Testosterone and Strength Training in Women

Most women choose to neglect strength training due to the “bulk” factor. It is believed by some that lifting weights will cause a women’s muscle mass to grow or bulk, and therefore create a masculine figure. This is clearly a misunderstanding. The female physique will remain essentially the same, although some minor curves may change. These minor changes are for the better:

-slimmer waistline                                                           -defined arms and shoulders

-lower percent body fat                                                 -defined thighs and legs

These changes are due to a body composition transformation rather than the misconception of “testosterone building bulkiness.” Testosterone is present in the female body; however, due to the lack of receptors and direct production site of the hormone adaptations to resistance exercise plays only a minor role.

Women hold a 15-20 fold LOWER concentration of testosterone than men do. WOW! There have been studies that have shown changes in testosterone levels during strength training and correlated with muscle force production characteristics; although no significant increases were observed.

IN MEN there appears to be a relative intensity and volume threshold which must be reached to induce a testosterone response. For instance, 3 sets of 6 repetitions at 100% of 6RM (rep maximum) and 5 sets of 10 repetitions at 10RM both induced a significant testosterone increase. However, 70% of the RMs for both of those did not induce an increase in testosterone. This happens due to the presence of Leydig cells which women do not have! Leydig cells are the primary production site of testosterone and are located in the male gonads. “The absence of functioning [Leydig] cells dedicated to testosterone production and release prevents large acute increases in circulating testosterone in females…in response to exercise” (Vingren Et al 1039).

In conclusion, women should not fear strength and resistance training. Men hold the testosterone levels capable of creating a prominent response to resistance exercises, but women do not. So women get your lift on and confidently slim down!

References

National Strength and Conditioning Association. Essientials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Edited by Baechle, Thomas R., Earle, Roger W. (2008). Pages 49-56.

Vingren et al. (2010). Testosterone Physiology in Resistance Exercise and Training. Sports Med 2010: 40 (12) 1037-1053.

Article written by Michelle Knurr.  Michelle is available for personal training sessions at the Hosaeus Fitness Center located at Montana State University-Bozeman.  Contact Michelle today for more information!

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