For women who are trying to add exercise into their routines for the first time, the internet and opinionated acquaintances are all too happy to provide conflicting and confusing advice. Even if these people are trying to help, they are more likely than not circulating the same myths about female muscle growth that have been debunked time and time again.
Understanding your own body is the key to figuring out what works and what doesn’t. In this blog, we’ll be debunking five of the most common myths about female muscle growth so you can make educated decisions for your workout routine.
1. Female Muscle Growth is Bulky and Not Feminine
Gaining more muscle does not necessarily mean that you will end up looking bulky, nor will it affect how feminine or masculine you look. A lot of this comes down to hormonal differences between bodies that are assigned male at birth (AMAB) and bodies that are assigned female at birth (AFAB), as well as societal perceptions of what is and is not “feminine”.
The main catalyst for muscle mass and growth in AMAB athletes is a hormone called testosterone. The AMAB body produces high levels of testosterone, which helps them build muscle faster. When combined with the higher muscle:fat ratio that is natural to AMAB bodies, they will become muscular and lean very quickly. AFAB athletes, however, produce a relatively small amount of testosterone (though this varies from person to person) and have a naturally lower ratio of muscle:fat, which means that they will not develop muscle nearly as quickly or as densely. Even if AFAB women spend years doing weight and strength training, they likely won’t achieve an overly bulky build like they may fear unless they actively partake in bodybuilding routines.
The other side of this is how society defines “femininity”. Being large and muscular is not inherently masculine, nor is it inherently non-feminine. In fact, believing so is an outdated mindset that believes that men should always be the strong protectors of weaker women. As our society is moving past this structure, so too should we move past this mindset. If athletes want to be strong and feminine women, this is perfectly possible.
2. Without Exercise, Muscles Turn Into Fat
The strength and lean build gained from female muscle growth will not turn into fat, no matter how long athletes take a break or stop their weight training. In fact, it’s physically impossible, as they are two fundamentally different things that fulfill different roles in the body. However, that is not to say that your body will remain the same if you stop exercising.
When you stop exercising, your muscles can undergo a process called “atrophy”. Atrophy causes the muscles to shrink as you discontinue your training. The opposite of this is called “hypertrophy”, which is what allows you to build muscle through weight and strength training.
It’s possible that athletes may gain weight or find more fat in their bodies after they stop lifting or exercising, but that is usually because they are burning off less of what they’re eating, which means that their body will store the excess nutrients and energy as fat. However, muscles do not turn into fat once athletes stop lifting — the atrophy may coincide with weight gain, but they are two separate bodily processes.
3. Unless You Lose Weight, Your Routine Isn’t Working
For athletes that are chasing after female muscle growth, progress should never be measured in terms of weight loss. In fact, this is one of the least effective ways to measure success and progress during weight training. When training muscles, athletes gain lean mass — or muscle — and lose fat. However, this muscle is actually heavier than fat, which is why you may see your scale going up instead of down. There’s no need to be alarmed by this; weight gain is a sign that your body is producing more muscle, making you toned and strong as you progress through your routine.
Instead of relying on your weight as a measure of your progress, you can evaluate your progress through other methods. Keep tabs on your own performance in the gym; after each workout, evaluate whether your routine is becoming any easier for you. If you workout through a method that is easily measurable, such as weight lifting, you can also try heavier weights now and then to see when you’re able to lift things that you were not capable of before.
4. Spot Training Is Effective
Spot training, also known as spot reduction, is a training method that attempts to shed fat and build muscle in one specific area of the body. However, the efficacy of this method is sadly a myth.
The body is physically incapable of only losing fat in one specific area. When athletes go to the gym or begin lifting, weight loss is distributed throughout their entire body. However, there are some areas where athletes have trouble shedding fat, such as the stomach, legs, arms, and hips. This is largely because those areas are naturally built with more fat than other areas of the body.
If you want to achieve results in a specific area of the body, you must stay consistent with your routine and diet until the fat in those areas has naturally subsided. Attempting to spot train these areas will only strain your body.
5. Your Body Gets Used to the Same Workout
Some women feel the need to constantly change their workout routine because they believe that doing the same workouts all the time will eventually stop bringing results. However, this is a myth; female muscle growth does not depend on the routine itself, but on its intensity.
If you want to ensure that you continue making progress, try increasing the difficulty of your routine by lifting heavier weights or adjusting your rep count instead. You can still build muscle with the same routine; changing it up may make it more interesting, but it will not speed up the process. In fact, consistency is key to progress, so it may be best to consult an experienced trainer before making any drastic changes.
Build Muscle with a Personal Trainer Sacramento
Make the most of your training by working with a professional. Our team is composed of trained and knowledgeable personal trainers who can guide you through your journey towards female muscle growth. If you are living in the Sacramento area and are interested in enhancing your body’s capabilities, feel free to visit our website or contact us today.