Author: Nikita Rungta, INFS Alumni and Visiting Faculty
Keywords: Women, Muscle fiber, Hormones, Training
There are lots of myths and misconceptions regarding weight training for females. The gym is still considered as a “male territory” and whenever a woman enters the weight area, you can clearly hear two types of opinions.
People either assume that women will turn into a she-hulk, or
that she can’t build muscles since she doesn’t have testosterone, the major muscle building hormone.
However, both these extremist opinions don’t hold any substance and clearly, these misconceptions have made resistance training a taboo for a lot of females.
There are numerous differences between male and female muscles and physiology, and we will discuss the main ones being the different muscle fiber type composition and hormones.
- Women have more Type 1 muscle fiber
This makes women highly resistant to fatigue and they perform better with higher volumes. It is important to note that the difference is in the muscle fiber type composition, however, there is no difference in how they gain both- muscles and strength. And even though type 1 muscle fiber type does not hypertrophy as much as type 2, its hypertrophy potential is hugely underestimated.
Research has proven that irrespective of the gender differences, a woman can gain strength at the same relative rate as men, the only difference lies in the starting point. Physiologically women have lower muscle mass compared on total body weight. Thus even if their relative muscle growth is the same, a 5% growth in muscle mass would mean higher overall muscle gain in kgs terms than the same 5% for women. Thus men usually have greater absolute muscle mass than females and can add more kgs of muscle mass from their starting weight. Nevertheless, size is hardly ever a woman’s pursuit in weight training unless they want to be on stage for competitions. Lifting weights will give a woman strength and slow but steady muscle gains.
2. Hormonal difference
A male body is ruled by testosterone hormone which helps him in muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. However, a female body is ruled by Estrogen hormone which aids in muscle repair and protects the bones and joints. Women’s muscle fibres are protected from breakdown and body focuses more on building than repairing, to put it crudely. Thus, independent of hormones, women are capable of getting as strong as men.
All they need to do is overcome this motivational barrier and the wall of stereotypes that hold them to reach their maximum potential.
Excerpt from a chapter in INFS Health Series for Women: ‘Girls Get Strong’ – which will be released very soon!
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