The fitness world is riddled with myths and misconceptions, many of them orbiting around strength training. People are afraid to do certain exercises or use certain equipment because of what they’ve read. Or they hurriedly throw back supplements at specifically timed intervals, lest their time at the gym be rendered useless.
Often, women avoid weight lifting out of fear of developing unwanted bulk. For similar reasons, women generally believe that they need to train differently than men to achieve their desired results. But is this true? Do men and women actually build muscle differently?
Before we get to any of the support details, let’s just make this plain: Women do not need to train differently than men. As mentioned, we’ll go into the “why” a little later but, for now let’s just say that gender is just one part of a very complex equation.
Based on diet and a host of genetic factors, you may or may not gain muscle mass at various speeds. Different people also gain muscle more easily in some area of their body than other. So, the first thing we need to understand is that people tend to put far too much importance on gender when it comes to gaining muscle and losing weight.
Of course, this does not mean that men and women respond to exercise in the same ways. Men tend to have more muscle fibers than women, particularly in their upper body – translating to more strength and a faster metabolism.
Dealing with testosterone
Men also have higher levels of testosterone, a muscle-building hormone, than women. This difference is often cited to try to put women at ease when their afraid of gaining bulk from lifting. The truth is, however, that individual women can vary widely in their levels of testosterone – as can men. Women may also have wide variations in their levels of estrogen, another hormone that can affect muscle and fat concentrations.
Now, we recognize that the above information can seem a little contradictory, so let’s review. Men do have more testosterone than women. Usually. But this should not be given as a reason to say that women cannot build as much muscle, simply before it is not always true.
In reality, everyone – regardless of gender – will have to conduct some exercise experiments to understand how they respond to different forms of exercise. While some women may lose weight quickly and develop a slim, toned look from lifting weights, some may not. Others may very well find that they build some noticeable muscle.
The same happens to men, as well.
Although there are patterns in how men and women – as groups – react to exercise, there are always plenty of exceptions to those rules. Here’s the solution, then: Try some different workout methods and find what you enjoy.
If you are interested in building considerable muscle mass – rather than avoiding it – well, that’s a much bigger topic. Spend some time reading some of our other health and fitness articles to learn more.