Weight Training Builds a She-Hulk – Myth Busted!
Many women are terrified of weight training exercises because they don’t want to end up looking like a female version of The Hulk. In today’s second installment of our myth-busting series, we explain just how hard it is to build muscle mass and keep it, even with intentional effort.
As personal trainers, our goal is to help you reach your health and fitness goals. If you want to bulk up or seriously increase your muscle mass we can help, but be prepared: professional female body-builders have to work hard to get those bodies. It is literally a full-time job in the gym and in the kitchen to support building and maintaining muscle mass.
Why It’s Difficult for Women to Build Bulk
Hormones control our body, and it’s especially true when we’re talking exercise. (Read: How Hormones Effect Muscle Growth). Women and men have both testosterone and estrogen, but in different quantities. While we need both for a healthy body, it is these differing levels that make it easier for men and harder for women to build muscle.
Testosterone increases protein synthesis, directly affecting muscle mass through its influence on how our muscles respond to exercise. However, muscle places a great weight on the skeletal system and as we age, it’s compounded by the natural deterioration of our bones. Estrogen counteracts this effect by increasing and maintaining bone strength, as well as assisting with muscle repair and exercise recovery.
Besides hormones, nutrition plays a vital role in building and maintaining muscle, especially when we’re talking bulky masses of muscle. When this is your goal, you actually have to be extremely focused and precise in your diet to build and hold onto your bulk. In fact, there are specific calculations bodybuilders use to get the right ratio of grams of protein for every pound of current body weight per day, taking into account calories burned.
Why Women (and Men) Need Weight Training
We need cardio to build our cardiovascular strength, but there are drawbacks. Different activities cause their own metabolic reactions and use different optimal sources of energy. During cardio, a poorly-fueled body will use muscle protein when necessary. Therefore, we need to at the very least do enough weight-bearing exercises to maintain the muscle lost during cardio.
The new sexy is fit and healthy! Rather than bulky muscle mass like bodybuilders have, we urge clients to build lean muscle that adds definition and sculpts a body. Think of MMA fighters or boxers, they generally have small frames but are lean and strong without bulging muscles.
Here are a few more good reasons why we need weight training:
- Lean muscle increases metabolism. Did you know you’re burning calories as you’re reading this blog post? This is called resting metabolism. With more muscle, you increase your metabolism, including when you’re at rest, so after a couple of months of regular weekly weight bearing sessions, you’ll burn even more calories when you read blog posts!
- Prevents injuries by stabilizing and strengthening joints. If you’re just doing cardio, for instance you like to run, there’s a lot of pressure placed on the knees. Overtime, you will damage your knees if you’re not building supportive muscle tissue around them. And remember, the more cardio you do, the more calories are burned from muscle protein; building muscle is necessary to counteract this negative effect.
- Balances the body. Full body workouts are necessary to prevent overcompensation. Whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, we tend to use one side of our body most of the time. For instance, moms will carry their children on a certain hip and we typically lug around our purses on one shoulder. Overtime, the muscles on the opposite side weaken through under-utilization, unbalancing the body and cause painful, chronic issues. (Read: How Modern Life Leads to Chronic Pain.)
- Promotes functional living, improves quality of life and eases pain. Full body, weight-bearing exercises improve posture and make you stronger for all the things you need to do in your day. Many of our clients have desk jobs, and complain of neck, shoulder and back pain. This is due to poor posture. Every movement we perform comes from our core, and so even picking up a box the wrong way with poor posture can lead to an injury. (Read: Stronger For Life, Make Life Easier & Painless, and Think “Prehab” Instead of Rehab.)
- Prevents osteoporosis. Did you know that between the ages of 20 to 80, women lose one third of the bone mineral in their hip? (That’s just the start of the stats, read more at the National Osteoporosis Foundation.) Weight-bearing exercises increases and maintains bone density. This is especially important for women aged 40 and over.
Here at G Force, we highly recommend for both women and men a holistic and balanced training program of weight training, cardio and stretching. A regular exercise routine like this will go a long way to improving performance, recovery, resilience, ease of daily living and pain, as well as, preventing injuries – now and into the future.