The Women's Muscle Myth

I’m always surprised at the lack of good information on the internet concerning women and lifting weights.  (Note: if you’d like to know what I’m talking about, trying googling anything with Tracy Anderson.  Seriously, what in the world is THIS!?) Further, I’ve written in previous blog posts that women need to lift weights, but I haven’t really touched on why. 

Well for starters, the health benefits are enormous.  In fact, there's probably too many benefits to list in a single post, but one of the more important ones is that it decreases your risk of bone density loss in your later years. Yet, many women fear lifting weights because a) they’re intimidated, or b) they fear that coming within a two foot radius of a weight larger than 20 lbs will “put on too much muscle.”  While I don't think any single blog post will quell the former, the latter is just an excuse that has no scientific merit.

Contrary to popular belief, sniffing a 45 lb weight won't instantly transform you into Superwoman.  It takes years and great genetics.

Contrary to popular belief, sniffing a 45 lb weight won't instantly transform you into Superwoman.  It takes years and great genetics.

First, let’s touch on actually “building muscle.”  It’s really tough to do!  If putting on muscle was easy, then I’m pretty sure every non-hipster guy would look more like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and less like the 30 year old Pillsbury dough boy.  Plus, I’m still waiting to get to the point where I have “too much muscle.”

Also, it’s pretty well known that one of the many hormones responsible for building muscle is testosterone.  Now, why is that important?  Because women can have as little as 1/20th of the testosterone floating around their bodies that men do, although this can vary depending on age, stress level, etc.  I like to say that testosterone and all the other hormones are "fuel" in the muscle building engine.  Women clearly have less of this fuel than men, indicating that they simply can't pack on muscle like a guy.

Next, the ability to gain muscle is largely dependent on genetics.  Want to know the reason Arnold Schwarzenegger looked like he did?  Well he picked the right parents…and also the right illegal substances.  Nevertheless, there’s no way he would have been Mr. Olympia if he wasn't genetically gifted with a low body fat percentage and a unique physique.

Lastly, and anecdotally, having had the opportunity to work in the fitness world has enabled me to know quite a few strong girls and there’s trend I’ve noticed: the strongest girls tend to be the thinnest, while the weakest tend to be on the other end of the spectrum.  While I could probably take a stab at the science behind it (increased metabolic rate and probably a few other correlating factors), I’ll just leave it at that.

We all know that one woman who others call “jacked,” but realize that she probably worked her tail off to get there and wants to look like that.  Odds are that 95% of women will never reach that point of "jackedness," so it’s time to stop using this silly reasoning as an excuse.  It’s time for the women of the world to crush some weights!