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Posted by Jean Baptiste on


Some women avoid strength training because they fear a marked increase in muscle mass. Here is a commonly heard phrase on this subject in the training room: “When I do too much weight training, I feel tighter in my jeans!” ". So, does bodybuilding training cause such a visible increase in muscle mass in those who practice it regularly as in men?

Increasing muscle mass in women

Researchers who attempted to measure the increase in muscle mass in women following prolonged fitness, crossfit or bodybuilding training over a period of 3 months or more. It turns out that the results were less clear than expected in that the scientists obtained different and absolutely not uniform results. Thus, some researchers did not measure any hypertrophy following a training program, while others only measured one for certain muscles and finally a third group of researchers measured an increase in volume. of all trained muscles. The measured gains in muscle mass have varied enormously depending on the studies, from 1 to 20%, a very significant difference. One certainty nevertheless remains: when women's gains are compared to those of men, they are relatively similar if expressed as a percentage of total muscle mass. In response to strength training on a regular basis, women can gain an average of 1 to 3 kg of muscle mass over a period of 4 to 6 months. At the same time, to the extent that men's muscle mass is approximately 1.5 times greater than women's, the muscle gain following training will be greater and therefore more visible in men. in theory.

Increasing muscle mass for beginners

Regardless of the frequency, duration and intensity of bodybuilding training, a bodybuilding, crossfit or fitness session will generally cause little increase in muscle mass during the first month of training for beginners. or the beginner (on the other hand, the muscle pain linked to these first sessions will be present, hence the interest for example in consuming BCAAs to facilitate the recovery of damaged muscle fibers in these first weeks). Despite this, an increase in strength is frequently observed from the first weeks of training. This is attributed to better synchrony between the muscles that contract during exercise and to an increased ability of the body to use a large number of muscle fibers during a contraction. This increase in strength is even greater if the athlete has taken creatine from the start of the first sessions . After this period, the increase in muscle mass may become more pronounced.

Increasing muscle mass, muscle fibers in action

Men usually have a greater number of muscle fibers from birth than women. This genetic difference partly explains the greater muscle mass of men. The difference in muscle mass between men and women may become greater following strength training, given a possible increase in volume of several muscle fibers. If it were possible to observe the increase in volume of a single muscle fiber in a woman and a man, there would probably not be a marked difference. However, hypertrophy would be more accentuated in men since they have more fibers. We are not all equal when it comes to fiber. It's not just the number of fibers that differs by gender. Some researchers suggest that women have a higher proportion of type I fibers. Type 1 fibers are those of endurance specialists, these fibers are less bulky than a type II fiber, the muscle fibers of sprinters and athletes focusing on explosiveness, and will gain less weight following bodybuilding training.

Increasing muscle mass, a question of hormones

The production of certain hormones that are partially responsible for muscle growth, such as testosterone, differs by gender. In men, testosterone is mainly produced by the testicles and, in smaller quantities, by the glands above the kidneys, the adrenals. Note that the tribulus found in particular in Vital LLR is a testosterone booster.

In women, testosterone is produced by the ovaries and adrenals. One of the reasons women have lower muscle mass is that the amount of testosterone circulating in the body is approximately 15 to 20 times less than men. In addition to having a lower concentration of testosterone at rest than men, women have only a small increase in the concentration of this hormone during and after training. An increase in testosterone, which is more frequent and greater in men during and after training, is considered by some specialists as a stimulus that more easily promotes muscle mass gain. However, there is currently no scientific consensus and several researchers question the importance of hormonal variations that follow training on hypertrophy. It is therefore necessary to be careful about the hormonal difference between men and women to explain the variation in mass gain.

Increasing muscle mass through training

As seen previously, the increase in muscle mass caused by training is less accentuated in women than in men due to differences in muscle fibers and, possibly, hormones. In addition, it is necessary to add certain training characteristics that the woman may favor and which can limit muscle growth. This is far from always being the case, but in general:

  • women favor cardiovascular training;
  • women who train in bodybuilding favor series of more than 12 repetitions;
  • women perform fewer sets requiring maximum effort;
  • women perform more targeted exercises. For example, the thigh adductor apparatus is more frequently used than a general exercise like the

Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that it is very rare for women to increase their consumption of calories and proteins in order to increase their muscle mass, unlike men who will not have difficulty favoring a high-protein diet, especially with a Whey shake or even a Gainer like IsoCarb . A woman will more naturally turn to a protein isolate, either from milk like IsoHwy , or a vegetable protein isolate, like VegPro , allowing her to limit the consumption of sugar and fat.

Bodybuilding and breast size.

Some women believe that weight training, particularly exercises targeting the chest muscles (the famous pecs) can reduce breast size. Others, on the contrary, believe that pectoral muscle strengthening exercises can firm the chest or even modify its support or shape. To fully understand the effects of weight training on the breast, it is essential to know its anatomy. Moving from superficial to deep, it is made up of skin, fat dotted with mammary glands, pectoral muscle and bones (the ribs and sternum). Once this quick anatomy has been done, we must re-establish a truth: muscular exercises have no direct effect on the size, shape or firmness of the breasts because the size of the breasts is determined by the quantity of fat inside. of these as well as by the volume of the mammary glands, which are not involved during crossfit, fitness or bodybuilding exercises. The myth that weight training reduces breast size probably has its source in female bodybuilders. In competition, they have an extremely low fat content, which significantly reduces the size of their breasts, but for a woman practicing her activity regularly, there will be no impact. A change may occur indirectly if training causes fat loss or when it creates the illusion of smaller breasts in those with high muscle mass. Changes in the support, shape and firmness of the breasts are mainly caused by aging, pregnancy, periods of breastfeeding and weight gain and loss. But the reality is that strength training cannot change the morphological characteristics of the breasts.

Very muscular women

Despite the anatomical and hormonal differences cited, some women have well-developed muscles. They may even have significantly more muscle mass than some men. In fact, for genetic reasons, some of them have a large number of muscle fibers and perhaps a larger proportion of type II fibers. Furthermore, they may also have higher testosterone and growth hormone levels than the average woman. Once again, each individual is different, with their own metabolism, their own hormonal balance, and some will gain weight more easily, while others will have difficulty gaining muscle mass despite regular training.

Bodybuilding, a source of benefits and positive effects for women

Strength training is too often associated with “big arms” and bodybuilding. While it is true that this type of training can promote muscle hypertrophy, it also has many health benefits. Moreover, some of these beneficial effects are even more important for women than for men. In fact, strength training can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a disease of which 80% of people affected are women. It is therefore important for them to regularly practice physical activities such as bodybuilding: the mechanical stress caused by loads on the skeleton stimulates the reconstruction of the bone and thus ensures the maintenance or increase of bone density. Combined with collagen taken regularly as a treatment for example, this deterioration of bone tissue will be much less significant thanks to the regular practice of this type of training. In addition, depending on the methods used and the exercises performed, strength training also improves balance, as well as coordination, muscular strength and endurance. These improvements reduce the risk of falls, which is the most common cause of fracture in women with osteoporosis.

Additionally, women will benefit more than men from gaining or maintaining muscle strength as they age. Since they are less strong than men, they are in fact more subject to a loss of functional autonomy caused by muscular weakness.

Of course, lifting weights also helps you maintain good physical shape and stay fit. With regular training, the body, which has a memory, will be less likely to gain excess pounds. Combining 2 to 3 daily workouts with a burner like Thermoshape will help maintain a lower BMI body mass index. Particularly for women over 45, this same practice of indoor sports with a burner drainer like Hydro Off will again have a huge impact on the figure, by firming the muscle fibers and eliminating excess water.

Just like men, women can benefit from several benefits of strength training, including:

  • an improvement in muscular qualities such as endurance, power, coordination or balance;
  • an increase in calorie expenditure caused by training;
  • a reduction in the risk of injuries thanks to the improvement of muscular qualities;
  • a slight reduction in the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis
  • improved sleep quality, mood, self-esteem, memory and attention.

In conclusion, in both men and women, bodybuilding training can lead to an increase in muscle mass, and fortunately so, because one of the main objectives! However, due to differences in muscle fibers and hormones, women will experience less hypertrophy after equivalent training sessions. It should be noted that in general, women's training choices are not focused on muscle size unlike men. Some women can still have impressive muscle mass if their heredity favors them in this direction and if they train frequently and intensely in bodybuilding. Besides hypertrophy, indoor training can serve other goals such as improving endurance, balance or coordination, greater energy expenditure, as well as maintaining or improving fitness. health. Training focused on these different objectives will cause, at most, a small increase in muscle mass in women, but will not have a significant impact on the figure. It will be very difficult to transform into a bodybuilder, however, this regular training will allow you to have a more harmonious figure, and possibly, to feel better in your body.

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