Monday 18 June 2012

Why Ladies Should NOT Fear Bulking Up Part 1

Weight training has fantastic benefits for health, performance, body composition and injury prevention. However, many ladies completely miss out on these benefits because they so afraid of bulking up that they don't touch weights or they do some useless "women's toning routine". No woman will get to enjoy these fantastic benefits until she gets over the fear of bulking up. Please allow me to help you with this. And guys, I'm sure you know at least one lady who needs to read this, so please pass it along and help spread the word!
Powerlifter and Strength Coach Julia Ladewski has the following lifts:
Squat: 463lbs, Bench Press: 240lb and Deadlift: 424 at a body weight of 132lbs. So much for big weights making ladies big.

When it comes to this issue of bulking up, here some important things to know...

1. The effects of steroids
Since the 1960s, steroids have become increasingly popular in the sport of bodybuilding. Many women have seen a picture of a professional female bodybuilder who uses steroids. In addition to unnatural levels of muscle development, steroids also cause reverse sexual characteristics. This can result in masculine-like characteristics that some women find undesirable. It is important to note that steroids, not resistance training are to blame here.

2. Hormonal differences between males and females
One of the factors that allows the average male to have more muscle mass than the average female is that males have about 10 times more testosterone than females. Because of this, females who want to gain muscle mass have a very difficult time. If you don't believe me, talk to a female natural bodybuilder.

3. Nutritional factors
Total caloric intake is also important for muscle gain. Most people will not be able to gain muscle without having a surplus of calories. If you do not want to gain muscle, then do not consume extra calories beyond what is needed to maintain your weight.
In addition to total calories, insulin also plays a role. High levels of insulin gives your body the message, “store body fat.” Body fat gain will obviously cause a woman's clothes to fit differently and cause her to feel bulkier. In addition to this, insulin can trigger growth hormone and thus have a muscle building effect on the body. When someone is trying to gain muscle, certain nutritional practices can be used to increase insulin during and after training to increase lean muscle. However, for an individual who is not looking to gain muscle or fat, it is important to keep insulin levels low. Many times people who start an exercise program think that exercise gives them a license to indulge in starchy, sugary foods which raise insulin levels. This, combined with some resistance training can lead to some muscle gain with a lot of fat gain and this combination will make a woman feel bulkier.

4. What it takes to actually gain a substantial amount of muscle
Many individuals who are not familiar with training are unaware of just how difficult it is to build a substantial amount of lean muscle without the use of steroids. As someone who has managed to gain over 50 pounds of muscle with bad genetics and without the use of steroids, I can confidently tell you that it won't happen by accident.

5. Training variables
One of the key training variables that can be manipulated in relation to hypertrophy is volume. Volume refers to the total amount of work that is done in a training session. To build muscle, one needs not only heavy weight but a moderate to high volume of work (e.g. 5 sets of 5-10 reps). If someone wants to achieve the benefits of strength training without gaining muscle size, this can be done by lifting heavy weights (which is necessary to get strong) but for lower volume (e.g 2 sets of 5 reps). More on this in a future post.

Stay tuned for 5 more things you need to know about ladies and bulking up tomorrow... 

Reference: Chek, P. (1997). Equal, but Not the Same: considerations for training females. Correspondence course.

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