Female Strength and Conditioning Myths and Facts

Female Strength and Conditioning..Dispelling the Myths

Resistance training does not cause females to get bulky. After working with many female athletes, that is one of the biggest concerns that I run into.  Let me dispel that myth right now.  Girls were not created to get bulky, and performing a sports performance program will not make you the next Ms. Universe.  

Here's the short and sweet version on resistance training:

1.) Girls's weren't created to get bulky

2.) We don't produce enough testosterone or growth hormone to get massive muscles

3.) Lifting will improve your performance significantly

4.) Lifting will greatly decrese your chance of injury

Now let me expand on those points. We can go back and track the process of muscle growth, especially during puberty.  Puberty is the turning point where boys start producing more testosterone, growth hormone, and other hormones while girls start producing more estrogen and other female specific hormones.  Guys start developing their manly physiques because testosterone and growth hormone play a large role in increasing muscle mass and strength. On the other hand, we females don’t produce a whole lot of testosterone, so we are unable to build muscle mass to the same extent or get very bulky.  Strength gains will happen, but huge muscles will not develop with out specifically training for this and, oftentimes, some sort of drug. 

If you were to look at various female athletes, it is evident that there are some differences in body type.  Basketball players tend to be leaner and lankier.  Gymnasts tend to be short, stocky, and have thick legs.  Swimmers tend to be fairly built with broad shoulders, defined backs, and toned legs.  Volleyball players tend to be well developed in their back sides; you could say they have some junk in their trunks.  These developmental differences are due to the training regimens of different sports.  Volleyball players have bigger behinds because they jump a lot; swimmers have large lats because they need developed upper bodies to swim faster; and gymnasts are more built because they need to be powerful.  Yes, some of these differences are due to the fact that if you are a 6’4’’ female, you may tend to favor sports like basketball or volleyball. 

When starting a strength and conditioning program, changes will definitely take place.  The soreness you feel after lifting is due to several different processes, but essentially your body is breaking down muscle and then rebuilding it to make it stronger.  The same process takes place in guys, however, they can rebuild their muscles to gain much more size and mass then us gals can.  Our muscles will still get bigger, but bigger doesn’t mean bulkier.  Oftentimes, we carry around a little more excess fat so performing a strength program can help to eliminate some of this fat and actually build muscle.  This leads to a leaner look, not bulkier look.  You will see some females who are able to put on unnatural amounts of muscle, such as body builders, but these ladies train specifically for this and usually take various supplements.

Our programs at 1RM Performance are designed to build both male and female athletes.  The strength portion of 1RM is a huge part of the program because you will see huge gains in performance following just a few weeks of resistance training.  Things like sprint speed, explosiveness, vertical jump and first step quickness can all be increased through lifting.  If you are a female athlete looking to outperform your teammates, a proper lifting program could be exactly what you need.        

If improving your sport performance isn’t enough for you, let’s talk about injury prevention.  The second myth in regards to resistance training is that athletes are at an increased chance of injury when performing a program. Injury prevention is actually one of the biggest reasons to lift. Tons and tons of studies have shown a decrease in the chance of injury following 4-6 weeks of resistance training.  This is especially important for us girls since we are 3x more likely to suffer ACL injuries than guys.  

Sorry to break the news to you, but our female bodies are more susceptible to injury.  This is due to several reasons, one being the fact that we obviously have wider hips then our male counterparts.  Because of our wide hips we have a thing called a greater Q angle (the angle between our hips and knees).  This causes our knees to come in sometimes when we land, leading to knee injuries. Second, female athletes, tend to have weaker hamstrings when compared to their quadriceps (known as the H:Q ratio).  When this ratio is off, it puts a lot of extra strain on the ACL as well as the hamstrings.  This is where our lifting programs at 1RM Performance come into play.   If you can increase hamstring strength through hamstring specific exercises, and improve your body positioning when landing, then we can decrease your chance of knee injury.

Moral of the story? Just lift! Email us if you have some specific questions...