Increased Muscle ToneA primary reason that women strength train is to increase muscle tone, but rarely do people think about what the term really means. Increasing muscle tone involves reducing the layer of fat covering muscle tissue, while maintaining, or increasing muscle mass. Weight training has been shown to increase fat loss, but only in training programs using lower repetition ranges and higher weights than women are typically prescribed.
Fear of Bulking UpA commonly held belief is that women who lift heavier weights will become bulky and look like female bodybuilders. On the contrary, lifting weights at recommended intensity levels has been shown to increase fat loss and decrease muscle loss while dieting. Since, muscle is more dense than fat, women who strength train while attempting to lose weight actually get less bulky. The fear of becoming bulky and looking like a female bodybuilder is largely unfounded as women do not naturally have the testosterone levels to achieve such a high degree of muscularity.
Weight Training for WomenThe American College of Sports Medicine recommends that beginning trainees do a variety of exercises working all major muscle groups 2 to 3 times per week using weights in the 8 to 12 repetition range. Beyond the first 6 months of a training program, the recommendation changes to also include some heavier work at lower repetition ranges. As trainees increase strength and are able to lift one or two repetitions more than the goal range with the same load, more weight should be added to the exercise in question.
Weight Training Potential In WomenWomen have the same potential as men for gaining strength and greater strength means more muscle tone. Women have less absolute strength then men, simply because they have an average of 40% less muscle than the average man, but relative strength increases occur at the same rate as for men under the same training recommendations.
If women’s fitness magazines targeting a mainstream female audience are any indication, it is not as culturally acceptable for women to lift heavier weights as it is for men. Increased fat loss and muscle tone are awaiting women who are willing to break out of the cultural norms and increase weight training intensity levels to research-proven levels.