By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 28 November 2016)
The short answer to this question is “no.”
Women can’t gain the same bulk as men unless they take steroids or have unusually high testosterone levels (women do have some testosterone, but far less than men). Female bodybuilders with enormous muscles spend far more time in the gym than most strength trainers (typically 6 days a week, 1-3 hours per session), and the majority take steroids as well.
Strength training burns fat and improves body composition
Female strength trainers who work out with weights a few times a week replace fat with muscle so that they become stronger and more toned. Muscle weighs more, but it takes up less space, so female strength trainers often gain weight while losing inches.
Strength training workouts burn calories, but strength trainers also burn more calories even when resting because muscle uses more calories than fat. However, achieving these benefits requires lifting heavier weights than most women choose.
Many women lift weights that are too light to produce any real benefits because they’re afraid of bulking up. If you want to trade fat for muscle and develop a firmer, stronger body, you should choose weights heavy enough that you can’t do more than 8-10 repetitions with them and do bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, and tricep dips.
Strength training provides significant health benefits for women
Strength training is extremely beneficial for women because they tend to lose more muscle and lose it more quickly than men as they age.
They are also at greater risk for osteoporosis, and strength training prevents bone loss.
Strength training keeps women fitter, stronger, and more youthful (both in appearance and ability) as they age. Female strength trainers enjoy a significantly higher quality of life in their later years and are far less likely to become disabled by injuries, illnesses, and the general weakness associated with aging.
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- Hutchinson, A., PhD. (2011). Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise. HarperCollins.
- Karp, J., PhD. (2003). Weight Training Q & A. IDEA Health and Fitness Association.
- Paquin, B. RN, CSN, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer. (2016). Ladies, lifting heavy won’t make you “bulk up”. International Sports Sciences Association.
- Sinkler, J. (2013). 4 Myths About Strength-Training Busted! Step away from the five-pound dumbbells! Lifting heavier weights is the secret to scoring a leaner, fitter, hotter body. Women’s Health.
- Sloan, C. (n.d.). Does Lifting Weights Make Women Bulk Up? WebMD.com.