Dr. Barbra Semukula- How Muscle Development Differs For Women (2015)


How Muscle Development Differs For Women

Dr. Barbra Semukula answers questions about women and weight training. This was an interview conducted by the Baltimore Sun. Dr. Semukula is a sports medicine specialist with the Anne Arundel Medical Center. Clearly a professional with much expertise,but there are some minor problems with her answers. There are no such thing as “bulky muscles.” Muscle development can very from person to person. Just like like the term toned it has little scientific basis to exercise physiology.  Dr. Semukula is correct that women can experience health benefits from weight training, but do not experience the same level of muscular hypertrophy as males. She even advises that women can do some stretching to their workout routine.  The reason this interview is important is that a female medical professional is giving advice. Women are more likely to trust the sports performance advice from another woman.There seems to be a large amount of misinformation about the human body and health. Women’s bodies are either misunderstood or subject to medical myths. Here  Dr. Barbra Semukula provides basic explanations that do not require access to physiology or anatomy textbooks.

What’s different about men and women’s muscles ?   

At the cellular level there is not difference between muscle of the sexes. The physiology and response is the same. Strength training is dependent on intensity, progressive overload, and a proper diet. Due to endocrinology and body composition men have higher amounts of muscle mass. It is more than just have large amounts of mass muscle fiber type is essential. These muscle fibers include Type I fibers, Type IIa fibers and Type IIb fibers. Which type a person has can var regardless of sex, but on average men have more fast twitch muscle fibers. These are required for explosive physical power. Slow twitch fibers help women have more endurance in the muscles.  Dr. Barbra Semukula stated ”  strength gains are the result of muscle recruitment and muscle hypertrophy, and women have the same capacity for achieving strength gains as men.” That is not entirely correct. A woman and man on the same strength training regimen will see a different magnitude in relation to physical fitness capacity. Women can produce two thirds the amount of physical force  a man can. This is related to the physiology of the male and female reproductive system. The ovaries produce more estrogens and the testes produce more testosterone. Both sex hormones are in the bodies of males and females.


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However a woman who trains seriously can surpass an average male in strength. If muscle cells from man and a woman were put under a microscope it would be difficult to tell them apart. The men and women in the pictures above could have biopsies of their muscle tissue and it would be impossible to tell which sex it belongs to. One of the biggest factors in muscular hypertrophy is somatotype. While endocrinology effects body composition, body type can be determined by genetics and nutritional consumption. The  opening of the article explains ”  Women won’t likely develop bulky muscles when they work out like many men do, and most probably don’t want to, says Dr. Barbara Semakula, sports medicine specialist at Anne Arundel Medical Center. ” Women with mesomorphic body types and low levels of myostatin protein can experience significant muscular development. There  is no difference between “bulky muscles” or “toned muscles.” Everyone has muscle in their body the size of them depends on amount of exercise, fitness level, and individual health condition.

Do men and women exercise differently ? 

Dr. Barbra Semukula reveals that women normally try to say away from weight training for fear of getting muscular. The physiques of athletes are developed through years of training and specific diet. Some athletes may resort to performance enhancing drug use to attain a certain appearance. This does not create a champion athlete. There is still an unfair double standard when it comes to women and body image. People may start exercise for the wrong reasons. Improving appearance seems to be the large motivator, but this could easily lead to body dysmorphia. Exercise should be made to be enjoyable and a stress reduction activity. It should not be sex specific either. There remains the attitude that men have the weight room and women have the cardio area. If weight loss or increasing physical fitness levels is your objective it will not happen with cardio only. Weightlifting may be a better solution in terms of efficiency. Women from an early age are not encouraged to be physically active, which can later on be detrimental to their health.




If women do begin to lift they remain with using lighter weights. While this may be exercising the muscles, it may not be as efficient in terms of time.  Using lighter weights would be better for higher muscular endurance, but it would not significantly increase strength. The idea is too increase the amount gradually to cause microtrauma to the muscle tissue. When the recovery process happens, the fibers will grow stronger. The only way for women to be successful is to have a training program that is designed for their physiology and body type. Muscles on women is not a horrible thing. It can actually have benefits. Exercises can be done by both men and women. Women should engage in upper body strengthening exercise to prevent shoulder related injuries.

              There seems to be conflicting evidence on stretching what does the evidence say ? 

This topic is much debated among exercise physiologists. Stretching too much could be doing more harm to the body prior to a competition. Dr. Barbra Semukula explains that there is very little research that proves that stretching is good before workouts or prior to a sporting event. She does cite that it does have a benefit for flexibility.  Dr. Barbra Semukula then reveals from patient studies that doing this daily can also increase muscle stretch. It can be debated whether or not it can dramatically improve performance. The only way to know this would be to conduct and experiment of athletes. They would need to be divided into two groups one set that does stretches and the ones that do not. Their performances would be measured and then analyzed to show if it truly is effective. It is even more confusing when attempting to determine  at what point should stretching be done. One myth that never goes away is that having a certain amount of muscle with make you less flexible.

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 Some have even have made the erroneous assumption that too much muscle will harm your range of motion. Adding muscle to the body will not make you less flexible. Joint structure, ligaments,tendons, age, and sex can determine how flexible you are. Women’s bone structure is different, which enables them  to be more flexible than men. If a large female bodybuilder can still do moves that require flexibility, this proves muscle mass does not have as a dramatic impact.

What muscles are important to stretch to avoid sports injury and are they different for women? 

Muscle cells are the same for men and women. Men and women have the same muscles. The difference is in total amount in relation to sexual dimorphism. This element of it is flexible among individuals regardless of sex. There are theories on why sexual dimorphism emerged. One was that it was important  for our early hominid ancestors to hunt. The other theory has to do  with sex selection and mating. Men grew bigger  to be fighters for mates because they were competing with one another. The more physically powerful males  would have access to more mates, there by making the trait of strength naturally selected. These are mere  theories,not facts but our bodies do provide evidence of  the past of human evolution. Stretching will not do much for injury prevention. It could be a temporary solution to stiffness,but there are more efficient methods of preventing injury.

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Dr. Semakula articulates : “The important muscles to stretch depend on the type of activity you will be performing.” She then delineates further “For example, basketball, football and volleyball players use both their arms and legs, so they should stretch the shoulder, especially the rotator cuff muscles, and the legs, especially the quads and hamstrings.”  For these intense activities, stretching would not do much. Women do have higher rates of upper body, shoulder, and ACL injuries. One solution is to focus on building  musculoskeletal mass in the upper body. Doing so strengthens not only bones, but ligaments and tendons. There are methods that also can prevent ACL injuries. Being consistent with training better  prepares the body for certain physical activities. Building more strength in the quadriceps and hamstrings. Having the proper landing technique for jumps would be more effective than stretching. When pivoting knees and hips should be bent to reduce the amount of stress on the ACL. Exercises such as chest presses, bicep curls. pull ups, bench presses, and push ups can strengthen the upper body. These methods would be better than just doing stretching.

Are there times when women should or  should’t stretch or should do the stretches like being pregnant or certain surgeries ?   

If stretching  is not as effective as other exercises,then it seems pointless in comparison. It can be useful in improving flexibility. Stretching is probably not a good idea during pregnancy or after surgery.   Moderate levels of exercise are good for anyone. Pregnant women are encouraged to get at least some level of physical activity. Intensity obviously will have to be adjusted so no harm will come to the developing fetus. There is one error that Dr. Semakula makes in her statement : ” As the pregnancy progresses and the uterus enlarges, the belly is getting bigger, and there can be a relative blocking of blood return to the heart resulting in decreased cardiac output and hypotension — which may be perceived as lightheadedness. ” The organ’s of a woman’s body do not get smaller, they shift to accommodate an expanding uterus and growing baby. The stomach does not get bigger rather it is shifted upwards. Shrinking of the organs would imply some form of atrophy.

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Some women may be susceptible more so to hypotension than others. That is why it is critical that one consults their primary care doctor before embarking on a new fitness program. If women joints also change during pregnancy yoga and stretching would not be advised. Some women experience joint pain from the increase in weight and hormonal changes.  Dr. Semakula forgets to mention fertility may be effected when women compete in sports that require them to have low body fat levels. Fat is needed in the female body for the purpose of ovulation . Bodybuilders do compete at lower body fat levels. The concern goes away during the off season when women’s fat levels go back up. Women recovering from surgery would need some kind of exercise. Being bed ridden causes muscle mass to decrease. As we age it continues to lower. Some weight training after surgery can rebuild lost musculoskeletal mass. Women can regain their physical edge after pregnancy. The myth is that pregnancy means the end of a woman’s athletic career, because changes in endocrine function effect physical fitness capacity. Athletes like Serena Williams and Allyson Felix  have returned to competition in just a short period after they have given birth.

Are There Differences in the way men and women recover from intense sports exercise ? 

At the time when this was written in 2015, there was little information o sex differences  in relation to recovery from training. It appears some studies conducted have shown that women actually may recover better after training sessions. Estrogen does help with protection of muscle from damage. This means that  women can recover faster after a training session. There is a tendency to believe that men have all the physical advantages,but exercise physiology is disproving this. Men may have more absolute muscular strength, but women have the advantage of muscular endurance.




Depending on which sport a person is competing in endurance and strength could be more important than the other. A marathon runner would need endurance to run long distances over a certain period of time. A powerlifter  needs as much explosive strength to lift heavier weight. Training must be adjusted to match what performance target an athlete is attempting to achieve. Unknown to Dr. Semakula, there is a difference in exercise recovery and it appears to favor women.


Muscular development does not differ entirely between the sexes. The divergence comes from the outcome in relation to total physical fitness capacity. Men have greater levels of muscular hypertrophy mainly due to endocrinology and a larger skeletal structure.  This is not the only factor alters the outcome of a training program. Genetics and somatotype determine some aspects of a person’s muscular strength potential. Weight training and exercise sessions that are consistent. Metabolism and diet are  also  factors that Dr.Barbra Semakula forgot to mention. Diet and nutrition are pivotal when attempting weight management. Seeing as body composition is different, losing weight and gaining muscle is harder for women. It can be done if activity level is high enough to burn calories. What type of food is consumed is also essential. High sugar and fat diets can result in weight issues and other health conditions. The consumption of enough protein and vegetables can ensure that muscular gain can occur. Women’s sports exercise physiology is still relatively new, so there is still more to learn. Dr. Barbra Semakula is one of a small group of women involved in sports medicine. Only when the numbers increase and their is serious scientific investigation can certain questions about women’s physical capabilities can be answered. Women can obviously build muscle and it may have a health benefit for their bodies.




Diseases such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia become threats to the health of the muscular system. Women are at a higher risk seeing as the have less muscle mass in their bodies. Weight training can strength bones and muscle as well as act as prevention against such medical conditions. Besides these benefits exercise can also be good for heart health and blood pressure. One does not have to train to the degree of a professional athlete to improve health. Women may still hold the fear of  “bulkiness” but this  does not exist. The women on a bodybuilding stage weigh less than the average man. It should be noted they may appear large on stage, but their off season weights are higher. Even then with more body fat  they are smaller in terms of weight to the average man. The women are tiny compared to their bodybuilding male counterparts. Men who compete can reach the 200 lbs range. Female bodybuilders are not “bulky” they have sculpted their physiques to a certain aesthetic. Myogenesis and muscular hypertrophy  functions in the same way in both sexes. At the most basic level it means a person can exercise, have a response to that stimuli, and through rest have muscle grow. Biological sex is not a limitation to athletic performance or achievement.

Dr. Barbra Semukula- How Muscle Development Differs For Women (2015)

The Eroticism of Female Muscle

It is not just the sport itself we like. There is something memorizing about the image of the physically powerful woman. To some it can evoke feelings of disgust,fear, or hatred. Yet to others there is an erotic nature to the highly developed female form. There is no secret that there are men who love muscle women. They do not have to be bodybuilders specifically rather women who display physical prowess or some muscle. The specific fetish for this has been called cratolagnia and sthenolgania. Arousal form either displays of strength or muscle. Men who like muscle women are either seen as strange, sexually confused, or deviant. This is not the reality. These prejudices only represent what people do not understand or attempt to comprehend. No one would question a person’s attraction to women who are pretty in the conventional sense. Having discussions about such women seems normal. The fact is it is normal to admire and be arouse by various types of women. The misconception is that the lover of female muscle would reject women who are either slimmer or bigger. The truth is they are more open to different types and more appreciative of variety. Society does not like people who think differently or want to challenge the status quo. A woman who decides to take her athleticism to the maximum is doing a radical act. A man who shows affection and arousal is also challenging the status quo.

           To understand this fascination with the physically powerful female form, eroticism must be defined. Eroticism can be ” the attributes of sexual feelings.” The connotations can also extend to elements of desire, aesthetics, sensuality or romantic love in certain cases. Eroticism appears in literature, art,film,and other forms of entertainment. At times this term is both fluid and nebulous being defined by both the culture and time period. Psychology and biology are two fields that have extensively studied human sexual behavior. Sexology specifically devotes study to the cultural, social, and biological aspects of human sexual activity. The study of sexology has its roots as far back as the ancient and classical world. Sexual  manuals have existed for sexual practices, methods of contraception, and advice on sexual relationships. The Kama Sutra  was a notable Sanskrit text on eroticism and sexuality. Sexual mores change dramatically overtime. It is very ironic that sexology as a modern science did not emerge until the Victorian Age. Havelock Ellis was an English physician and social reformer, who pioneered sexology. He was an advocate of sexual liberation and the study of human sexual orientation at a time when these topics were taboo. Richard Von Krafft-Ebing  produced Psychopathia  Sexulais  in 1886 becoming one the first texts devoted to sexual pathology.

These images of women can induce sexual feelings. Some may find the more muscular women to their liking and other may like the thinner women. There could be a portion that like both. 

The problem with the work is that it reflected the homophobia at the time classifying being gay as a mental disorder. Homosexuality and bisexuality are just different sexual orientations. Asexuality seems to be more difficult to classify seeing as there is no sexual desire present. Eroticism could work in the same manner for people of different sexual orientations. Yet, when discussing desire or arousal there could be multiple possibilities among individuals .  The existence of various fetishes demonstrates this. Objects,actions, or people can induce erotic feelings. The reason people have such desires and thoughts can be related to biological evolution. According to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution animals compete with one another  to produce offspring. Doing so ensures that genes and certain traits will continue. Favored traits would carry on through natural selection. Both sexes have desires and fantasies. Through out history female sexual desire was suppressed. Freedom only came with the sexual revolution and reliable contraception.

Relevant to the discussion of muscular women,  Magnus Hirschfeld coined terms that are applied to a particular fetish that lovers of female muscle have. Sthenolagnia  was coined by Hirschfeld another sexologist and physician who contributed much to the field. He described what are now known as  sexual fetishes. Cratolagnia and sthenolagnia  are not modern phenomenons. Nor are the kinks that people have. Eroticism’s denotation can be extended further to include an intense state of sexual arousal. There is a connection to sexual drive commonly referred to as libido   . Millions of years of human biological and social evolution have produced human sexual behavior.

    The female muscular form although a contradiction to traditionalist of gender roles creates a new paradigm of beauty. There are areas that are considered beauty marks on the female body. The chest and posterior tend to be popular areas of focus for the male gaze. The face has been important to both sexes. Some scientists even believe that beauty can be defined as symmetry within the face. While philosophers and scientists have attempted to define beauty people have done this on their own. It also varies from culture to culture. The muscular woman only exaggerates numerous aspects of the female physique. The lower body especially. Every man loves a woman with some well developed glutes.





It used to be that having a big butt women considered a bad thing. Now women are attempting to make them look bigger. The muscular woman was already pioneering this look before people became obsessed with “thicc.” Being too thin is not healthy and far from what many believe to be beautiful. The greatness of the female form is its voluptuous shape. This does not disappear with adding muscle. Women still retain higher body fat percentages and for female bodybuilders their off season provides a very nice look. A layer of fat comes over the muscle giving the image of softness combined with powerful hardness. People often get confused not realizing that women look different on stage. Limited body fat,tans, and high amounts of vascularity may seem unsightly to people who do not understand bodybuilding aesthetics. The point is to create and mold a physique like an artists molds clay.The phrase “her body is a work of art” is used by fans to approve of the image the athlete has presented. Merely showing the muscle is not enough. Posing routines become part of this erotic display. Women on stage posing in bikinis will generate arousal. The traditionalist argument that such activity and display lacks feminine charm seems to be misguided. It is the contrast between a  powerful body with smooth curves. Gender roles can flexible, so being a strong woman should not be a contradiction.

              There exists other forms of beauty and aesthetic presentation that few people can appreciate. Just like works of art ,there are various styles and techniques. The main parts of the muscular woman are highly exaggerated with the legs and chest. Women who build such physiques still want a similar hour glass figure with the difference in higher upper body development.

Making the upper body look larger and the lower body in proportion creates a look in which the waist appears smaller. The women are not building masculine bodies,they are adding shape to them. The female body ideal first began with a more voluptuous figure to a slimmer one in recent history. There is a return to a wider variety in what is considered the body beautiful. Living flesh becomes the marble of sculpture. Knowing this the admiration goes far beyond mere amorous fantasy. The body becomes an artistic representation through the building  of  a physique. Art is subjective, just like physique sports. The definitions can become unclear at times. People know what they like when they see it. Each muscle radiates power. Traditionally in art, the muscular male body was the image of masculine beauty. This was more so a style in ancient Greek and Roman civilization. Women in art were represented with bodies that were more soft. The female mesomorph does not fall into an androgynous mixture of the two rather it feminizes physical power.

        Power can be sexy. It can come in various forms such as mental and physical. These attributes have been promoted and praised in men,yet their is a realization that are great characteristics in women too.  There is a change in gender roles and sex politics in which women can have more freedom  and independence.  The phrase strong woman is used constantly,yet few really mean a literal representation. Bulging biceps, rippling abs, and impeccable glutes become a radical image of physical power never before seen on a female body.

For those who find such women attractive it goes far beyond looks. Seeing women perform  feats of strength becomes a major turn on. Lift and carry or  arm wrestling have become fetishes unto themselves. There is an amusement factor that captivates female muscle fans. Like watching a concert or stage performance there is a shock factor. It is not everyday their are women doing this. Maintaining such a body and the diligence it takes is incredible. The elite female athlete does not just have physical strength; there is a mental component present. The amount of drive, effort,and sheer willpower to attain such physicality would boggle the mind of an ordinary person. The mental strength that the women posses is a very admirable and attractive quality. It should be noted that women also have fetishes and desires. The common misconception is that women are only passive receivers of male passion. Women who participate in session wrestling primarily do it to support their sports endeavors. Yet,women who have other sources of income may do it any way. Women may get enjoyment out of dominating men physically. A large part of muscle worship is that the strong woman has her muscles admired by the man, Much of this has to do with power display. While it is acceptable that women can admire a powerful man the same does not seem to be true for women. The great thing is this taboo is discarded and reversed with a focus on feminine physical power. Maybe this is not a new phenomenon at all. The admiration for the powerful woman could be rooted in ancient myth and religion. Prior to the rise of monotheistic religion goddesses were recognized.

This is the Birth of Venus  by Sandro Botticelli. There is an erotic innuendo coming from this painting. 

       Mother goddesses appear in various cultures such as Nuwa in ancient China  or Papatuanuku in Maori tradition. Venus was not only the goddess of love she also was associated with sex,beauty, and fertility. There is a reason these subjects were placed together with this Roman goddess. The admiration and lust for muscular women may be going back to a worship of the mother goddess. It may be just a coincidence that female muscle fans may refer to their favorite athletes as goddesses, yet the connection seems to lead to such a conclusion. Monotheistic religion also brought about a more strict view about human sexuality and sexual behavior. Desire and lust was seen as sinful in these traditions and it ignored biological reality.  Eroticism has a biological component. These thoughts and urges are millions of years of encoded sociobiological behavior. Power is an attractive attribute,but it seems to becoming more acceptable for women to display such strength .

              The exploration into eroticism leaves many questions. What is beauty ? What is considered sexy? These questions do not have a one answer because so many people have their own ideas. They are influenced by the culture, society and media they watch. There is a difference between eroticism and pornography. At first this may be ambiguous or confusing due to the fact these terms are used interchangeably. Pornography specifically refers to the depiction of sexual acts or explicit display of the body for the purposes of sexual arousal. There may be overlap with the existence of erotic art or general erotica, but the words do not have the same denotation. There still has not been intense academic debate or discussion on these topics. Sexology is still has more research to produce to fully comprehend human sexual behavior. What can be known is why a person is attracted to certain types. Muscular women have a certain appeal. The parts of the female body are exaggerated to a greater degree. The posterior and legs have been areas of the female body that receive much attention. The image of the physically strong woman induces many feelings that can range from fascination to arousal. Liking the muscular woman is no different from liking any other women. What is different is that it is becoming a new paradigm of female beauty. While not embrace completely by the mainstream, it looks like there is a large portion of men who love it. The erotic nature has drawn in many men.

The Eroticism of Female Muscle

How Viral Image of Breasts Exposes Science’s Obsession With the Male Body

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The correct visual representation of women’s breast ducts.

How a viral image of breasts exposes science’s obsession with the male body

Too often people in the digital age of media believe what ever is presented on a web page. A viral image of women’s breasts ducts and anatomy of the upper body generated some controversy. The problem was that it  demonstrated that  large portion of people do not have a basic understanding of anatomical structures . Women’s bodies especially either remain taboo or a mystery to some. The viral image was not even a correct representation of women’s ducts. The problem is that they were depicted like muscles,which they are not. It seems it also has generated more conversations about how biomedical science and anatomy treats the male body as a natural default. This is a serious problem when it is known that sex can determine health outcomes. However, there are some who desire to politicize anatomy and biology. Jill Filipovic gives a fourth wave feminist perspective,that may have a valid point but then goes off on a tangent. Her compliant can be summarized in her thesis that the male body is default and that women’s organ systems are not fully represented in medical textbooks and literature. She then states further that women’s skeletal,muscular, and nervous systems are not fully depicted in medical illustration.  The biological reality is that these organ systems have minor or little difference between the sexes. So in that regard, there would be not reason to say that lack of female diagrams is the problem. The real issue is that women’s health and anatomy is not taken seriously as a field of scientific study. More women need to be involved in the biomedical fields. While presenting male bodies as default is an issue the biggest problem is that people do not realize our bodies can be similar.  The public must become more knowledgeable about anatomy. Jill Filipovic like many have not gotten the quality science education that should be given to every person. Adding  more female medical illustrations to textbooks can help, but spreading correct information about women’s bodies is more important.

          The muscular and skeletal structure of men and women is not that radically different. Jill Fillopovic did not seem to realize this : “And yet it’s also clear that the default is a man.” Prior Fillopovic said without skin and a face its not obvious you are looking at man. The most incorrect statement is  “even without milk ducts, the scientific images of human bodies that we typically see have male builds and musculature.” Women’s bodies have the same muscles as men. When comparing muscle cells, there is not a sex based difference in histology. The assumption is that only men have muscular builds and that women do not. Women can vary in terms of somatotype meaning they can be endomorphic, mesomorphic, or ectomorphic. Even with this difference between body types women carry a higher body fat percentage. The only difference in male builds is broader shoulders, denser bones,  and a higher percentage of muscle mass.  Other than that women can have varying levels of musculature depending on genetics,fitness level, and somatotype.

Women can have muscle and develop it through training. Displayed here is an example of a diagram of the female muscular structure. All the parts are the same as the male muscular system. 

There is the false notion that women do not have muscles. Medical illustration may feature the male body for the muscular system mainly because it is based on the idea that men are physically superior to women. The image of strong powerful man and weak woman has distorted people’s views of biology. Muscles and constitute nearly half of a person’s body mass. The study of the muscular system is known as myology. This field has become useful in terms of healthcare and fitness. Rehabilitation programs have been developed from such studies. There are three major muscle types that include visceral, cardiac, and skeletal muscle. The muscular system refers to skeletal muscles specifically. There are about a total of 600 muscles that make up the organ system. Muscles are responsible for movement,stability, control of orifices, and heat production. The production of heat may come as a surprise, seeing as fat is a better insulator. Yet, muscle has the ability to generate 85% of the body’s heat. The musculoskeletal system is different from just the muscular system. This organ system incorporates both the skeletal and muscle structure as well as ligaments with tendons. The term is designed to describe how both organ systems collaborate.

The differences in the female skeleton include a wider pelvis, smaller cranium,  and narrower shoulders.
Complex movements require multiple organ system during especially during physical activity.
The knowledge gain from anatomy, physiology, and biomedical science has allowed people to manipulate their bodies.

The skeleton has a total of 206 bones all of which women have. However, a difference in bone density does have a sex specific health outcome. If women have less bone density this makes them more susceptible to osteoporosis or sarcopenia. Muscle and bone mass gradually declines with age. Women who have less musculoskeletal mass to begin with probably would need more load bearing exercises as a means of prevention. The fascinating part about the skeleton is that people have more bones in youth. At birth a baby can have a total of 270 bones. As a child ages the number decreases because the bone fuse into larger ones. When a  person reaches late adolescence to mid-20s  the number will be reduced to 206. Bones can  be classified into three types which include cortical, compact, and trabecular bones. Cortical bones have to support weight. Compact bones are stacked to be durable like the cranium. Trabecular bones use combination of both structures. Knowing that these organ systems are the same  for  both sexes makes  Filipovic’s argument for separate diagrams seem unnecessary.

            The nervous system does not differ immensely among men and women either. The brain consists of cells known as neurons,which  do not show signs of sex difference in structure.  There are slight differences in brain anatomy ,but this irrelevant considering everyone’s brain is different. MRIs and CAT scans reveal that the brains of individuals can vary regardless of biological sex .  Men do have larger brains,but this is due to difference in body size. Brain size is not an indication of intelligence. There could be indications that men and women’s hippocampus  regions differ. The amyglada also differs in size between the sexes. Men have more gray matter and women contain more white matter. Gray matter is the outer layer of the cerebral cortex,which contains 50 billion neurons. White matter is located in the interior having networks of  axons and lead down to the cell bodies of the cortex.  Neuroanatomy  and neuroscience also tell us that there may be sex specific reactions to mental illness and neurodegenerative diseases. Women could be more prone to anxiety and depression due to hormonal changes. However, men do not fair better with higher suicide rates. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease also become a concern for  both men and women. Women could be at greater risk seeing as they live longer.

The nervous system  as seen through a medical illustration. There should be no issue which model you use when discussing this organ system,because sexual dimorphism is not as vast in it.
Simple and complex movements require use of the skeletal,muscular, and nervous system.
The structures of the brain are the same for both sexes.

This is why Beyonce’s comment about saying “I never seen a chart of a woman’s muscular system ” seems ridiculous . If we applied such reason to the brain and the wider nervous system this would be neurosexism. Therefore making diagrams displaying women’s nervous systems would  defeat the point. Anyone should know that when looking at a medical illustration of the nervous system, the default would not be man as Filipovic suggests. The nervous system is composed of three separate units. The central nervous system contains both the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system consists of the network of nerves in the body. The automatic nervous system is responsible for voluntary actions such as heartbeat, breathing, and  digestive processes. Assuming that every diagram or medical illustration follows the male as default  would be erroneous. The biggest problem is ignorance and lack of education about the human body.

        The milk duct three dimensional render  is not accurate. The comedic aspect is the reaction that came from social media. Saying blaming male as default cannot be applied in this situation. Ignorance and a weak education in regards to biology as well as health science can be the culprit. The problem is people may not have enough understanding about their anatomy and physiology to maintain good health. Limited information related to women’s bodies make them seem like something strange or abnormal. Combined with the taboos about the exposure or discussion about women’s bodies only endangers their health and psychological well being. The female body is normal and  natural. Milk ducts are not to be feared.

A correct anatomical  illustration shows that the mammary ducts are not similar to a flower shape.
The image that went viral. If a dissection were to be made of a female cadaver, this is not what it would look like.
Contrary to popular fitness myth,lifting does not increase breast size.

The graphic showed the milk ducts of women’s breast as being similar to flowers in shape. Obviously, women’s mammary glands are not shaped like that. Giving the image the description  of flower shaped is problematic,because rarely are petals arranged in such a perfect circle. The ducts are incorrectly depicted as some form of skeletal muscle. Women do not contain skeletal muscle in their breasts. The breasts themselves are mostly fat tissue. Epithelial cells constitute the lobules and ducts in women’s breasts. The only muscles known as areola  are the dark areas around the nipple. This muscle must remain firm when a infant is getting milk from their mother.  The argument of male musculature being depicted too much can be challenged even with the upper body. Women also contain pectoralis minor and major muscles. It cannot be argued that anatomy and physiology are part of a giant patriarchal conspiracy. There is a tendency for third wave feminist to reject scientific facts or attempt to infuse it with their ideology. It cannot be ignored their still remains misogyny and sexism in scientific institutions. The male as default concept came about from historical circumstances and the fact that women were not as involved in the medical fields as they are today. Before condemning anatomy and the biomedical fields it should be remembered that women were scientific pioneers as well.

          Anatomy has a history going back  3000 years ago. Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilization  were using herbs, faith healing, and early forms of physical therapy to help patients with a number of ailments. Hippocrates (460- 375 B.C.E)  was the Greek physician to state that disease was not the cause of supernatural forces, rather natural causes. Aristotle ( 384 – 322 B.C.E )  made contributions to anatomy by proposing the idea complex structures were made out of smaller units of the human body. Claudius Galen (130-200 C.E.)  became the most influential physician with his works being taught in Europe for 1,500 years. The problem with his works is that he dissected animals , rather than human cadavers. When Christianity dominated Europe science was suppressed and it was not until the 16th century till a new age of freedom was established. During the Middle Ages religious dogma restricted scientific advancement and free thought. Islamic civilization did not have the same restrictions on scientific curiosity. There was also Jewish contribution to anatomy by Moses ben Maimon ( 1135-1204). Ibn Sina ( 980- 1037) wrote The Cannon of Medicine, which became a leading authority. Italy would later become a major center in the study of anatomy when the Catholic Church relaxed its policies on cadaver dissection.  The major turning point was with Andreas Vesalius’ ( 1514-1564)  De Humani Corpis Fabrica .This ushered in a rich history of detailed medical illustration still present today. While it was mostly men who pioneered anatomy women made significant contributions. Alessandra Giliani  was an anatomist in the 14th century who carried out her own dissections. Most of her work has not been preserved. It was alleged that she was involved in the exploration of the circulatory system. A technique she used was to drain the cadaver of blood replacing it with colored dye. Alessandra Giliani  may have been the first female anatomist in Europe. Anna Morandi Manzolini during her time gained more notoriety.  Not only was she trained in the sciences, her skills as a sculptor were astounding. Using both her skills in anatomical science and art is solved a problem. Bodies used for dissection fell victim to decomposition,but with wax models students and academics had a three dimensional representation. An illustration can only go so far. Seeing  the organs and their systems provides more information than  what an illustration can provide.

Alessandra Giliani (1307- 1326) 
Anna Morandi Manzolini (1714- 1774) 
Laura Bassi (1711-1778) 
Jane C. wright
Jane C. Wright  (1919-2013 ) 

Manzolini became a professor of anatomy and taught at the University of Bologna. Her collection of wax models became a valuable teaching aid as well as an important source of biological knowledge.  Her studies focused on the male reproductive system and the the nature of the oblique eye muscle. Over the course of the 18th century she amassed a huge collection of models she constructed. Her works were known as the Supellex Manzoliniana . Manzolini was not the only female anatomist in Europe at the time. Laura Bassi was not only active in biology and anatomy she was responsible for bringing Newtonian physics to Italy. During the 1760s she conducted experiments with electricity for medical purposes. The 20th century saw more women in medical fields. Jane C. Wright  was a pioneer in cancer research and chemotherapy. Using human tissue culture was a way to see the true attributes of how cancer grows and spreads. This many it easier to produce effective drugs. Jane C. wright also was a harbinger in the use of methotrexate as a medication to fight both skin and breast cancer. Many women have been written out of scientific history. What  Jill Filipovic  does not realize is that science does not have an obsession with the male body. The real problem is the ignorance about biology, anatomy, and  the history of medicine.

          The reason that the male as default in anatomy came about could have been to the ratio of male and female cadavers available for dissection. More male  bodies were used in the past,which may have caused a distorted view. Few women were involved in the biomedical sciences, which meant that fewer people were studying female anatomy. The comical statement of  Filipovic is ”  It may seem like a stretch to say that we haven’t seen milk ducts for the same reason we haven’t had a female president. ” Certainly, any rational person  can see that is a stretch. The fact female biology and anatomy is not given attention is more of neglect, rather than vicious sexism. Not voting for someone based on their sex  is an example of  prejudice. The wider symptom is that there needs to be more women in the sciences with a concentration in women’s health. More female based medical illustrations will not solve problems that involve institutional sexism. Distorted thinking such as men being considered normal and women biological anomalies can be challenged with more education. Public schools must add more biology, anatomy, and health sciences courses to counter myths.  The irony is that Jill Filipovic falls victim to her own limited understanding of the human body. Third wave feminists were fast to declare patriarchy surrounding the image and responses to it without realizing the image was an inaccurate representation. The fact that one think about man as default when looking at the image only demonstrates, how the public has a poor understanding of sexual dimorphism. It can be flexible relative to certain attributes,yet men and women are the same species. Women’s bodies are not unusual or bizarre they are products of millions of years of evolution.

How Viral Image of Breasts Exposes Science’s Obsession With the Male Body

Livestrong :The Differences Between Bulky and Toned Muscles

Bulky Muscle and Toned Muscle

There seems to be much disinformation about fitness and the human body in general. When it comes to health or science the public lacks a basic understanding. Livestrong is a trusted source about fitness and health information, yet it is not immune from errors occasionally.  Jody Braverman made an egregious mistake attempting to make the argument there is a difference between toned and bulky muscle. This terminology has not basis in anatomical study. Muscles are made out the same cells and if examined by biopsy one would not be able to distinguish “toned” or “bulky” muscle. There are different muscle fiber types, which can effect physical fitness. The only use for these terms is to describe aesthetics in relation to bodybuilding sports. Braverman articulates that position : ” some people want to add size to their muscles, while other people just want to look more defined.” Even with the question of aesthetics, toned and bulky could be relative based on a person’s perspective. Saying there are toned bodies and bulky ones also is inaccurate. Both bodies are still building muscle, the difference is in amount of body mass and fitness goals .  A contradiction can be seen when expressing “bulky muscles are larger in size than toned muscles.” Muscle size can vary depending on genetics, endocrinology, training regimen, and nutrition. Resistance training can generate a response from the body if done consistently. Although it would simple to just say that Jody Braverman is perpetuating false information she actually does make valid recommendations. For a beginner, its important to realize what are truths and misconceptions. This requires an understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the muscular system.

          The human body consists of cells. Each of these cells depending on the organ system are different. The muscular system consists of cells known as myocytes. Cells are the foundation of human tissue. There are three different types of muscular tissue in the human body. Skeletal, visceral , and cardiac muscle vary in terms of physiology, physical attributes, and their roles in the muscular system. Skeletal muscle is involved in movement of the human body. Tendons are the links that fasten bones to the muscle. Skeletal muscle has multiple nuclei with cells that are striated. The movement is voluntary in relation to this type of muscle. When skeletal muscle contracts movement is produced. The skeletal muscle can be long and can run the length of the muscle of the body part. This type of muscle has actin and myosin filaments, which aid in contraction. Muscle is formed by a process known as myogenesis.

The basic structure of the myocyte.
The human body at the smallest level is composed of atoms. Atoms can be bonded together to form molecules. Cells form organ systems of the body.
These are the different types of cells found in the human body. Stem cells act as the originator of the cells that later differentiate themselves.

Visceral muscle does not have striations. The term viscera refers to internal organs such as the stomach and intestines. The shape is in that of a spindle each possessing a nucleus . Visceral muscle is involuntary and has to move substances in the lumens of the body. This type of muscle can be found in the digestive tract and the walls of blood vessels. The contraction rate is slower for visceral muscle compared to skeletal muscle. When visceral muscle contracts in the intestine food moves in the lumen. Fast contracting muscle would cause digestive problems if it were there. When contraction happens in the blood vessels of the body, blood pressure increases. Slow contraction protects internal organs that need move certain fluids or food in the body without causing damage. Cardiac muscle form the walls of the human heart. When the heart muscle contracts blood gets pumped. This also results in the heart’s beat. Cardiac muscle contains feature of both visceral and skeletal muscle. It has striations, but also is involuntary. The heart has branching cells which have one nucleus. Relevant to the topic of bulky and toned muscle, it is clear there is no difference in tissue of cellular attributes. If tissue samples were extracted from a toned or bulky person there would not be a radical difference.

           The terms bulky and toned could only have relevance in terms of strength sport aesthetics.  This is mostly subjective. Braverman  provides her perspective, which can be debated : ” toning actually has more to do with your body fat level than the muscle itself.” She confuses lifting weights for weight loss. Simple weight loss can be done with a change in diet and some exercise, which can reduce body fat. Getting the muscularity level of what is called toned requires more effort and consistency. Losing just body fat is not going to produce a certain muscularity level, it requires an amount of exercise stimuli to induce muscular  hypertrophy. Depending on who you ask bulky and toned could have various meanings. There also is an element of gender bias both conscious and unconscious when these terms are used. Bulky has been sometimes used to vituperate women of a certain level of muscularity. Toned refers to a more acceptable level of female body image appearance. Unfortunately, many fitness professionals, gym goers, and people the sports world engage in this double standard directed at women. The subtle message is that it is not appropriate for women to be strong or muscular. The positive change is that there is growing acceptance of women who look different and want to display their physical prowess.

These women are not “bulky” they have developed their physiques for aesthetic presentation.  

Braverman may be falling into such biases with statements such as : “many women desire to have toned, lean muscles that are normal in size or slightly developed and visible underneath the skin — whether a little or a lot.” The idea of normal size muscles may perplex readers. Muscles be manipulated to either look different. Female bodybuilders may look different from other types of women, but their muscles are no more abnormal from another person’s muscles. The contest requires them to be at low body fat , defined, and to apply a tan. This may seem strange to many who are not familiar with the sport. They do not look that way  the entire year taking breaks wit their off season. Some athletes you would not know how muscular they are with their clothes on. These women are seen as bulky, but they do not weigh as much as they appear. Even in their off season weight they weigh less than average man in the US. According to the CDC the average weight of an American man is 197.6 lbs. Alina Popa’s contest weight is 175 lbs and Margie Martin is 154 lbs. If we are measuring bulkiness off of size alone, these champion bodybuilders would not fit that description. A woman who is considered tone has only a certain level of muscular development. The level is minimal in comparison to the highest level which would be a female bodybuilder.

Compare the toned women above to the untrained women at the bottom. The women above have more muscle from training and the women below lack development. 

Again it seems this is more an argument of appearance rather than actual exercise physiology.  The description of bulky muscles almost seems comical : “If you want to picture bulky muscles, just think of the Incredible Hulk — or maybe just some of the guys at your gym. ” Women have become accomplished bodybuilders from athletes such as Corey Everson, Lenda Murray, and Iris Kyle. The largest men and women in bodybuilding are not just building large slabs of muscle there has to be a focus on symmetry, definition, and general conditioning. Building such a physique is more complicated than lifting heavy weights and drinking protein shakes. Lifting weights to either tone or bulk involves causing microtrauma and then resting to allow recovery. During that process the fiber will grow stronger. Fitness goals vary among individuals,  Women are now competing as serious athletes and a large amount are wanting to reach their physical fitness maximum. The problem is that exercise physiology is slow to catch up to women’s levels of participation with reliable information and resources . Women should not be concerned about being bulky or toned because from an exercise physiology perspective, these terms do not exist. Women can have varying levels of muscularity so the lines between bulky and tone become blurred. Just how much muscle is bulky or toned? For some the defined fitness model or physique competitor may be considered “too much” in their view.

The varying degrees of muscular development. The classes women can compete in are bodybuilding, fitness, figure, physique, and bikini divisions. 

A woman has the right to look like whatever she pleases. While detractors disparage women’s athletic accomplishments, other with a more open mind see how amazing their feats are. Women’s pursuit and development of such strength is a testament to how incredible the human body is. Bulky and tone muscle do not exist as biological realities. They are general descriptions of appearance and not even precise ones.

           What Jody Braverman does articulate correctly is how somatatotype has an impact on muscular development in relation to physical fitness capacity. The term somatotype  refers to body composition and shape. There are three classifications which include ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs. It should be noted that these terms are very general and it possible that some people could be in between classifications. The origin of these terms did not come from sports science, rather psychology. William Sheldon developed these terms from his concept of constitutional psychology, which had basis in eugenics, physiognomy,  and  anthropometry. Sheldon claimed that body type correlated to personality.  This has been discredited, but the terms describing body type still remain in use in fitness and physical education circles. Ectomorphs have difficulty gaining fat or muscle mass. What this means is they will have to train harder to reach a certain level of physical strength. Braverman contradicts herself saying ”  it’s easy for them to looked toned, but very difficult for them to bulk up.” Muscle tone would still be muscle, which it has been established hard for tin body types to gain. Their appearance would not be that of muscle definition, due to the fact they lack the mass of muscular tissue.

Ectomorphic body types have limited amounts of fat and muscle. The advantage is that their metabolism prevents excessive weight gain. 

Ectomorphs may be at a disadvantage in terms of total muscular mass gain, but weight management is easier.  Endomorphs have the challenge of a slower metabolism. This means they have the risk of become overweight or obese if exercise is not part of their normal routine. Braverman makes the mistake of saying they can put on muscle easy, which is not correct. Muscle and fat constitute two different forms of body composition. Women have higher levels of body fat due to estrogen and progesterone. The slimmest or most muscular women still maintains a higher fat percentage compared with a man of a similar body type. This explains why women have a harder time losing weight. Although it may be difficult for ectomorphs and endomorphs to alter their bodies it is not impossible. Adjusting diet and nutrition is essential while remaining consistent with training. Ectomorphs would have to consume more calories, while increasing exercise  intensity to see dramatic change. Endomorphs would have to take a more gradual approach, while carefully keeping tack of calorie consumption and training.

Endomorphs do not gain muscle as easy as suggested by Jody Braverman. Having a bigger body with some fat is not unhealthy. The only time health is at risk is when large amounts of weight are gained over a period of time. 

The common misconception is to assume that people who are bigger are not healthy. Body size alone is not an indicator of health. Thinness is not an indication of optimal health. Only a medical examination can determine health condition, not an image based on a certain beauty standard. The only time weight becomes a problem is when it puts strain on the skeletal and circulatory system. The body mass index is not very useful in revealing healthy body weight. The measurements do not account for variation in musculoskeletal mass, which may classify fit individuals as obese. So, a scale can be misleading especially when building muscle mass. Mesomorphs have the greatest potential for muscular gain. Frames can vary among the somatotypes depending on height and body size.

Mesomorphs have little body fat and have an easier time building mass. People with those somatotypes tend to excel at the bodybuilding sports. 

Saying “mesomorphs are in the middle” does not seem accurate. That does not make sense in terms of a physical strength scale. Even when describing aesthetics it is not helpful. Trying to scale somatotypes by Braverman’s method is just more confusing. There is a simple method . For the sake of discussion we will have a range between 1 to 3 indicating physical strength. One is the lowest while three is the highest. The ectomorphs would be at a level 1 range seeing as they lack muscle to weigh close to an endomorph. Muscle does not weigh more than fat. If there is a pound of muscle and a pound of fat that means it is equal. Endomorphs would be at a range of two. Their weight is more than an ectomorph, but extra pounds of fat do not add to strength. Type II muscle fiber has the ability to generate force, unlike fat. Mesomorphs would be at the highest level of three. However, it should be noted bigger muscles do not automatically mean more strength. The main factors are muscle fiber type, rate of contraction, and neuromuscular efficiency. This means that a smaller looking weightlifter could be stronger than a bodybuilder with more pronounced muscles.There is a difference between training for aesthetics and for functional fitness.

  The scale from 1 to 3 of physical strength in terms of somatotype.

Prior to starting an exercise regimen or training program it is important to know what your somatotype is. Doing this allows for a more efficient training program. There are methods that are employed which can build musculature as well as specific exercises. The texts basically puts being toned down to diet with some lower level of strength training. However, building muscle also requires strength training and an adjusted diet.

        The techniques and process  of training can be described by certain terms. These terms include load, frequency, volume, rest, and recovery. Load tells how much weight is lifted during an exercise session. Frequency is a general description of  which body part is worked during the course of the week. Exercises are designed to target a certain muscle group. Rest is the period of no activity between sets. Recovery is required for the body to heal after training sessions or between workouts . Protein consumption, the total amount of sleep one gets, or stress level can effect muscular hypertrophy. Braverman cites recommendations from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Their suggestion is to do moderate repetitions, volume, and a moderate level of rest. There are different views on the best methods for  muscular hypertrophy.  The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s recommendations as Jody Braverman reveals have been challenged by recent research. Both studies come from 2015 and 2016. There are hints that the major key is progressive overload. It should also be noted some methods are better for muscular size and others preferred for muscular endurance. The study “Effects of Low Versus High Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well Trained Men” demonstrated that both groups gained mass despite the difference in load. One group did moderate weights and reps ( 8 to 12) and lighter weights for higher reps ( 25 to 35 ). The study could be misleading for several reasons. These subjects were well trained prior and it would have made sense to used untrained subject to see which makes the most progress. None were women, which would probably make better subjects due to the fact they have less muscle mass. Using mesomorphs could create a distortion in data and the conclusion.

Bodybuilders are not training for physical strength, rather sculpting a particular physique. 
Depending on how much a person trains, what their diet is, and their genetics building muscle does not happen fast. 
chyna cho
Functional fitness related to how the body performs a specific task. 

 Also using experienced weightlifters does not help either. Their muscle has already mad the adaptation to exercise stimuli. The experiment was a small sample, but it does show one critical fact. Even the highly fit can see changes and it would probably be more pronounced with untrained individuals. Only then could a more clear evaluation of its effectiveness be seen. The flowing study was another small sample in which subjects conducted exercises. This was also published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. What the study found was that muscular hypertrophy increased with longer rest periods. Once more they used all men who were in peak physical condition. One group rested between sets for just a minute. The other took up to three minutes of rest. The study lasted two months, so there was definitely a significant change. The NASM recommends ten sets per body part a week, which may not be sufficient to produce muscular hypertrophy at a desired level. There also is a suggestion from  the Journal of Sports Science  volume level and muscular hypertrophy are linked.  Another study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that subjects that did 15 sets had more muscle mass gain compared to people who did none sets weekly. While there are many views on what is the best method for building muscle, some methods are more efficient.  Before starting a training program it is best to know what the goal is. Body sculpting or bodybuilding is just molding the muscle through weights. Functional fitness is about sports performance for a specific task. Diet obviously plays a role in both muscle building and functional fitness. Protein ( chicken, beans, eggs, and fish ) has to be a part of the diet including vegetables. Fried foods and sugar must be excluded. The strategies for bulking or toning are not that radically different.

         Bulk and toned muscles do not exist in a biological or physiological sense. Placed under a microscope or examined through biopsy, muscles from a “bulky” woman would not differ from a “toned” woman. The only difference is muscularity that varies in terms of degree. While there still is bias directed at women who do not look a certain way, this has not deterred them from being more involved in strength sports. Women have found that their are multiple benefits of building shape to their body and confidence. There are also very important health benefits that can protect women from chronic illness. As people age they lose musculoskeletal mass, which could result in sarcopenia or osteoporosis. Heart disease has become a major health concern with modern lifestyles that are mostly sedentary with access to high sugar and fat diets. These aliments can be prevented with just some physical activity and a change in diet. Weight training is a simple method that people of all ages can use to maintain health. Slowly women are getting over their fear of having muscle realizing body image does not have to be the focus of their lives. There are no bulky or toned women, just muscular ones. Having a greater understanding of anatomy and the health sciences can end this myth. Women having muscle does not harm their health it only ensures better physical fitness.


Livestrong :The Differences Between Bulky and Toned Muscles