Strength Training for Women: Some Classic Myths

There’s no shortage of myths and misconceptions circulating around when it comes to the topic of strength training.  Frankly, it’s hard to believe that some of them still exist after all these years.  Many of them pertain to both men and women, but for this article I wanted to zero in on the ones that concern only the ladies – sorry gents!


Myth #1: Strength Training Will Make Women Bulky and Masculine

No – it’s a matter of Chemistry.  Women’s bodies simply don’t produce enough natural testosterone that itWoman Strength Training 2 takes to build large amounts of muscle.  Testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for packing on muscle mass.  And since the average woman produces about 5% to 10% of the amount of testosterone that males produce, developing large bulky muscles through strength training is highly unlikely to say the least.


However, there are some genetic differences among women that will cause some to increase muscle mass more than others, making them feel “bulky” – a higher testosterone level being one of them.  Eating far too many calories while strength training would be another reason a woman (or a man for that matter) might feel that way.  But unless a woman starts a regimen of regular testosterone injections (which I’m not endorsing!), no one will be mistaking her for the Incredible Hulk anytime soon.


Myth #2:  Women Should Strength Train Differently Than Men

Uh – no.  How one should strength train depends solely on their training goals – not gender.  However, there are strength-related anatomical differences between men and women.  Sorry ladies, but the average man is taller, heavier and has more lean muscle mass and less body fat than the average woman.  So what does this mean in terms of how women should approach strength training compared to men?  Absolutely nothing!


Let me explain.  Men are stronger because they naturally have more muscle mass (on average) – makes sense, right?  ButStrength Training Woman research shows that when you factor in the amount of lean muscle mass into the equation, the strength of men and women is nearly equal.  In other words, there’s practically no difference in strength between men and women who have an equal amount of lean muscle mass.  Other than the effect that testosterone has on muscle size, there’s not much difference between men and women in how their muscles respond to strength training.


Bottom line:  Strength training is an “equal opportunity” activity – there’s no reason for a woman to train any different than a man does when they both share the same strength training goals.  Squats, dead lifts, chin-ups and every other strength exercise staple are just as effective and appropriate for women as they are for men.  Go for it ladies!


Myth #3: Women Should Only Use Light Weights

More BS!  This one definitely ties into the first two myths.  And like those, it couldn’t be any further from the truth.  Whether you’re a man or a woman, you need to use resistances that challenge your muscles if you want to see results from strength training – plain and simple.  And for most women, performing strength exercises with 3 and 5 lb dumbbells for countless repetitions isn’t going to cut it.


You see, muscles adapt to the physical demands that you place on them.  So if you strength train using only very light weights, that’s what they’ll adapt to – nothing more, nothing less.  And unless your strength training goals are set very low, you’re probably not going to be very happy with your results.  Solution: You guessed it – use heavier weights!  It’s what you need to do so your body changes the way you want it to.


Myth #4: Older Women Shouldn’t Strength Train – They Might Get Hurt

Woman Strength Training 3Are you kidding me?  This one is probably the biggest crock of them all.  It’s especially critical for women to strength train as they get older.  It’s the stage of life where Mother Nature starts playing some real dirty tricks for which you better have a darn good counter punch for.  And in my opinion, there’s no better defense for the pitfalls of aging than a regular workout program that includes strength training.


The benefits of strength training for post-menopausal women are numerous and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to back it up.  Improvements in muscle and bone mass, strength, balance and a lower risk of falling are just some of the rewards that can be reaped by post-menopausal women through regular strength training – even into their 90’s!  It’s the best way to remain strong and independent throughout your entire life.

Note: Some women have medical issues and may have been advised by their doctor not to strength train.  That’s unfortunate, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m referring to healthy women believing (for whatever reason) that they’re just “too old” to strength train.  Don’t believe it – no matter what your age is!



I’m sure I missed one or two minor ones, but those are the top myths that have been floating around forever about women and strength training.  Sad to say, but I’ll bet they’re still the main reasons why some women are unable to achieve the results they were hoping to see from their strength training efforts.  Hopefully we can put these myths to rest for good!


I hope that helps,


P.S. Please leave a comment below – all opinions, questions and rants are welcome!

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2 Responses to Strength Training for Women: Some Classic Myths

  1. Martha Hutchinson November 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM #

    First, I want to thank you so much for your response to my question about the right balance of carbs, protein and fats for women over 55. It totally made sense and I agree with what you said. It just confirms what I have been working on with my clients.
    Also, I appreciate the “plug” for your blog and it is great! Thank you for writing about women and strength training.

    • Paul Thomas
      Paul Thomas November 25, 2014 at 5:15 PM #

      Hi Martha,

      You’re very welcome and thanks for checking out my site – I’m glad you liked it. Be sure to stop back and visit. I tend to slant everything towards the over 50 crowd (since that’s me!). You can’t go wrong with that macronutrient mix for most people – you’re definitely on the right track.

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