Dont Want to Get Too

One of the most common reasons women don't want to participate in a weight-training program is that they don't want to "get big." Well, we are here to tell you, unequivocally, not to worry. Bulging muscles just aren't going to sneak up on you six months into a weight-training program. Here's why: Muscle size is due to high levels of the hormone testosterone. Women do have testosterone, but not in high enough quantities to cause them to bulk up during weight training the way some men do. With weight training, a woman's muscles will become more defined, but not appreciably larger.

So, what about women like Deidre? While her lack of testosterone limits how big her muscles can get, she's obviously much more muscular than your average woman (or your average man, for that matter). However, her physique is the product of two fairly rare conditions. The first is a genetic predisposition to muscularity; specifically, higher-than-average levels of testosterone and fast-twitch muscle fibers. The second is a commitment to many years of aggressive training— harder work than most people, men or women, would want to take on. Try squatting almost triple your body weight and you'll begin to understand how strong she really is.

Some women who lift weights limit themselves to light weights/high reps routines under the misconception that this will tone and lengthen their muscles, while heavy weights and low reps will make them bulky. Wrong again! Muscles don't change length and they don't know the difference between light weights and heavy weights. They only know how hard they're working. If the weight is sufficiently difficult and you lift consistently, you will get stronger. If your DNA gave you higher-than-average levels of testosterone and your muscles are programmed to get larger with appropriate stimulation, then your muscles will get larger.

Here's another caveat emptor: Don't be scared off by pictures of female bodybuilders on the covers of Muscle & Fitness and other muscle magazines. These professionals are genetically gifted and they work out for a living. (In addition, there is reason to speculate that a few of the supplements taken by these women have contributed to their tremendous muscle growth. Read: Women with 18-inch arms and mustaches have been known to take steroids.)

Deidre has the genetic gifts and work ethic necessary to gain muscle mass, and we don't know many women prouder of that fact. Interestingly, back in her power-lifting days, it was always other women who would caution her not to get any bigger. From the guys, she'd hear, "You're awfully strong for a girl." We are fairly sure that comment was meant as a compliment. Our Miss Dee would reply, "Why can't I just be strong?" and get on with her workout.

Weight training provides the following benefits for women:

> Increased lean body mass, which provides women with more functional strength

> Enhanced bone remodeling, which increases bone strength and decreases risk for osteoporosis

> Stronger connective tissue (ligaments and tendons), which protects joints and decreases risk of injury

> Increased strength for sports and activities of daily living (carrying luggage, walking up and down stairs with groceries, lifting children)

At rest, men have 10 times the amount of circulating testosterone that women have. The abuse of steroids can raise testosterone levels in women to the levels in men, or higher.

Flex Facts

At rest, men have 10 times the amount of circulating testosterone that women have. The abuse of steroids can raise testosterone levels in women to the levels in men, or higher.

Flex Facts

Even with genetic gifts and hard work, a woman will not gain the degree of muscularity that an extremely fit man has unless she is abusing anabolic steroids, which significantly increases testosterone levels. Even then, the workouts needed to reach that level are insanely difficult. You won't get there by accident.

> Increased lean body mass and decreased nonfunctional fat

> Increased metabolic rate due to more active muscle

> Increased self-esteem

In short, women reap the same benefits from strength training that men do. Though men have greater absolute strength than women because of height, frame dimensions, and larger muscles, women can develop as much or more relative strength as men.

As we said earlier, this chapter does not offer a program tailored to women, for the simple reason that women should not train any differently than men. Strength gains are achieved by forcing the muscle to adapt to greater and greater loads. If women train with submaximal efforts, they will not reap the many benefits available to them.

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