Weight training for women is not that much different than weight training for men. The principles of resistance training are the same for both sexes. What would determine the type of resistance program would have to do more with a person’s goals and not necessarily their sex. What I have found though, is that women generally have different weight training goals than men.
Women’s Weight Training Goals
The biggest fundamental difference between women’s and man’s weight training goals is that most women never want to get bigger. Whenever a new female personal training client comes to me, one of the first things she says is “ I don’t want weight lifting to make me bigger”. They all want a strong, firm, slim and shapely body but are concerned that if they lift heavy weights their legs will get bigger. Years ago I have had clients who refused to train their legs at all for fear that they would get larger.
Now most men and women acknowledge that resistance training is good for them. They have heard that it makes your bones stronger and having more muscle on your body will firm you up and speed up your metabolism.
How Can Women Lift Weights and Not Get Bigger?
The basic truth is that all forms of resistance training will make the muscle cell bigger (Myofibrillar Hypertrophy) to some degree but you can train and eat in a manner that will maximize your strength but not the size of your muscles. For example, most bodybuilders train for size by lifting moderately heavy weights and pumping themselves up with set after set of exercises that make the workout sessions last for a long period of time. It’s not unheard of for a bodybuilder to spend over an hour just training their legs. A bodybuilder might do 5 sets of squats, 3 sets of leg presses, 3 sets of lunges, 3 sets of leg extensions, 3 sets of leg curls, 3 sets of hyperextensions, and do this all in the same training session.
When you do high volume weight training like a bodybuilder not only do you make the actual muscle cell bigger (Myofibrillar Hypertrophy) and stronger but you also add to the size of your muscles through fluid transfer and carbohydrate storage. When you pump yourself up with set after set of an exercise on the same body part, two things happen. First, there is blood and other fluids rushing into the working muscle and making them bigger (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) and second, your body has to adapt to the long tedious workouts by storing more carbohydrates (Glycogen Super compensation) into the muscle for future similar workouts. This is the type of training you want to avoid if you don’t want to make your legs bigger.
A good friend of mine Rusty Moore did a great video explaining the whole concept below.
Women Should Train for Strength Not Size
Females need to train for strength not size by doing full body workouts and keeping the volume down. One work set per exercise is all you need to put some healthy, shapely muscle on, without making yourself any bigger. One good set of lunges will firm up your legs, make you stronger, while not swelling them up with carbohydrates and fluids. What you want to do is make the muscles stronger and a little bigger so you get all the benefits of weight training without a significant increase in size.
There is a program that I really like that explains and shows you exactly how to build muscle while minimizing muscle size, it’s called Visual Impact for Women. If you want to lift weights but are worried about bulking up and want more of a movie star body, check out the web site.
I hope this article helps women weight train without getting bigger. Make sure you come back to my site in the future for a follow up article about how women should eat to minimize their size while resistance training.
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Best – Mike Cola