So you probably already know this, but body fat and muscle mass are entirely separate tissue types. As such, fat cannot be turned into muscle, anymore than muscles can turn into flab. So when you see a product advertising it’s ability to do this, it’s safe to say you can call it out as bullshit.
It follows then that if you only perform cardio in an attempt to burn body fat (running, cycling, dance classes etc) without any form of strength training, you will end up with a soft, undefined, skinny body, albeit with low body fat. If, however, you train correctly for strength by performing resistance exercises (lifting weights, bodyweight exercises etc) you will build muscle mass, meaning that a low body fat percentage would make you appear toned and shapely. Man or woman, without muscle mass you will never be ‘defined’, ‘cut’, ‘toned’, ‘ripped’, or whatever else you want to call it.
For women, this is the difference I am talking about:
So from an aesthetic point of view, you’re going to look a hell of a lot better if you’re strength training.
Now ladies, you might be thinking, “but I don’t want to be big or bulky!”. Well you won’t be, and here’s why…
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for the large increases in muscle mass seen in men, but women’s testosterone levels are only a fraction of men’s – specifically, men have, on average, around 16 times as much testosterone as women. Women don’t have the hormonal support to build muscle like men, so the fear of looking like Arnie in a beauty pageant is unwarranted.
Brad Pilon wrote a fantastic article on Testosterone, which you can read HERE if you want to know the science to back this up.
“But what about the female bodybuilders?” I hear you ask. Typically, female bodybuilders use exogenous testosterone supplementation/steroids, which allows them to build more muscle complete with the side effects of a deeper voice, hair growth, and other nasty stuff. Gross.
This isn’t to say that women won’t gain any muscle from strength training – you will, but you will not gain muscle like a man. Instead, women who strength train will become toned and shapely.
The media would love to have women believe that they have to train differently from men, but that simply isn’t true. Lifting weights and lifting heavy is the best way to build the body you want. HERE is a great article by SHAPE on why women should be lifting heavy.
There’s a slew of benefits to increased muscle mass, and amongst them is boosting your metabolic rate. Your metabolism is the amount of energy your body needs to sustain itself, and since muscle requires calories (energy) to survive, you will be burning off more calories at a standstill than you would if you had a lower muscle mass. This isn’t to say you don’t need to eat correctly – you do, and I’ll go into more detail on nutrition and training methods in later articles.
It seems that more and more people are starting to understand the importance of lifting heavy; in the American College of Sports Medicine’s survey for popular fitness trends of 2013, strength and body weight training topped the list for both men and women.
Women can train exactly like men, but that’s not to say they necessarily should all of the time. In general, around 90% of training will be the same, but there may be subtle differences. These differences are usually due to different goals from men and will be looked at in a later post.