by Andrew CSCS, August 22, 2017
“I don’t want to get bulky.”…….. “Will this make me look like a guy?”…….. “I only want to tone my muscles.”
These are just a few of the comments heard when discussing training plans and goals with the majority of female training clients. While these statements are valid concerns to bring up, the reality is that there is really no need to worry. There is virtually no difference in the approach taken to training male vs. female clients other than individually based injury modifications that are not gender specific.
To keep it simple; muscles are muscles. If a bent over row works well when a guy does it in the gym, then why wouldn’t it be just as effective for a girl? The truth is, exercise selection does not need to be changed based on gender. If an exercise has a high degree of difficulty and strain, the only variable needed to be taken into consideration would be experience level… not gender. If anything, there are physical limitations and differences (mobility, flexibility, etc.) that may make some dynamic exercises easier for a female to execute vs. a male.
The physiological differences between man and woman that may need to be taken into account for workout purposes are few and far between, but here a couple of them to keep in mind.
- Because of the specific “Q Angle” (vertical angle between the hip and knee) in the anatomical structure of a woman, there is a higher occurrence in the rate of ACL injuries vs. men. In all training scenarios, especially when training for athletics, more of an emphasis is placed on developing and strengthening the VMO and abductors in female clients.
- The reason why it’s extremely uncommon to see a “bulky”, “muscle bound” woman is due to the lack of testosterone hormone produced. Men are able to build muscle and increases the overall size of the fibers due to the presence of this hormone in their bodies. Although women can increase the number of muscle fibers and motor neuron connections, the rate of actual hypertrophy (increase in muscle size) is physiologically decreased. Unless you are supplementing with testosterone based drugs (steroids), as a woman, it is highly unlikely that you will see the increase in muscle size that men do.
To sum up; resistance training offers many benefits to both men and women. By increasing the amount of relative muscle mass on our bodies, we raise our metabolic rate and become more efficient at burning calories and fat during activity and at rest. So put aside your concerns and use weight lifting (with proper guidance) as a way to help you reach your goals.
- S. Staron, D. L. Karapondo, W. J. Kraemer, A. C. Fry, S. E. Gordon, J. E. Falkel, F. C. Hagerman, R. S. Hikida
Skeletal muscle adaptations during early phase of heavy-resistance training in men and women
Journal of Applied Physiology Published 1 March 1994 Vol. 76 no. 3, 1247-1255