Increasing muscle mass is not just a goal for men. Find out how women can achieve it too.
Many women are afraid and avoid doing strength training / bodybuilding and increasing their muscle mass because they are afraid of having a male body, “with a lot of muscle”.


In this sense, it is important to clarify some aspects of strength training in women, its importance, benefits and main differences.


To start with, when it comes to strength training in men and women, the response to training is different, as men and women have different anatomical, physiological and neuromuscular characteristics.


Let’s look at the main differences between men and women:


Strength and fatigue: Men are stronger, but women have less fatigue, being able to sustain strength at a relative intensity for a longer period.


The total body strength of a woman, on average corresponds to about 60% of the average of the total body strength of a man, and the average strength in the trunk is between 25 to 55%, when compared to men and in the lower part of the body. body, between 70-75% compared to men. Hence, the woman has more difficulty in training the trunk/arms.


Type of muscle fibers: Although women have the same types of muscle fibers as men, fast-twitch fibers (type II, used primarily in fast, explosive movements) and slow-twitch fibers (type I, used primarily in endurance efforts ), the amount and size of muscle fibers in women are smaller and smaller than in men. And they have a higher proportion of type I fibers.


These differences in anatomy and physiology result in marked sex differences in neuromuscular performance and fatigue. In general, men’s skeletal muscles are larger and some muscles have a proportionally larger area of ​​muscle fibers metabolically and functionally faster (Type II) than women. This means the potential for increasing muscle size and increasing the rate of force production.


Differences in hormone concentrations: The most obvious difference in the mechanisms that determine training adaptations for men and women is the male hormone, testosterone. Both men and women produce testosterone, the difference is that men’s testosterone concentrations are 10 to 20 times higher than women’s testosterone levels! Testosterone is a natural anabolic steroid and provides men with superior muscle development. This effect assures men an advantage of strength, power and speed, which can be projected in any sport that depends on these variables. That is, man is, as a rule, stronger and faster.


That said: “I gain weight and I get a male body if I train strength?”

Strength training can indeed lead to a small increase in weight, but this is due to the lean mass being denser than the fat. Well, strength training helps reduce body fat and increase lean mass. (Hint: Look more in the mirror and less at the scale!).


For the reasons outlined above, women simply do not have the same genetic and hormonal profile that contributes to these factors.


Strength training results in a significant increase in strength and this does not mean that muscle volume is increased in the same proportion. In addition, we have to take into account the limiting hormonal factor that are the levels of estrogen and testosterone, which promote muscle and strength increase. In men, testosterone (male-predominant hormone) is much more effective than estrogen (female-predominant hormone) in gaining lean body mass. So women, don’t miss out on bodybuilding and enjoy its benefits!


Benefits of strength training for women:
• Improvement in body composition (loss of fat mass and increase in lean mass);

• Increase bone turnover (stronger bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis);

• Increased functional strength for everyday activities (for example: playing with children, carrying supermarket groceries, climbing stairs);

• Combat the effects of metabolic syndrome and other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, cancer, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s;

• Increase self-esteem and confidence.

• Combat age-related loss of muscle mass: without strength training, adults lose between 2.26 to 3.17 kg of muscle every decade.


In short, women have different physiological characteristics than men and it is for this reason that women find it more difficult to gain muscle.

Whether women can strength train? Yes. Not only can they, but they should!


Women can train bodybuilding and maintain their femininity. They won’t have a muscular body or look like a man, on the contrary they will be more shapely, stronger, younger and more confident!


Tip: In training, try to consolidate the base and progress from there gradually, if necessary ask a professional for guidance.


Ana Ricardo

Personal Trainer Holmes Place Tejo





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