burning machines, and this is where strength training comes in.
Sure, you burn calories while you are doing cardio (the type of cardio exercises you do also greatly depends on your calorie expenditure, but this is another topic, entirely). However, once you step off the strairmill or get home from your run, your body quickly returns to its’ normal metabolic rate of burning calories.
When you strength train; however, you are actually changing this metabolic rate, which means you will burn more calories outside of your workouts, in each and every one of your daily activities. And this is where real, long term change begins.
And as if that isn’t enough, adding strength training to your exercise routine can also lower blood pressure, lower risk of breast cancer, reduce symptoms of PMS, stress and anxiety, and support our immune systems. The Mayo Clinic recommends strength training at least twice a week to lower your risk of breast cancer.
Discover more about holistic nutrition, fitness and weight loss by visiting Rachel’s website: Madrona Wellness.