Myth: Don’t lift, you are going to look like a man!
If you train like a man, lift too heavy or too much, you will look like this sexy blonde above… NOT. Maybe if you use steroids.
If I had a $1 for every time someone made a concerned comment regarding my lifting habits and how it will turn me into the opposite sex, I’d have me some new boobs by now.
The Nitty Gritty:
- Common misconception of heavy lifting for women- it takes years for woman to build large amounts of muscle naturally to even begin to look super human buff.
- Testosterone’s (T) responsibility for secondary sex characteristics- T is responsible for facial hair, a deep voice and muscle mass as well as libido, energy levels and bone strength. T ‘s role in woman include the latter 4; lean muscle mass, libido, energy levels and bone strength.
- Testosterone levels in men and woman- Both men and women produce T but men have 17x more T than woman,
- Lifting toward your goal- Your goal will dictate how you train. Individualizing a diet and workout routine is a must to achieve your goals. See examples.
- Benefits of lifting- Muscle burns calories, more muscle= more burned calories! Increase bone density, confidence and Independence.
Really, this is a true concern and common misconception for many, many people. Even my husband, whom I thought knew better. One of the first things my husband said to me when I approached him about figure competitions was the fact that I would look like a man. He got that look on his face where he puts up a wall and has made his decision in his head that I cannot sway. I thought, shit, if I don’t have his support, I know I can’t do this. This is a lifestyle. It’s a lot of work, time, food prep, working out! He has to be on board with this endeavor before I embark!
At any rate, it didn’t take me long to convince him that he was wrong and obtain his full support. Then, I had to deal with family and friends constantly saying “your not going to look like a man are you?” or, “don’t lift too much, you will look like a man.” What ev. It takes years for natural bodybuilding woman (those not using anabolic steroids) to build the amount of muscle they have. Yes, some can lose their femininity over years of beast mode iron action depending on body types and such, but overall, lifting like a beast gets you some sexy curves!
IFBB Pro Figure Competitor
Why is it that Mindi does not look like a man after lifting year after year? Let’s first talk about hormones, your bodies chemical messengers. The fantastic molecules that affect:
- Growth and development
- Sexual function
Testosterone’s responsibility for secondary sex characteristics
Let’ s focus specifically on Testosterone. When you hear testosterone, you think “man”. And for good reason. Testosterone is responsible for men’s secondary sex characteristics among other important functions including:
- Deeper voice
- Facial and chest hair
- Energy levels
- Bone strength
- Building muscle mass
Women also produce testosterone which is important for:
- Energy levels
- Bone strength
- Building muscle mass
And there it is, building muscle mass! Testosterone is one major factor for building muscle mass. If both men and woman produce testosterone, and it helps to build muscle, then I will for sure look like a dude if I lift!! …. WRONG!
Testosterone levels in men and women
ng/dl of testosterone
Average ng/dl testosterone
This is a big difference! Men, on average, have about 17 times more testosterone than the average woman! Dayum! For this reason, men can make big gains (gain muscle) in a much shorter time period than women ever could. It takes natural figure and physique woman years to build that muscle they need to be competitive. Sure, some women lose their femininity with muscle mass but again, that is after years of lifting, or their juiced. Once you reach your desired muscle mass, adjust your program, but don’t stop strength training.
Lifting towards your goal
Now lets talk about workout programs. Tailoring your program to your goals such as gaining size, gaining strength, add some curves, fat loss, increasing fitness and so on will dictate how you train. Hours of cardio will not get you that shapely body you are so hoping for. It will get you a flat butt! So, you will definitely need to add some weight lifting to your routine to avoid being classified as that “skinny fat” girl. While genetics can play a role in how fast or slowly you gain muscle, nutrition and training will affect your outcome.
For example, a person trying to build muscle for size lifts differently than a person wanting to increase strength or lose fat.
In general, there are different repetition ranges to perform exercises within with a challenging weight depending on your goal and fitness level.
- 1-5 reps = Strength
- 6-12 = Hypertrophy (size)
- 12+ = Endurance
Example 1: Isolating leg muscle groups for size
This day would be part of a more advanced program working each muscle group 2x per week. This puts you in the gym 6x per week.
- Squat : 4 sets. 6-12 repetitions each set
- Leg Extensions: 3 sets. 6-12 repetitions each set
- Smith Machine Lunges: 4 sets. 6-12 repetitions each set
- Cable Hamstring Curl: 3 sets. 6-12 repetitions each set
- Calf raises: 4 sets
- Abs: super-set- hanging knee raises, floor crunch, bosu ball crunch
Example 2: Full body Day
This day would be a part of a beginner program working full body 3x per week to build muscle.
- warm up
- Leg Press Machine: 3 sets. 10-15 reps
- Squat Machine: 3 sets. 10-15 reps
- Chest Press Machine: 3 sets. 10-15
- Should Press Machine: 3 sets. 10-15 reps
- Back Row Machine: 3 sets. 10-15 reps
Example 3: Bikini girl workout
This workout would be a part of a bikini competitor workout for back, biceps and plyometrics.
- 4x 15 Lat Pull Downs
- 3x 15 Seated Cable Row
- 3x 15 Supported Back Extensions with weight
- 4x 15 Dumbbell Curls
- 4x 15 Hammer Curls
- 4x 50 Ski’s
- 4x 20 Lunge-jumps
- 4x 20 Squat-jumps
The type of training program over time that you use will affect your goals and should be appropriate to your experience level. Here are some examples of weekly splits:
Lift each muscle group 1x per week in the same rep ranges:
Great for a beginners having lifted less than 2 years. Do 3-4 exercises per muscle group in the same rep range.
- Sun: Legs 8-12 rep range for all sets
- Tue: Shoulder + abs 8-12 rep range
- Wed: Back + biceps 8-12 rep range
- Fri: Chest + triceps 8-12 rep range
Lifting more volumes in differing rep ranges
This is a good program for those that have lifted more than 2 years and less than 5 years (ish). Lift each muscle group 2x per week, 3-4 exercises per muscle group, 3-4 sets for a high rep day and heavy day.
- Sun: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps 15-20 rep range for all sets
- Mon: Legs + abs 15-20 rep range
- Tue: Back/Biceps 6-8 rep range
- Wed: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps 6-8 rep range
- Thurs: Legs + abs 6-8 rep range
- Fri: off
- Sat:Back/Biceps 15-20 rep range
High volume hitting all rep ranges
This is great for advanced lifters that have been lifting about 5 years or more. This can also be a great way to bring up weaker areas, say the shoulders and legs where you lift shoulders and legs 3x per week hitting all rep ranges and other muscle groups only 2 times per week. Here are some examples. Also see daily undulating periodization (DUP).
- Sun: Squat, bench, deadlift, shoulder press 8-12 rep range
- Tue: Squat, bench, deadlift, shoulder press 15-30 rep range
- Thur: Squat, bench, deadlift, shoulder press 1-3 rep range
- Fri: Accessory lifts
- Sun: Chest, Back and Legs 8-12 rep range
- Mon: Shoulders and Arms 8-12 rep range
- Tue: Chest, Back and Legs 15-30 rep range
- Wed: Shoulders and Arms 15-30 rep range
- Thur: Chest, Back and Legs 1-3 rep range
- Fri: Shoulders and Arms 1-3 rep range
- Sat: Off
The possibilities and combinations are endless. There is a wide range of things you can do to add to your program to increase strength and or size based on your experience level and goals. Set your goal and stick to it!
Other benefits of lifting
Muscle burns more calories: The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Fat does nothing but hang out on your ass jiggling around. Muscle actually serves a function in your body and must utilize calories to function, thus helping you to getting leaner and stay lean.
Increase bone density: Many studies show that lifting weight regularly can increase bone density. This is extremely important, especially as you age.
Confidence: Strong woman radiate confidence. This comes from looking good, feeling strong and independent and accomplishing impressive feats in the gym.
Independence: Being and feeling strong makes all sorts of things easier… lifting furniture, carrying groceries, changing a tire or pushing your car into the driveway if it stalls. 😀
There, a basic overview of your lack of testosterone as a female and why you won’t look like big foot if you lift!
So, pick up those weights and lift like a beast!
OMG, this is a great article. Good info and I got a few laughs out of it!
This is great! I have to forward this to some friends of mine that were hatin on my for lifting like I do!
I love this. When I first got into competing, so many people said…don’t lift too much…your going to look like a dude…haters. I’ve gotta forward this to my friends.
Yeah, I don’t know, I had a friend who started lifting heavy and I swear she got kinda manly. I don’t believe this junk.
Well, if we are talking about you, you can always adjust your program once you have reached your desired muscularity lifting in the higher rep range to maintain lean body mass while burning calories. Keep in mind too much cardio will deplete that muscle. If we are talking about your friend; be supportive. 🙂 If she wants to be a totally strong woman, don’t hate.
Have you ever taken a look at the girls who squat? There are definitely some physique women and crossfitters that take things to extreme, but more lean muscle in the right places not only looks good but helps keep us healthy.