Resistance Training Myths of Female Athletes

There is no doubt that physiological differences between males and females exist. However, up until puberty there is no difference in height, weight and body size. It is not until the development of estrogen or testosterone that these changes occur. A common misconception, female resistance training programs should be different than male resistance training programs. Females are often worried about getting “bulky” or loosing flexibility, these are misperceptions. An accurate resistance training program should focus developing the muscles whether male or female.

The physiological characteristics present in a female muscle are the same in muscles of a male. No significant difference exists between males and females, when strength is expressed relative to muscles cross-sectional area. This tells us that muscle quality is not sex specific. Females have the same if not greater percent of strength gains as men with resistance training. Short term gains in hypertrophy of the cross-sectional area of the muscle are similar in the sexes. Females need to incorporate resistance training into their programs to reduce the probability of injury and to help develop their musculoskeletal strength. Adding a clean or a snatch in a female’s resistance training can help better their performance in a sport because adaptations from the muscle mass and multi-joint exercises transfer to the sport. So next time you are at the fitness center and go for the 3 lb weights, ask yourself what your goals are. Does using the 3 lb weights fit more into what you are trying to accomplish, or are the myths getting in the way?

References: Baechle, Thomas R., Roger W Earle. “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning Third Edition”. Human Kinetics. 2008.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Women perpetuating the myth of getting too “bulky” is one of the most frustrating things out there, they just don’t realise that muscle gains come so slowly that they can easily stop. It’s even worse when the women are obese and therefore already “bulked” lol.


  2. […] The ‘firm & tone’ myth usually coincides with the myth that lifting weights causes women to get “huge” muscles. Generally two things cause this: extreme volume of training and the more likely culprit, steroids. See Jocelyn’s article on this here Resistance Training Myths of Female Athletes. […]


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