Can Women Get Big Like Men With Weight Training?

Hey there! This is T.C.

Hope you’re doing great . Today, this blog is about answering a question in an email  I got from one of my awesome boot camp girls about the possibility of women gaining huge chunky muscles. It’s a very common question I got from many girls in fact. Although I had covered about the Reasons Why Women Should Do Resistance Training To Lose More Weight, I think I did  not explain enough why women will find it hard to gain bulky muscle.

The email goes like this:


I have a question about training for you, and sorry I could not ask this morning, I generally need to get to work pretty quickly. I am a little concerned that I am going to get big shoulders and biceps from the push ups etc and wonder if there is an exercise that I can do that will still work my arms but less strength.  I feel like I could work my triceps more to even it all out. Sorry for such a picky question, seems silly I know but I’d really not like to get bigger in the shoulder/arm area. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

It’s a great question and a question like I said many women asked and worried about. As far as I know from training many women, I haven’t really come across anyone who wants to look buff and build like a bodybuilder. What most girls want are toned arms, tight waist, tight butt and tone skinny legs.

The Muscle-Building Belief…

The conventional belief is that for anyone who wants to gain huge muscles you must lift heavy and apparently maximal eccentric strength exercise training approach cause the most muscle damage compare to concentric phase of an exercise during strength training. Be it concentric or eccentric, the more muscle damage means more muscle tissue remodelling that results in bigger muscles if the proper muscle-building nutritional plan is in place.

What is ECCENTRIC TRAINING/EXERCISE? It’s when you lengthened your muscles under tension during an exercise. Examples like lowering a dumbbell doing a bicep curl or lowering your body towards the ground during a push up.

What is CONCENTRIC TRAINING/EXERCISE? It’s when you shortened your muscles under tension during an exercise. Examples like bringing the dumbbell up and against the gravity when doing a bicep curl or pushing your body away from the ground during a push up.

Based on the muscle-building belief it seems that women who want to stay lean and avoid looking like a chunky bodybuilder should stay away from intense strength training or weight lifting because it really can potentially increase body thickness. No wonder many girls steer away from intense strength training. So is it true that men and women respond to training the same way?

Can Women Really Get Huge Muscle Like Men from Strength Training/Weight Training?

Recent study published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research show that young women who underwent both maximal eccentric and concentric exercises did not have an effect on the myostatin and follistatin messenger that were found to be responsible building muscles for men in terms of biochemical reactions. Previous studies found that only in men, weight training stimulates follistatin messenger to promote muscle growth and retards the activity of myostatin that will prevent muscle growth.

(Jensky, Nicole E; Sims, Jennifer K; Dieli-Conwright, Christina M; Sattler, Fred R; Rice, Judd C; Schroeder, E Todd. Exercise Does Not Influence Myostatin and Follistatin Messenger RNA Expression in Young Women. J Strength & Conditioning Research 24(2), 522-530)

At the hormonal level, it’s just not possible because a woman has only about 10% of the level of testosterone of what a guy has. And testosterone is the key hormone in building muscles in men and obviously it’s almost non-existent for women when most guys have problem packing on hardcore muscles.

From my personal training experience after training can’t remember how many women clients, I’ve never seen any girls bulk up and look like a bodybuilder even with the most intense strength training thrown at them. I know I got many fit women personal training clients do 100 push-ups in a single personal training session. I even had girls who can do 1-arm push ups. That’s very intense stuff and they certainly look like women and did not look like a genetic muscle freak. In fact, they looked fabulous!

Therefore, strength training or any kind of resistance is very unlikely to cause any major muscle growth in women. If you’re a women reading this post and concern about pushing hard in your strength training because you’re afraid you might look too big, then you should rest assured that it is not going to happen. Instead, you should train intensely with strength work to get the best fat loss results. To find out the benefits of intense training for women, you can read more about it at Perth Personal Trainer Debunked the Claim: Lift Light Weights and Repeat for Better Muscle Tone.

Thanks for reading and look forward to your comment below!

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