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Will weight training give me big muscles if I am a woman?

Dr. Rovenia Brock, PhD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Most of the women I know (from my practice, sitting in TV audiences, and the scores that I meet as I travel the country) are concerned about weight or strength training. They think that picking up weights during a workout will make their delicate female bodies resemble that of a bodybuilder. Think again. Female bodies naturally contain more fat (for childbearing). The upside is that building muscle will help you burn fat faster and get the toned body that makes you look and feel younger. As for the bodybuilding effect, forget about it! You’d have to work day and night and take mammoth amounts of various supplements to even begin to look like the bodybuilding women in the magazines and pictures that intimidate you. So, relax. But do pick up weights!

No matter how much weight training you do, women will ultimately have less muscle mass and about 30% less strength than males. That’s just physiologically the way it is and involves the upper body more than the lower body. The cross-sectional muscle mass in males is 60% to 85% more than what the average female has and that is just something we can’t overcome.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Obi Obadike
Fitness Specialist

It is a myth that lifting weights will give women big muscles. Weight-training will help you burn more calories throughout the day, and there is no way that a woman can get bulky unless she is consuming a high amount of calories on top of lifting very heavy weight. But lifting weights will help women tone up their body and at the same time help them burn calories which in turn will help you drop-body-fat. Weight-training is so important for all sexes whether you are a woman or a man for helping you build a lean, toned and symmetrical physique.

David Buer
Fitness Specialist

Weight training on it’s own won’t make a woman appear bulky or overly large. A woman won’t end up with big, oversized muscles unless she trains for it. She would need to significantly increase her calorie, protein and supplement intake and follow an intense training program specifically designed to increase muscle size.

That said, a woman’s body shape and size is very influenced by genetics. Some women can be naturally predisposed to develop larger muscles, but even so, their bodies don’t produce the amount of testosterone needed to build man-sized bulk.

Weight training results depend on a woman’s fitness goals, what the program she follows is designed to do and the diet she follows. A program that focuses on total-body workouts, plus cardio training, can help a woman achieve a toned, lean physique.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.