We all dream of a great physique.
All of us want to have the perfect body.
We each have a certain image of ourselves, whether it is lean and muscular, slim and toned, or in need of improvement.
Personally I’ve been on a mission to better myself for the last few years and have recently started to lift weights.
No, I’m not into body building as we all perceive it.
I don’t aspire to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and yet, I love the challenge of doing something that is physically difficult and persevering at it.
If we stop for a minute and really think about what body building means, it really does not have to equate to huge muscles.
In my search to understand how muscles are built, I thought what better way but to bring you along on my journey of knowledge and enlightenment
We’ve all heard that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights because they’ll get bulky and look like men.
The Differences of Muscle Growth in Women vs. Men
Is this truth or myth?
Muscle building for women is misleading…
Being that I’m of the female gender, I’m going to focus this article on weight lifting and how it affects muscle growth, particularly in women vs. men.
Here are the facts: there are 650 skeletal muscles in the human body.
When we work out/lift weights, we rip muscle.
Muscle growth actually occurs not during the workout itself but after, during rest time. Muscle grows by repairing itself and creating new muscle protein strands called myofibrils.
These new muscle strands increase in thickness and quantity to create muscle growth.
There are three steps to building muscle:
- Muscle Tension
- Muscle Damage
- Metabolic Stress
1) Muscles Tension is acquired by progressively increasing the weight, which you are working out with.
This additional weight spurs muscle growth.
2) Muscle Damage is signaled by the soreness you feel after your workout, typically the next day.
When you feel sore you know that you worked your muscles with enough tension that it created damage, which now needs to repair.
3) Metabolic Stress is the point of working out when you start to feel the burn, without the burn you most likely are not putting enough weight resistance/tension on your muscles and you won’t get to the second step, muscle damage.
Working out and doing a good amount of repetitions until you feel the burn is important in building muscle.
Now as far as bulking up and looking like a man, a woman simply can’t, and this is due to hormones.
Testosterone, a male hormone that is responsible for bigger muscle growth and though women do have some testosterone, the amount is so low that women simply cannot grow big muscles like men.
However, that does not mean that a woman cannot look muscular and I believe that this is where the misconception comes from.
Many women don’t want to have very defined muscles and that’s where semantics come in.
I personally would like to maintain some softness and not be too muscular, although there is, of course nothing wrong with that for those of us who would prefer such a physique.
It all comes down to what you are going for, if you want to look slim but soft do lower weights and more repetitions and for those who want a more defined, sculpted look go for a heavier weight and less repetitions.
Now keep in mind that heavy is relative and what might be heavy for one is not for another.
Make sure you choose a weight that is heavy for you.
For a softer look you should be able to do 3 sets with 15-20 repetitions. For a more sculpted look aim for 8-12 repetitions with 4-5 sets.
Observe Wisely and Implement More than Weights
What I have taken away from all this research is to do what feels good to me.
I love to lift weights and that’s what I would like to do, I enjoy the challenge and the ability to grow in strength and that’s what drives and empowers me.
I’m careful to look at my progress objectively and if I notice something changing not to my liking I can always alter and change up my routine.
The most important thing is to stay healthy and active.
Whatever you do is better than doing nothing.
If you are not seeing the desired outcome take a look at your diet.
Stay tuned for my next article on eating clean and how nutrition impacts fitness results.
After all, only 30% of the results we attain is due to fitness and the rest is all about nutrition!
Marina is a 34 year old writer by passion and mother of 2 who loves to stay in shape and views exercise not just as a physical form of staying healthy but as an essential way to maintain spiritual balance in life. Marina lives in New York, NY and works as a Digital Media Director by day. Though she has a busy schedule, Marina exercises regularly, she is health and nutritionally conscious and raises her kids to follow her lead. Marina’s Healthy Living Blog can be found here Instagram: Marina007s