Connect
To Top


Women, Lifting and Big, Masculine Muscles


Q: My boyfriend wants me to start bodybuilding, but I don’t want to develop big muscles. How can I get fit, lean and athletic but without becoming masculine?

A: Many women are unwilling to get into bodybuilding because they fear that they will develop big muscles. That concern is unfounded, and it prevents them from enjoying the extensive benefits that bodybuilding produces.

Women’s bodybuilding has changed dramatically over the past 30 years or so. For example, check out photos online of Tonya Knight, a star in the ’80s and early ’90s. At the time she was a leading competitive bodybuilder, but her physique back then probably wouldn’t place in the top three in a top-level figure show today.

The same applies to even bigger-name female bodybuilders from that era—for example, Rachel McLish, who won the inaugural Ms. Olympia in 1980, and Anja Langer, who was second in the ’88 Ms. O.

While few women outside of the world of competitive bodybuilding like the look of today’s elite-level women bodybuilders, many athletically-minded women do like the type of bodies that Tanya, Rachel and Anja displayed. Once drugs became endemic in women’s bodybuilding, the level of muscle development increased dramatically.

Few women can develop big muscles even if they want to. Few women have the genetically determined characteristics required for bodybuilding to yield big muscles.

Women are limited in strength and muscle size because of their hormones. They lack the large quantities of testosterone that produce many of the male characteristics. Furthermore, women generally have wider hips and narrower shoulders than men, have a higher bodyfat percentage and carry most of their fat around their hips and thighs.

A tiny number of women have narrow hips, above-average testosterone production, longer muscle bellies than is typical for women and little bodyfat. When highly trained, they may develop the Tanya-, Rachel- or Anja-type bodies—and when further enhanced by sufficient bodybuilding drugs, they may achieve the extreme development seen in women’s bodybuilding today.

For the great majority of women, however, the development of big muscles is an impossibility.

If you’re a woman who has an unusual potential for developing muscle but you don’t want to realize it, build the degree of muscle you’re satisfied with, and then just maintain it. Don’t pursue greater mass. Focus on other components of overall physical fitness.

Women should train for strength and muscle. Even a little additional muscle can improve appearance greatly and yield substantial health benefits, and additional strength has many practical benefits.

Aerobics is overrated—it won’t do—and tinkering with bands and tiny dumbbells won’t either. You need serious bodybuilding for serious benefits.

Most readers of this column are men, but the instruction I promote is just as relevant for women.

Women should train hard on basic exercises—squats (or parallel-grip deadlifts), conventional deadlifts, bench presses, parallel-bar dips (the machine version if freestyle aren’t possible), overhead presses, rows and chins (or pulldowns if chins aren’t possible).

The provisos are that you use correct exercise technique, keep your training sessions brief, do them just two or three times per week, and fully satisfy the components of recuperation. Then you can build ever-greater strength. Of course, the same provisos apply to men as well.

—Stuart McRobert
www.Hardgainer.com

 

Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse, (800) 447-0008 or www.Home-Gym.com.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in Latest

  • Add Power And Size To Your Shoulders

    A routine sure to bulk you up! By Heather Neff, CPT   Want bolder, stronger shoulders with better definition? You came...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 18, 2017
  • 5 Step Guide To Successful Time Management!

    These tips will ensure nothing gets in the way of succeeding with your workout goals. By Kris Gethin   In this...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 17, 2017
  • Total Knockout!

    You already fell for Lindsay Christiansen with one simple glance. Are you man enough to dive into who she really is?...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 16, 2017
  • 9 Reasons To Take Branched-Chain Amino Acids

    If you are serious about your physique, you'll seriously want to give this supplement a look. By Sarah Butcher   BCAA:...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 16, 2017
  • The Spartan Chest Workout

    Add size and definition to your chest with this next level chest workout. By Raphael Konforti MS, CPT   History tells...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 13, 2017
  • Massive Gains From Head To Toe

    A total body overload plan for virtually guaranteed hypertrophy. By Sarah L. Chadwell, NASM-CPT   Broscience states that lifting heavy junk...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 13, 2017
  • Danny Hester: King of Consistency

    If you want results, you do the work. If you want to be one of the fittest men on the planet...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 12, 2017
  • Berry Blast!

    Make this shake for more power, greater gains and to boost your entire body into a muscle-building machine! By Maria Romano...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 12, 2017
  • LEMON CHICKEN (GRILLED!)

    Tired of the same old chicken? Try this new take on the old standard from the comfort of your grill. By...

    Sharon OrtigasOctober 11, 2017