I hope you can take something away from this article. If you’re a woman, I hope it was illuminating and empowering. If you train women, I hope it was informative. Men and women are more alike than different when it comes to training responses, but similar doesn’t mean identical. Women are not just smaller versions of men, though they should expect the same relative rate of progress a man would.
You don’t have to lift hundreds of pounds on every exercise like a guy might, but you do have to lift weights that are equally challenging for YOU and continue to push yourself to progress and gradually lift heavier and heavier weights over time. This is progressive overload, and it’s a requirement for any amount of muscle to be built or any amount of progress to be made.
Great article. I’ve been in the weight room now for almost two months and I love it. Im 5’8 130 and I’m already seeing results. I have biceps! I went from the tiny weights to 35 lbs bicep concentration curls. My husband is my acting trainer. It was very intimidating at first but I actually get the head nods from the guys at the gym so I feel accepted. I think they are just trying to see if I keep coming back. I cant wait to see how far I can go.
I just encountered this article while looking for references to support my argument with someone on a website that their fears of becoming huge were unfounded. She is one of those women who does tend to put on a little more muscle than many of us, and she linked to a page loaded with images of steroid-chunked women as a an example of what she was afraid of.
I’m sure there are some people in a state of mild disbelief as this point. After all, men have more testosterone, and testosterone is anabolic; therefore, men should be at a huge advantage when it comes to building muscle and gaining strength, right? An implication of this analysis is that, assuming a given woman and a given man start with similar amounts of muscle mass and strength, they’d be likely to gain the same amount of muscle and strength if they both started lifting. That just doesn’t sit right with some people.
Thank you so much for explaining this in such a clear manner. I am also sick to death of most women’s negativity towards weight lifting created by their stupid beliefs which you have discussed here; The ingrained fear that lifting weights will make you bulky/manly! Lifting weights it the best thing I have ever done for my body and I could not be happier with the results I have achieved. The internet can be an excellent tool for research and source of information about training and nutrition. Sites such as yours are truly valuable and ones I turn to very often for guidance! So thanks again, it’s appreciated.
How: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a 10- to 15-pound dumbbell by one end so that the other end is on the floor when you extend your arms overhead. Begin with your core engaged, and draw your shoulders down away from your ears and toward your hips. From there, lift the dumbbell off the floor, keeping your arms long, and make a big arc over your body until the dumbbell is over your chest. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the floor making the same arc. That's one repetition. Without fully releasing the dumbbell to the floor, immediately lift it again and complete 12 to 15 repetitions.
Not all strength training videos require steps, dumbbells and barbells. One such video is Jennifer Galardi's "Ballet Body Workout," which blends elegant strength-training moves with dynamic stretching for body conditioning that emphasizes the lower body. The "New York City Ballet" workout, geared toward advanced exercisers, features two workouts performed by NYC Ballet dancers, 114 minutes total. If you want to be free of equipment but you're not interested in dance, then try Kelly Coffey's "30 Minutes to Fitness: Body Training" video. Two 30-minute workouts sculpt your body without any equipment, just your own body weight. Or, for a great lower body challenge, try Ilaria's "BodyStrikes."
The narrowing of the gap as competitiveness increases suggests that women may truly continue gaining strength at a slightly faster relative rate across their training careers. Similarly, a 2014 study of elite athletes in a variety of sports found that the women had about 85% as much lean body mass as men; before training, women tend to have ~60-70% as much lean body mass as men, suggesting that women may actually gain relatively more muscle than men long-term (though, for all of these comparisons, you can’t assume causation from cross-sectional analyses).
Thank you so much for this article, what a breathe of fresh air!!! I have been an athlete all of my life and have done very intense training with weights and have never looked like a man! When I was training my hardest back in the old high school days, I could lift 400 pounds on the leg press machine and never had man legs. I would bench press 80 or so pounds and didn’t have a man’s upper body. As a matter of fact, with a mix of heavy lifting days, with lighter lifting days (high intensity super sets, keeping the heart rate up, essentially cardio/strengthening rolled into one) I dropped my body fat percentage from 25% to 21% looked super lean yet with lots of muscle. I was 5’4 and 121 pounds. I was lifting as much as I could at the time, and I looked perfectly feminine. I was a sporty, fit, lean & ripped girl. I just cannot believe how pervasive this myth is among women. I have had to to tell women exactly what you are saying in this article, because they are so afraid that one single day of heavy weight lifting in the gym will cause them to balloon into Arnold Schwarzenegger over night! I want to see more attractive sporty and muscular women on magazines instead of these waifs who are unhealthy and provide the wrong image for women to strive for. They are only endorsing the best way to suffer from osteoporosis and getting blown away by a strong gust of wind. Keep up the good work on all of your articles that shatter the most prevalent training myths and give people the real info straight up.
How: Begin seated with your back supported and 5- to 8-pound dumbbells resting at your shoulders. Sit up tall and ensure that your elbows are below your wrists. Press upward so that your elbows are in front of your body, and not out to the sides. End with the dumbbells directly over your head, palms forward, with elbows fully extended, but not locked. Slowly release down following the same pattern of movement, ending at the start position. That's one repetition. Aim for 10 to 12 reps.
Second . . . the amount of time and effort that is actually required to gain muscle is something women likely don’t think about much. Maybe the cardio addicts hear “lift heavy things” and immediately have a negative reaction based on 30 or so years of hype about how women should workout. I have always hung out with guys who lift and have heard the celebratory cheers for each and every gain made, so I went into the whole lifting thing with my eyes wide open. Kudos for pointing this out!
How: Lie on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat. Hold 5- to 8-pound dumbbells directly over your chest with your palms facing each other. Press your shoulders away from your ears and downward toward your hips to stabilize your core. With a very slight bend at the elbows, open your arms out to the sides until your upper arms touch the floor. Do not fully release the tension in your arms, or allow your wrists to touch the floor. Contract the muscles in your chest to return the dumbbells back to the starting position. That's one repetition. Aim to complete 12 to 15 reps.
If you are a woman and want to gain muscle and improve your shape and curves, then you are going to have to lift heavy weights. This means that instead doing endless reps with light weights, as the media often prescribes women to do, you need to lift some heavy weights and really challenge yourself! While performing high rep sets (15-20 reps) does have some benefit, it is not optimal to adding muscle mass.
If you’re new to weight training, don’t worry. Perkins created this four-week program to help you to build a solid foundation of strength training and shift your body into a new place after all that cardio. The really great news? You only have to do this routine twice a week. Each week, the moves will stay the same, but we'll make the routine harder by changing the program variables (like rest, sets, reps, or load).