The following is a guest post from Melissa Monahan based out of the Orlando, FL area. From her personal experience as a dancer for many years to competing in bikini competitions, Melissa realizes that it takes a lot of heavy lifting to get strong curves! Ladies, enjoy this read and put those brightly colored dumbbells away because you’re about to get hit with some truth!
Before we get into the point of this article, and why ladies SHOULD train like a man, we are going to play a little game. It’s called, “I am going to guess what you are thinking!” Ready?
So my mind reading powers believes that 75% of you lovely ladies who read the title of this article thought this:
“I am not going to train like a dude. No way Melissa! The last thing I want is some manly arms, and a burly chest. Heavy weights = muscle gain, and muscle gain means manly features. Nope not going to happen. I’m looking to tone, that’s it.“
So, do I win? I know I did for a good portion of you.
Not only is the idea of you gaining so much muscle that you will look like a man 100% false, but that misconception is actually what is keeping you from the body you want. That applies for all of you. Even you ladies who just want to “tone.” About a month ago, one of my clients came to me with this question and I think most women would ask exactly the same…
“Is weight training a big deal breaker on helping to lose weight? I have always been told ‘CARDIO CARDIO CARDIO.’ That’s always been the answer and that weights make you bulky.”
The simple answer to that is, “No they don’t.” Let me say that again…
Lifting weights, even heavy ones, will NOT make you look like a man!
Weight training and lean muscle gain is what is going to give you those curves (yes, curves) that you want. Unless you want to be just skin and bones (if you do, well, that’s fine) then keep on keepin’ on with those hours of cardio and crunches on the mats.
Throughout this article I am going to put examples of beautiful women who know their way around the weight room. They are all women that I know personally. They are mothers, Crossfit girls, personal trainers, NPC bikini competitors, hair stylists, full-time students, and WBFF pro’s. These are all beautiful, smart, confident women who lead perfect examples of what it really means to be strong inside and out.
To break it down as simple as possible, here are 8 reasons why YOU should “pick up something heavy.”
Your testosterone levels are far lower than men’s. Because women have lower levels of testosterone it is incredibly harder for you to put on muscle mass compared to men. Even if you took a man with low testosterone levels and a woman with high testosterone levels, the man’s levels would still be more than twice hers! 
“Though you do carry a small amount of testosterone, and strength training promotes anabolism, you are in the clear when it comes to growing muscles so large you need to cut the sleeves off your shirts.” – Bret Contreras
Rate of muscle growth. Alan Aragon put together a model on the rate of muscle growth. In his model he shows how women’s average rate of muscle gain per pound actually goes down over time. His model showed that in the first year of PROPER training and nutrition, a woman can gain ten to twelve pounds of lean muscle mass. In year two, she may gain five to six pounds of lean muscle mass. In year three, she will only gain two to three pounds of lean muscle mass. By year four the numbers were lower than low. This is also considering that you are training properly and your nutrition is on point. Also realize that 12 lbs of lean muscle mass is NOT A LOT. 
I’ll let you take that in for a moment…
Think of it this way, you burn fat at twice the rate as you put on muscle mass. So if you put on 8lbs of lean muscle mass in a year, you can burn around 16lbs of fat during the same time. 
Stop referring to female bodybuilders. First of all, female bodybuilders most likely are taking anabolic or hormonal supplements. Ok, so maybe there is a girl at your gym who is “jacked” and she really is all natural. Think about the work she puts into not only her workouts but also her diet. She is most likely on a very number oriented, science based workout and diet regimen. There is a very good chance that you are not doing such a routine, nor would you even know where to start.
You’ll fight osteoporosis. Research has shown that proper weight training over time not only maintains bone mass but can even build new bone. Type 1 osteoporosis is most common in postmenopausal women because of estrogen deficiency. However, for women who already suffer from osteoporosis, weight training has been shown to only increase muscle mass by 5%. This small increase doesn’t represent enough growth to prevent fracture, but proper weight training improves balance and coordination, which helps in the prevention of falls. [5,6]
Cardio is not always the optimal way to burn calories. Many women hop on one of the cardio machines at the gym for at least 30-45 minutes. Yes, you are burning calories, but it is definitely not the optimal way to do so. I am sure by now you have heard of talk about how HIIT (high intensity interval training) is the way to go when wanting to burn body fat and maintain lean muscle mass. Isn’t the style/routine of weight training quite similar to HIIT, especially heavy lifting? They both require short periods of max effort with rest in between sets. As quoted by Alan Aragon, “In long-term studies, both linear high-intensity and HIIT training is superior to lower intensities on the whole for maintaining and/or increasing cardiovascular fitness & lean mass, and are at least as effective, and according to some research, far better at reducing body fat .” Weight training also increases metabolic efficiency. A study done by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who did weight training burned 100 calories more during the 24 hours post workout than women who did not. 
Injury prevention. Strengthening the muscles surrounding and supporting your joints can help prevent injuries. By strengthening the right muscles (and stretching) through proper exercise you build better support for places like your hips, knees, and back.
Who doesn’t want a nice booty? While you are at it on those cardio machines burning all that fat what will you be left with? Building muscle will give your body shape or like most of society likes to call it “tone.” I don’t know many women who don’t want some nice curves! Bret Contreras says it perfectly “The harder and smarter you work, the more fat you burn. The better you eat, the more fat you burn—all while building nice rounded muscle to give your body shape .”
Self-confidence. Becoming stronger not only betters your body physically, but mentally. How awesome would it be to step foot in your gym and walk around that dreaded free weight section with confidence? How empowering would it be to show all those squat-rack curling, Monday chest goers (sorry boys) who really knows how to train at the gym?
Neghar Fonooni expresses this perfectly, “There is something to be said about a strong, efficient female. They move with grace and confidence, and carry their beautiful strength with humility. The strength and power that the body achieves permeates the mind, and this “gym confidence” inevitably translates to other aspects of life. A woman who loves how her body feels will love how it looks too-and in turn she will love herself .”
“Myths about lifting heavy making women bulky are perpetuated by women who fear work and men who fear women.” – Dr. Layne Norton
1. Lobliner, Katie. “The Ultimate Female Training Guide: Specific, Proven Methods to Get Lean And Sexy.” simplychredded.com. SimplyShredded. Web. 15 Jul 2013. http://www.simplyshredded.com/the-ultimate-female-training-guide.html/>.
2. Contreras, Bret. Strong A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO BUILDING A BETTER BUTT AND BODY Contreras, Bret; Davis, Kellie (2013-03-31). Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing INC., 2013. Print.
3. Fonooni, Neghar. “Teach Your Female Personal Training Clients to Train Like Men.” The PTDC. N.p., 09 Aug 2011. Web. 15 Jul 2013. <http://www.theptdc.com/2011/08/teach-your-female-personal-training-clients-to-train-like-men/>.
4.Aragon, Alan. “Myths Under The Microscope Part 1: The Low Intensity Fat Burning Zone.” Alan’s Vault. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jul 2013. <http://alanaragon.com/myths-under-the-microscope-the-fat-burning-zone-fasted-cardio.html>.
5. Shaw, Gina. “Women and Weight Training for Osteoporosis.” WebMD. WebMD, 21 Jan 2009. Web. 15 Jul 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/living-with-osteoporosis-7/weight-training?page=2>.
6. Clark, Michael A. NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Baltimore: 2012.
7. Anderson, Charlotte. “8 Reasons Why You Should Lift Heavier Weights.” SHAPE. SHAPE. Web. 15 Jul 2013. <http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/8-reasons-why-you-should-lift-heavier-weights?page=9>.
About the Author
Melissa Monahan is a NASM certified fitness professional from the East Orlando area, specializing in nutrition coaching and resistance training catered towards the female aesthetic. Melissa has experience training women from ages 10 to mid-50’s and has a passion for educating others on how to properly structure their nutrition without the use of trendy diets, how to plan a resistance training routine, and living a positive lifestyle. Be sure to connect Melissa on her Facebook and Twitter pages for regular updates and tips for fitness and nutrition.