Heavy Weights Don’t Bulk Up the Female Athlete
So maybe you’ve heard about CrossFit from a friend and they told you that we lift weights alot. But, you don’t want to get “Buff”. These reasons are for those of you who are worried about putting on the least amount of muscle for fear that you might look too bulky, eat little meals frequently to keep your metabolism high and snack on the Nabisco 100 calorie packs all day, while indulging yourself from a long week with wine on the weekends. These are taken from the “Top 10 Reasons -Heavy Weights Don’t Bulk Up the Female Athlete” by the people at the Athlete Forum from an interview strength and conditioning coaches at VCU.
If you look at most of the top female CrossFit athletes they don’t look like the picture to the right. CrossFit just doesn’t build athletes like this. That would take hours upon hours..years of resistance training and some artificial ingredients. You will lift weights here but it wont be enough to cause the hypertrophy you see here. We are simply building your strength and increasing your work capacity. You will gain some muscle tone which most people would like to have anyways.
Women do not have nearly as much testosterone as men. In fact, according to Bill Kreamer in Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men. Testosterone is the reason men are men and women are women. After men hit puberty, they grow facial hair, their voice deepens, and they develop muscle mass. Because men have more testosterone, they are much more equipped to gain muscle. Because women do not have very much testosterone in their bodies, they will never be able to get as big as men.
The perception that women will bulk up when they begin a strength training program comes from the chemically-altered women on the covers of bodybuilding magazines. These “grocery stand models” are most likely pumped full of some extra juice. This is why they look like men. If you take the missing link that separates men from women and add it back in, what do you have? A man!
For women, toning is what happens when the muscle is developed through training. This is essentially bodybuilding without testosterone. Since the testosterone is not present in sufficient amounts, the muscle will develop, but it won’t gain a large amount of mass. The “toned” appearance comes from removing the fat that is covering a well-develo ped muscle.
Heavy weights will promote strength not size. This has been proven time and time again. When lifting weights over 85 percent, the primary stress impo
sed upon the body is placed on the nervous system, not on the muscles. Therefore, strength will improve by a neurological effect while not increasing the size of the muscles.
And, according to Zatsiorsky and Kreamer in Science and Practice of Strength Training, women need to train with heavy weights not only to strengthen the muscles but also to cause positive adaptations in the bones and connective tissues.
What the personal trainer is prescribing is not working. Many female athletes come into a new program and say they want to do body weight step-ups, body weight lunges, and leg extensions because it’s what their personal trainer back home had them do. However, many of these girls need to look in a mirror and have a reality check because their trainer’s so-called magical toning exercises are not working. Trainers will hand out easy workouts and tell people they work because they know that if they make the program too hard the client will complain. And, if the client is complaining, there’s a good chance the trainer might lose that client.
For a great article from the CrossFit Journal with more pictures of strong CrossFit women check out “Strength and Beauty”
WU: “Basline” 500m row, 40 squats, 30 situps, 20 pushups, 10 pullups
6 Minutes (clock doesn’t stop). As many reps as possible in a minute of the following movements:
- Ring Dips
- Hang Squat Snatch (75#/45#)
- Hand Stand Pushups (1 ab mat women)
- Golblet Squats (55#/35#)
- Tuck jumps
- “Games” Push Ups
Level III: rx, 75/45, rx (1 abmat women), 53/35
Leve II: bar dips, 55/35, box hspu, 35/20
Level I: box dips, 35/18, box hspu, 20/12.5