29 Oct 5 Reasons Why Women Need Muscle
If there’s one piece of advice we had for women wanting to improve their bodies, it’s this:
Women need to embrace gaining muscle.
It’s still baffling to hear from various media sources aimed at women that gaining muscle will make you bulky and quickly morph you into a female bodybuilder. It couldn’t be anything further from the truth, and if it really was that easy to ‘get bulky’, you’d see a lot more guys walking around with some muscle!
It’s also worth bearing in mind that women have about 10 times less testosterone than men, so their hormonal environments are not set up to build the levels of muscle mass men are potentially able to.
For this reason, our constant mantra of progressive overload with perfect form is arguably even more applicable for women to adhere to, given the hormonal disadvantage to building muscle.
Women shouldn’t be scared by the idea of gaining muscle. Instead, they should embrace it, and enjoy all the benefits that we’re going to discuss in this article.
1. You’ll Be ‘Toned’
Almost every female client we work with starts off by telling us they want to be ‘toned’.
The issue with this is that there’s no such thing as ‘toning’. A muscle can only either hypertrophy (grow) or atrophy (shrink). It can’t ‘tone’. The ‘toned’ look that women desire is having a combination of a low enough level of body fat to see muscle definition, along with enough muscle there to begin with! In reality, the ‘I want to be more toned’ statement really translates to ‘I want more muscle!’
The problem though, is that many women still have a poor association with muscle mass, and believe that more muscle means looking like a bodybuilder. But it doesn’t work like that.
A question we like to ask is: do you want to look skinny? Or do you want to look lean, strong and defined?
There’s a difference. And in order to achieve the latter, which can also be labelled as ‘toned’, then you need to embrace the process of building muscle.
This means a sensible weight training program coupled with a diet that’s geared towards body composition. What typically occurs instead is that women who want to ‘tone’ will begin a plan with no weight training, low calories and minimum protein. All that happens to them is they look skinny with no definition anywhere.
So if you want firm glutes with shape, shoulders and arms with ‘contours’ and definition, and a strong midsection, then you need to build muscle! A nice bonus is that you’ll look and feel healthy!
2. You Can Eat More Food
This is a game changer for many of our clients. Every woman (and guy for that matter) would love to be able to eat more without gaining body fat.
Without intentionally being more active in the day, the best way to do this is to add muscle! Remember, your body mass, and specifically the amount of muscle mass you carry has a direct correlation with how many calories you expend daily.
Muscle is very costly on your energy (caloric) demands. While the exact number of calories burned per extra pound of muscle is difficult to quantify, the real take home is that the more can ‘invest’ in your body to create a ‘bigger engine’, the more benefits you’ll be able to reap.
The best example of this is in the seasoned lifter, who is able to consistently able to diet on more and more calories with less cardio each time she decides to drop body fat.
This isn’t because she’s learnt how to diet better; it’s because she’s spent time building muscle in between! Now her metabolic rate at rest is higher, and perhaps more importantly, she’s able to apply more intensity in to her training. More loads, better mind muscle connection and more stress / damage to the body within each session. This combines to dramatically increase their caloric output, even if on paper, they’re doing the same thing.
Another example of the effect of muscle mass is in a couples’ scenario. Have you ever noticed how the guy can always seem to get away with more junk food?
The two could share share a pizza over the weekend. The guy’s bodyweight stays the same, but the girl’s increases 2-3 lbs overnight, with a few hundred grams sticking.
Not fair, we know… but as a woman, being naturally lighter in body mass than a man means your calorie demands won’t be as high. So if you want to eat pizza without gaining body fat, focus on adding muscle!
3. Injury Prevention
Muscle mass isn’t only for looking good. It’s also a critical part of being able to move and function optimally.
With our growing sedentary culture, and the increasing number of complaints of back, knee, shoulder and neck pain, one of the best ways to counter this is to build more muscle.
The big culprit at the root of these issues is sitting. We all sit down far too much. And if you’re also guilty of this while being weak and untrained through the glutes, they’re not going to function at their best at any given task.
For example, when you’re doing a hip-hinge based movement such as a deadlift, rather than the glutes doing most of the work to drive the hips forward, your lower back compensates for the weakness and takes up a lot of the slack.
When you combine this with everyday tasks done wrong, it’s no surprise it can be so easy to blow your back out.
Instead, if you were to focus on building muscle mass through a well structure, balanced training program, your muscles will learn to coordinate with each other and function in unison. Muscles suffering from ‘amnesia’ will remember how to work again, and the imbalances you’ve picked up will start to iron out.
4. You’ll Be Strong
Having introduced many women to the power of weight training, the one common piece of feedback we receive is how much stronger, empowered and confident they feel.
Much of this comes from being able to perform cool feats of strengths in the gym. While the by-product of lifting progressively heavier is extra muscle mass, and the lean, defined look that comes with it, the real benefit ultimately ends up being the way it makes you feel.
There’s nothing quite like deadlifting well over your bodyweight for reps off the floor. Or pressing a big weight over your head. Or one of our favourites, going from zero to multiple reps of weighted chin ups!
Speaking of which, have you read this article here?
Or seen this video?!
The initial draw to weight training for women is to improve how they look, but eventually it’s a great idea to come away from that and focus on using it to get strong, and setting personal bests.
It’s so critical to have this shift in mindset from focusing on aesthetics, to focusing on performance. Otherwise what tends to happen is once they hit a certain body fat percentage, dress size or look, one of two things happens: 1) they keep pushing for ‘more’, often at their own detriment, or 2) they hit their goal, feel lost, relax too much, and end up back at square one.
To help this mindset shift, it’s important to pick some ‘indicator’ lifts and set targets to achieve with them.
In the short run, they get the psychological relief of not chasing aesthetics as well as working towards some fun strength goals.
In the long run, this also improves their physique! Remember, the best way to build muscle mass is to apply progressive overload with perfect form. So by constantly setting and achieving their strength goals, you’re killing two birds with one stone.
5. Improving Bone and Cardiac Health
This is a benefit that may not be a reason many of you will be thinking about, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Especially when you consider women are far more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Weight training won’t only build muscle, but will dramatically increase bone strength and density; a benefit you don’t get from cardio exercise alone.
Another by-product of weight training will also be to strengthen and improve cardio muscle performance, as well as to drive improvements in blood pressure, resting heart rate and even blood lipids.
Every woman should embrace building muscle. Not only for the physique benefits, but for the strength, mindset and overall health improvements that come from building muscle and weight training overall.
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