How Women Build Muscle

There has long been a common misconception that women who engage in strength training will develop bulky muscles. However, thanks to ever-growing research reporting the benefits of working out with weights, women have begun incorporating resistance training into their workouts.

How our body responds to exercise and how we build muscle has less to with gender than it does our genetic makeup. Our DNA makeup determines what kind of muscle fibers we have and how they are distributed, our ratio of testosterone to estrogen, where we store body fat, and our body type. Body type plays a significant role in how you build muscle, and knowing how your body type responds to strength training can help you tailor your workout to maximize benefits.

Women generally fit into one of three body classifications, or are a combination of body types. Ectomorphs have slim, linear bodies, whereas endomorphs have rounded bodies and a tendency to have excess body fat, and mesomorphs have a more muscular build. Mesomorphs generally tend to build muscle mass faster from strength training than ectomorphs and endomorphs. In fact, ectomorphs are less likely to build muscle mass, but will gain strength from working with weights. Endomorphs generally need to decrease their body fat to notice a difference in shape or size resulting from strength training.

To gain strength, work with heavier weights and do fewer reps. If your goal is to tone, use lighter weights and increase the number of reps. And here’s an encouraging tidbit: According to the American Council on Exercise, most women will experience a 20-40% increase in muscle strength after several months of resistance training. So don’t be afraid to add some weights to your workout!


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