If you have been reading my blog, you are well aware of the numerous benefits of strength training.  This training is centered on the principal of muscle hypertrophy, which means muscle growth.  Without hypertrophy there is no change in body composition.  The goal of working out, specifically with strength training, is to improve body composition, i.e. how we look- less fat and more muscle.  Guys know this and strive for this every day.  Women need to do so as well though too! 

Nowadays women seem to be more into this, with the advent of Crossfit, Bootcamp style workouts and such.  However, the fear of getting too “big” is still holding back a lot of women who would like to train hard.  Obviously, resistance training is going to build muscle in women, but they need to understand that it’s much harder for them to gain mass as it is for men.

Ladies, just realize that there are hundreds of men out there cranking it out in the gym and they don’t look like Arnold; so neither will you!  One of the reasons for this is simple hormones.  Women have 20 to 40 times less androgens (mainly testosterone) circulating in their system than men. This severely limits the amount of muscle one can build.

Another limit to the amount of muscle a woman can build is the number of muscle fiber nuclei they have.  Typically, females have 40% less muscle nuclei than men.

So, a woman who does strength training will definitely gain muscle.  However, she won’t gain as much muscle as a typical man.  As a rule of thumb, most of the hypertrophy a woman will develop comes within the first 3-4 months.  After that, muscle mass gains tend to plateau and further gains in strength are made through neural adaptations.  This will impact the aspect of the muscle as well, since more neural drive will make the muscle look more “tone”, thus giving a hardened look, but hardly a “manly” one.

So women should most definitely strength train and not be afraid of throwing around heavy weights.  It will only improve their body composition, enhance their appearance, and improve their metabolism.  It will also enhance bone formation, prevent osteoporosis, and improve hormonal and lipid profiles. 

So the bottom line for you ladies is that you won’t get big and bulky but you will get lean and sexy!  Now go hit the weights!