In a world where information is literally at our fingertips, we often find ourselves following misinformation that is put together with a good presentation and some attractive models. Almost every ad or fitness article in your favorite magazine tells us there are substantial differences in the way men and women should work out. We see well-built men doing heavy, complex movements, and thin muscular women doing yoga or running. It is ads and misinformation like this that enhance the delusion that the best way to look the way you want is with light weight and lots of repetitions.
These misconceptions force us to believe that women should not lift heavy weights and should do mostly cardiovascular training to prevent a “bulky” or “manly” body type. In reality, the only gender differences that exist between men and women lie within the body’s ability to adapt to resistance training and the ability to produce force. The actual exercise programs do not differ.
During the initial eight weeks of resistance training, men and women will experience identical benefits. These adaptations will include increased strength/endurance, increased metabolism, increased bone density, better body composition, improved range of motion and increased insulin sensitivity. It is after the initial training period that the gender differences become apparent. In men there is dramatically increased testosterone levels which results in increased muscle mass and male pattern fat storage (lower abdomen). Women, on the other hand, are unable to produce the muscle mass as in men. In fact, over a six-month training regimen women will increase lean muscle mass an average of .1 inch and significantly reduce their body fat percentage, effectively reducing the overall circumference of the body part. The science behind these findings is simple: women do not have the capabilities to produce the correct hormones required to have a dramatic increase in muscle mass, therefore resulting in a more toned physique.
The misinformation does not stem from ill intent; it is merely a byproduct of advertising campaigns. It is difficult to convince someone to do something that is not going to be enjoyable. Instead of creating headlines that say things like “Do these difficult exercises that actually work,” they produce titles like “6 easy exercises to get your dream beach body.” With magazines on every counter top with workouts designed by expert trainers, and Internet resources that can produce every bit of information we could ever want, you would think quality information is easy to come by. On the contrary, we have to look for more reliable sources and see through advertizing gimmicks that are forcing us to spend hours doing countless reps without accomplishing any real progress.
Kevin Branco is a personal trainer and the owner of Main Street Gym in Hellertown. He’s a 2004 graduate of Saucon Valley High School–where he lettered in football, track and field and basketball–and a 2008 graduate of Kutztown University, where he was a PSAC scholar-athlete and was awarded four varsity letters. Kevin has been recognized with The Morning Call’s Best of the Valley-Personal Trainer award (2014). He was recently inducted into the Lehigh Valley Sports Hall of Fame.