The Best Way To Improve Muscle Strength (2016)


Best Way To Improve Strength

A study by Human Performance and Neuromuscular Physiology at Loughborough University may have found an efficient way to improve muscle strength. There continues to be debate on what is the best way to improve muscular strength. What Dr. Jonathan Folland suggests from the study was that short bursts of contractions lasting one second can help. Sustained three second contractions can also contribute to muscular strength. Strength training has multiple applications related to health and treatment of disease. Rehabilitation and the treatment of osteoarthritis strength training has become a solution. Athletes looking to improve their performance incorporate it into their training. There was at time in which some athletes believed that using weights would harm their performance. The scientific data proves the opposite and there is more to learn. The study claims ”  the results showed that explosive contractions are an easier and less tiring way of increasing strength and functional capacity of the muscles, and therefore a highly efficient method of training.”  The role of the nervous system was not ignored. Apparently, the nervous system can switch on trained muscles. This makes sense seeing as the nervous system is responsible for both voluntary and involuntary movements. The traditional method was to train the muscle to the point of tiring. This method is used more for making muscles larger, rather than stronger. Some get confused when a person that appears bigger may not be able to lift as much as a smaller person. Training for aesthetics and performance are two different fitness goals. A fitness regimen may not require an individual to train to a high degree of exhaustion.

          The experiment used  a total of 43 men who were in their twenties. All were in good health condition. None had been through lower body training or done any form of training for 18 months prior to the study. The sample does not include women. If one really wanted to see the dramatic change in muscular strength, women would be the best subjects. The average woman has a lower amount of muscle mass compared to the average man.  However, their bodies react to strength training. They experience muscular hypertrophy and can gain strength. If women have lower strength and muscle mass they would be perfect to demonstrate the effectiveness on the body. The study should not include professional female athletes, because it would distort the study. This is why subjects with average levels of physical fitness have to be selected.

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The only muscle that was examined was the quadriceps muscle. The first group was required to do explosive contractions. The second group had to do the sustained contractions. The last set of subjects acted as a control group. This experiment lasted three months. Although the sample was small in comparison to other studies, it should be enough to have a reliable result. Three times a week in those months subjects trained with 40 contractions. The force was closely monitored following that measurements were recorded. This data was related to physiological and performance changes documented prior and after exercise. What was concluded goes against the common strength training method. Explosive burst contractions are better at building strength.If this is true it will change how athletes and lay exercisers approach exercise.

        Dr. Folland was confident that the “no pain no gain” motto is not actually based in exercise physiology fact. This experiment must be replicated to be considered fact. Sample size, confounding factors, or other effects could have effected the results. Folland then explains : ” Whereas traditional strength training is made up of slow, grinding contractions using heavy weights which is quite hard work, this study shows that short, sharp contractions are relatively easy to perform and a very beneficial way of building up strength. ” The idea that training to exhaustion of the muscle will encourage greater hypertrophy as well as strength. There has to be enough microtrauma  to induce muscle growth and strengthening of the fibers. Learning more about how strength training techniques can make improving sports performance easier. Fast explosive contractions could built strength efficiently and in a shorter amount of time. It must also be noted that there are other factors that determine sports performance. Diet and nutrition are critical, because the body requires fuel for long periods of physical activity. Genetics and somatotype also contribute to physical fitness capacity. There will still be variation among individuals in terms of results from a training regimen.

       Short explosive contractions could  be an effective means of  treating osteoarthritis. This disease refers to when flexible tissue at the ends of the bones wears down. Cartilage acts as a protector and cushion between bones. Osteoarthritis can damage joints in the hips, hands, knees, and spine. Symptoms include pain in joints, stiffness, bone spurs, swelling, loss of flexibility, and a grinding sensation in the bones. There are numerous risk factors. This could include age, sex, constant stress on a joint, unhealthy weight, genetics, or bone deformities. Weight training could be both a preventative measure and a treatment. Lifting heavy would be too dangerous with someone with osteoarthritis. However, short contractions could be the best for someone with the disease. It will take some time to see if this type of exercise will be effective for people wit osteoarthritis.

       Strength training is more complicated than previously thought. What can be said with certainty is that strength training can protect musculoskeletal health. Muscles and bones are built with exercise. This protects against break down that is related to age. This study must be repeated to see if can be applied to various individuals of different fitness levels.   Dr. Jonathan Folland  seems confident that explosive short burst contractions are more efficient at building strength. There are multiple methods designed to increase muscular strength. The best way to approach it continues to be debated. There also has to be a consideration to the fact everyone responds differently to a training regimen. Individuals may experience more muscular hypertrophy and strength than others based on genetics and body type.

The Best Way To Improve Muscle Strength (2016)

Hieu Truong: So You Want to Pick Up and Lift a Man Overhead?



Pick A Man Up Overhead

There are many fitness goals that both professional athlete and casual exerciser attempt to meet. Rarely do you hear a woman say her goal is to lift a man overhead. The internet  has shown us many feats of strength coming from women. The question is how would a  woman go about actually doing this? Hieu Truong provides her expertise in weightlifting to give an answer. Truong asked this question of her friends and associates who coach and participate in weightlifting, strongman,  and powerlifting. Although it may seem like a ludicrous question it is a fun scenario to ponder in regards to exercise physiology. There are factors that determine if this is possible. The size and weight of the man being lifted should be taken into consideration.  Hieu Truong  provides insight : ”  I was also reminded multiple times that I should not expect to ever pick up my husband and press him overhead. ” She is a weightlifter her self but she explains ”    unfortunately, they’re right: my husband weighs twice as much and is over a foot taller than I am. ” Truong then goes on saying she does not expect to do this with her husband or any man. Although her husband is large, with some effort she may be able overhead lift a man of smaller size. Possibly she could do it to a man of her size. Height would not be a factor rather total body mass. The second factor relates to if the man is resisting being lifted or not. The size of the woman is also a factor. Then there are the use of push presses and is there a set way to lift a man off the ground. The program Hieu Truong  has never been tested, yet it is fascinating to see how a training regimen is devised.

          Before any lift is attempted the size of our subjects needs to be clarified. For these tests the weight of 185 lbs is used for a man. The reason they use that weight is because it is the closest measurement to a standard  Olympic barbell. According to the CDC the average weight for the American male at 5 ‘8” is 200 lbs. This comes  down to weight lifting a man who is obese or extremely musclebound one  would be the most difficult. Muscle does not weigh more than fat so if it were a muscular man and a fat one they could weigh the same.

Knowing that a man could be around a 185 to 200 lbs weight range, this gives an idea about how strong a woman’s body would have to be to deal with the weight.Lifting a man overhead would be nearly impossible for an untrained woman. These actions require a good amount of upper body strength. Then the woman lifter’s muscle to fat ratio becomes a factor. Her weight and muscle fiber type will determine if she can lift overhead a man. Type II muscle fibers are the most important to explosive strength . To hoist a man in the air, it would mean that more type II muscle fibers would have to be concentrated in the upper body. The woman lifter faces two physiological and biological challenges. The first is that total body mass is less and the amount of type II muscle fibers is lower. The endocrine system produces more estrogen in women, which has an effect on body composition.  This means a woman would have to work harder in achieving a high level of strength. Training and technique can negate some of the  physical differences.

All women are not the same. Some have greater strength potential than others.
The upper body is the hardest area for women to gain strength.
Women’s bodies do experience  muscular hypertrophy through long term weightlifting.

This does not close the gap in physical fitness capacity. It should be noted that Hieu Truong proposed two scenarios. The first is if the man is resisting being picked up. That would be challenging for anyone seeing as a person would be actively moving. The other case involves a man who is compliant with the lift. From this a hypothetical training program can be developed to see if a woman can lift a man overhead. The two training programs both utilize back squats, push presses, bench presses, and sandbag cleans.

          The attempt to lift a man without his assistance requires movement patterns from the legs and hips. This is very helpful, because the lower body is easier for women to add strength to. Also the man who is being lifted must be in a particular position. The goal is to get them upon the shoulders of the woman so she can lift him in the air. The technique here would be the Steinborn squat. Knowing that most likely the woman weighs less than the man being lifted her strength reserve would have to be higher than the weight being lifted. If the strength reserve is only equal to the weight being lifted the woman would not be able to successfully execute the feat. The Steinborn squat puts more force on the back and knees, which means such areas of the body must be strengthened through progressive overload. A woman would have to reach a target squat of 225 lbs. The upper body strength still is a requirement so a 225 lbs bench press is recommended by Phillip Stablien. The weightlifting coach also suggests a 205 push press, which may actually mimic the lifting of a person.

An athlete doing a log press
The overhead lift being done by a female bodybuilder.
An athlete must have a high strength reserve in comparison to the strength that they use for the action.

The challenge is asymmetry when holding the human body compared to a weight. There are other exercises that can be used to attain the required strength levels. The sandbag could be another close imitation of the human body being lifted.  The biggest problem with lifting or moving a person is limited options for holding. Then there is the shifting center of gravity. Sandbags basically a more like dummies that can be used as a test run for this exercise experiment. The log press is an exercise part of training for strongman and strongwomen  events. It is part of the competition, but it can be applied to lifting a man overhead. Holding the log is much easier compared to the sandbag. The benefit is that it allows the person to focus more on building brute strength, than applying balance with center of gravity in mind. Adding the total amount of weight required for a woman to move it would be 655 lbs. It would be harder for a woman of ectomorphic body type to attain this level. Women with more natural strength and muscular body structure could do this. There are videos that show women lifting men overhead.  The first video shows a woman who is in shape using What appears to be the Steinborn squat. However, she does struggle to execute it. That is an indication that she needs to work on building her strength reserves. The other two videos show the overhead lifts of a bodybuilder and strongwoman.

Dawn Riehl was able to lift the man in the video easily because of her high strength reserve. During her competitive years her squat was 345 lbs and a bench press of 315 lbs. That means she can move a total of 660 lbs, which is over the 655 lbs marker. She was a bodybuilder meaning she trained for aesthetic purposes, rater than strength. Dawn if she trained like a strongwoman could have gotten much more powerful. The last video shows strongwoman Aneta Florczyk lifting men overhead multiple times. Her bench press was 220.5 lbs and 456.4 lbs squat. Her total weight lifted would be 676.9 lbs. That means she would be stronger than Dawn and it explains why she was able to toss those men so easily in the video. Aneta Florczyk’s weight was 165 lbs and Dawn Riehl’s 132 lbs. Women can do this even when they come in different sizes. It may be difficult to determine which method is the best, but it is known lifting a person without assistance is harder.

     Lifting a person who is a willing participant or conscious is easier. Mike MsKenna says ”  Assuming you’re working with a man within the realm of your strength–say, 100-150% of your weight–then you could put him over your head at some point. ” His directions are more specific compared to other approach. There should be certain days in which front squats and back squats should be done. There is an overlap with suggestion of using sandbags. Deadlifts and heavy cleans are also advised in this method. This technique functions on a four day a week training split. What was extrapolated from this hypothesis was a chart of exercise and their intensity level. The training schedule goes as follows. The fist day requires snatch balances, back squat ladders, Turkish get-ups, T bar and bent over rows. The second day will involve cleans, deadlifts, front squats, and bench press. The third day requires back squat, overhead recoveries, arms, and Romanian deadlifts. The last day will involve log cleans,presses, sandbags, and yoke carries.


sandbag exercise
Weights do not have limbs like a human body.

There seems to be more attention to detail compared to the other hypothetical method. Practice makes this work. The man being lifted has to be practice with as many times as possible. First when in the air or on the ground. The biggest factor is the man being able to hold the plank position. The method presented in scenario two seems more meticulous in approach. This is a very unconventional fitness goal, but there are women who can pick up men. Fireman’s carry, over the shoulder, and cradle carry are what women can do with strength training. Women can lift men overhead with either of these methods or scenarios. Which technique works the best has not been determined.

       Lifting a man overhead would be no simple feat according to  Hieu Truong. The man being lifted determines the success of the feat of strength. A smaller or thinner man could be no problem lifting overhead . Around  the 132 lbs to 149 lbs range would not be too much weight. If a man exceeds  195 lbs range women would require a huge amount of strength. A woman of  larger size could lift many men seeing as bone density would be aiding her. Beyond just a simple fitness entertainment theory, this could have important applications. Women are entering physically demanding occupations, which require a certain degree of muscular power. The military and firefighting departments could benefit from the use of sandbag exercise and strongwoman training to improve women’s performance. The US Military is now implementing a set standard for physical fitness for both of the sexes and women can benefit from functional fitness training.

lA6y8lLjobc The argument used often is that women should not do these jobs, because they do not have the strength. Detractors claim that it would be impossible for a woman to carry a man out of a combat situation or rescue them from a burning building.  Training and diet can make a difference in physical fitness capacity. The point is to have an objective. The lifting a man overhead scenario can be retooled to evacuating an injured coworker or comrade. If women were to be given the proper instruction, then questions about physical competence would be resolved . The lift a man overhead scenario is more controlled compared to the situations of soldiers, firefighters, and police. However, it may make for a good simulation and training of the body for physical demands. Seeing as women have to train harder it may take some time to do an overhead lift of a man. Months or possibly years it can take to build the physical strength necessary. Consistency, time, and training can eventually change the fitness capacity of the human body.

Hieu Truong: So You Want to Pick Up and Lift a Man Overhead?

Sports Medicine Weekly : Are You Fit Enough For Mars ?

SpaceSapce fit

Are You Fit Enough For Mars ?

There has been a renewed interest in space and astronomy. The US government wants to create a space force, the program Cosmos is getting a sequel, and the discovery of exoplanets has cause excitement. It may be centuries before actual humans can travel between galaxies. The first step to that task is to master travelling between planets in the Solar System. Mars is a great candidate for future space exploration with astronauts. While the Mars Pathfinder captured impressive images, seeing something for yourself  has a greater impact. Outer Space is a real mystery. It is uncharted territory that humanity has yet to completely map. Navigation is not the only obstacle. The human body was adapted to the conditions of Earth. Microgravity can have certain effects on the organ systems of the body. The most notable is the muscular and skeletal system. Long spaceflights could decrease physical fitness. The longer it is, the more the musculoskeletal system could be at risk. Certain jobs like this demand a measurable level of fitness. There is an amount of exercise required to prevent such loss of muscle and bone. Mars has a more harsh environment compared to the Moon. Travelling to Mars would be more strenuous in comparison. Making it suitable for colonization would be a long term project. Kansas State University produced a study to determine the level of fitness required for a planetary mission to Mars. It also simulated performance with in flight equipment. It is likely that a successful mission to Mars can be done, but its is important to have detailed understanding of the planet.

           Mars is a terrestrial planet thought to be at one time similar to our own. The atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide (95.7% ), nitrogen (2.7%) and argon (1.6%).  The surface gravity of Mars is 0.38  g . The environment is a place volcanoes, immense canyons, and frozen ice caps. The surface temperature ranges from -125 to 25  degrees Celsius. Mars only has two moons which include Phobos and Deimos . Some have speculated that these are captured asteroids. The planet may appear to be a dry desert wasteland, but there are some dangers to potential space explorers.  Ultraviolet radiation levels could be harmful to human health. Mars does have seasons due to its tilted axis. The axial tilt of the planet comes to a total of 25.19 degrees. Ice caps provide proof of seasonal change, which grow in the winter and shrink in the summer. Dust storms can be a peril to any astronaut on Mars. The air is thin, but dense enough to allow for weather. A combination of high winds enables the red sands to be exacerbated causing sand storms.

A day on Mars is equivalent to 1.03 days on Earth.
Muscle atrophy if they are not exercised. This will be an issue in a microgravity environment.
Aerobic capacity is one element of physical fitness.
Even a muscular person could experience a loss of mass in Outer Space.

The only environment on Earth that comes close to a Mars like setting is our deserts. However, the sandstorms on Earth are no where as extreme. Conditions are not exactly the best for human habitation. A different type of space suit would also be required. Going onto the Martian surface would require a pressurized suit equipped with oxygen supply. Otherwise the low atmospheric pressure could cause the fluids in the body to boil  to a dangerous temperature. There is no magnetic field, which means human explorers would be vulnerable to cosmic rays. Spending long periods of time on Mars could pose a serious health risk. One possible solution would be to have large shielded housing structures that would protect human life. This is only a small amount of information known about Mars.

         The goals of the experiment as stated from the abstract was to “determine values and ranges for key aerobic fitness variables that can individually map the level of success for planetary mission tasks performance for long-duration spaceflight, with the goal to develop a predictor-testing model that can be performed with in-flight equipment.” Part of the task is not only getting on to the surface of Mars, but how to ensure a safe journey. Reaching the planet could be just as physically demanding as colonizing it. There have been proposals of using the Moon as sort of a testing ground for possible terraforming. If humanity can successfully colonize the Moon, then it can be done with Mars. Astronauts need to be in the best health and physical condition to prepare for future missions. At the moment there is limitation in terms of funding and technology. Spacecraft will have to be more durable. Exercise equipment needs to be able to build large amounts of  physical fitness.

         The experiment selected 45 men and women who did hill climbing as well as a surface traverse task. These task were performed from low to moderate activity simulating a lunar and Mars like environment. The subjects moved supplies and set up communications towers. The point of this was to see a change in metabolic response. Aerobic fitness was described in terms of ventilatory threshold (VT), and critical power. Performance was determined by ” logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic curve analysis were used to determine the cutoff thresholds for each aerobic fitness parameter that accurately predicted task performance.” Both Cycling and rowing Vo2 peak were utilized in the experiment. It should be assumed that all the men and women used were at high fitness levels prior to the experiment. Otherwise, this could effect outcomes.  The results produced that   ventilatory  threshold and critical power were good indicators of determining who could complete mission tasks. This suggests what type of physical fitness test could be used for long term spaceflight or travel between planets. 

        The study concluded with this statement : ” In summary, we identified aerobic fitness thresholds below which task performance was impaired for both low- and moderate-intensity mission-critical tasks.” The study explains further that “In particular, cycling V˙O2peak, VT, and rowing CP could each be used to predict task failure.” Many physically demanding occupations have a fitness test to determine if a candidate is qualified for a job. This experiment has more than a test of qualification, rather how much stress the human body can take in a radically different environment. Humans evolved to live in places in which gravity effects their bodies. Space can change the human body possibly at the cellular and genetic level. The brain even may be effected during long spaceflights. A  lucid understanding of physical fitness, spaceflight’s impact on health, and other hazards must be established. More details and tests must be done to make a mission to Mars a success. What has been determined is that space travel requires a certain amount of physical fitness.


Sports Medicine Weekly : Are You Fit Enough For Mars ?

Medical Express : Workout Frequency The Most Important Factor in Strength Gains For Women



Workout frequency the most important factor in strength gains for women

It has been established that women can make strength gains through weightlifting. The female body is capable of muscular hypertrophy. One factor that is essential to women’s strength gains is frequency.  The study was from the University of New   South Wales. The findings were published by Sports Medicine . The article was written by Amanda D. Hangstrom titled ” The Effect of Resistance Training in Women on Dynamic Strength and Muscular Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis.” This study was unique because it focused solely on female subjects reactions to resistance training. An exercise physiology or sports medicine study has never analyzed the effect of resistance training on women’s muscular strength and hypertrophy. The objective was stated as ” to systematically review the literature on female adaptations to RT, characterising the effect in terms of muscular strength and hypertrophy; (2) to distinguish the individual effects of intervention duration, frequency, and intensity on these adaptations via sub-analysis; (3) to draw evidence-based conclusions regarding training expectations in female populations.” The conclusion seems questionable. It is not a certain exercise that is done,rather how often it is done. The claim is that if a woman just exercises regularly she will gain strength. The strangest statement explains ” Surprisingly, specific details—such as the exercise they choose, the variety of exercises in each workout, the heaviness of the weights, whether they are supervised, and whether they lift until their bodies give out—don’t appear to have a major impact on overall strength or muscle mass growth.” Form what is known some of the new information can be disputed. Granted, this is the first study of its kind so further investigation may be required.

           The women in the study ranged from ages 18 to 50. The fitness levels among them varied, which could have effected the results. Certain women are going to react differently to exercise stimuli than others. The sample size consisted of 1000 women from 24 resistance training studies. The sample was decent enough in terms of amount, but it would have been better to know the specific fitness levels of women involved. There is a difference between an average woman and a woman of high physical fitness. Women who carry more muscular mass prior to training could see more gains compare to a woman of a slimmer body type. A woman with more experience with weights will clearly see different results from the experiment. Age could also effect the study. When people age, they naturally do lose a level of musculoskeletal mass. This process happens around the age of 30. The  age range of 45 to 50 group would be working with less muscle mass compared to the 18 to 40 demographic.

donna compare.jpg

The muscles of trained women have already adapted to the resistance training. Taking the weakest women and training them would allow to see how gradually effective resistance training can be. The subjects should be uniform in their fitness level to make it easier to decipher what factors could alter the results. Ectomorphic and mesomorphic body types respond differently to exercise. Otherwise the conclusion may not be as precise as required to become scientific fact. The images above show women of different  fitness levels above. The fit women and the women with no training are going to see changes from exercise stimuli. The extent of  physical strength and muscle mass gain depends on factors such as diet, genetics, body type, size, and training method.

         Experimental method is important to any scientific study. What was done by the University of New South Wales searched electronic databases  with studies related to women and resistance training. Random effects meta-analyses was utilized to determine the effect of resistance training on the female body. Following this univariate   analyses was employed to see the training related effects such as training volume and intensity. Meta-analysis refers to examining data from different studies and synthesizing a result from them. Although this is a term of statistics, the concept and its methods have been used in medicine as well as epidemiology.  Random effects meta-analysis refers to a statistical model estimates variance among data in studies.




The amount of data is crucial. The experiment examined 14, 067 articles, yet only 24 studies were worthy enough to be included for meta-analysis. A total of 15 studies examined upper body strength and 19 focused on lower body strength. Muscular hypertrophy was mentioned in 15 studies. Once more, we see a limitation. Few women are used for exercise physiology studies, which explains the low number of 24 relevant articles. The majority of relevant studies has an emphasis on lower body strength. To have a full understanding the other muscles of the body should be examined as well. The reason their are more studies on women’s lower bodies is that traditional training the upper body was considered a male exercise. Seeing as the number of total article was immense, the study lasted a year and 4 weeks. If  another meta-analysis study were to be done, it would be more precise in the future. At least by that time more data focused on women would be available. The trim and fill method was used to account for publication bias. Smaller studies were excluded to produce a symmetrical plot. What happens after this step is then formulate a summery based on the larger studies. This explains why only 24 studies were used out the 14,067 others.

           After 15 weeks of training conclusions were made. The study reported ” Large-effect sizes were found for upper body strength (Hedges’ g = 1.70; p < 0.001) and lower body strength (Hedges’ g = 1.40; p < 0.001).” The trim and fill method was used and the upper body increase remained ( Hedges’ g = 1.07). The lower body (Hedges’ g = 0.52) and the total muscular hypertrophy (g = 0.52, p = 0.002)  was at medium effect. There could be several explanations for this. Women have less upper body strength, which explains why gain there from training were more significant compared to the lower body. Body size, myostatin levels, and endocrine function influence muscular hypertrophy. The study stated : ” Sub-analyses revealed that the moderating variables “training frequency” and “training volume” significantly influenced lower body muscular strength (p < 0.001). ” It was also revealed that few moderating variables did not show impact on muscular hypertrophy. Age was a factor with younger women showing more gains in the upper body. What was also noted was that ” a moderating effect was also observed where supervised training had a larger influence on the adaptation of lower body strength (p = 0.05) compared with unsupervised training.” The conclusion was that training volume and frequency are essential factor in the increase in muscular strength. Resistance training gives vast improvement in the muscular strength of women.




To anyone following women’s sports or fitness, this is not a new revelation. The difference now is that there is scientific confirmation. Before, there was only simple observation by watching what women did with little information. More research must be done to understand how women’s response to exercise stimuli varies.

        It can be disputed which exercise, the variety, volume, and training to exhaustion effect muscular strength and hypertrophy. Sherry Landow makes the mistake of saying none of these factor matter. They do and making mistakes could be sabotaging fitness goals. The reason ten repetitions were used was to see a response to training. If enough is not done, muscle growth will not occur. Lifting only five pound dumbbells once a week will not cause major changes. The best it could do it provide general health maintenance. Lifting light weights at high repetition can build muscular endurance. Choosing heavier ones at lower repetition can cause an increase in strength. It would be theoretically possible to build some muscle with smaller weight, but this would take a longer amount of time. Regardless of training method    Dr. Mandy Hagstrom is correct expressing consistency is a factor. The women completed 10 repetitions three times a week ( over the span of 15 weeks). The result was that they gained 1.5 kg of muscle and a 25% increase in physical strength. However it is false when Dr. Hagstrom states ”   It doesn’t necessarily matter what you do when you’re in the gym, just that you’re there and exercise with effort.” Doing yoga, stationary bike, or using a treadmill is not going to build large amounts of strength. These exercises improve aerobic fitness and flexibility, but have little impact on muscular hypertrophy. Weights or other load bearing exercise must be incorporated. Many women exclude weights from their exercise routine. sports women


Cycling On Exercise Bikes.

So if the goal is to gain strength or muscle resistance training is the best. The challenge is producing a set of guidelines. Dr.  Hagstrom expressed ” Our meta-analysis didn’t yield any specific guidelines for the number of exercises or repetitions to do, so the key message for women is to try to and accrue adequate overall exercise volume and train as frequently as possible.” It should also be noted with intense exercise, rest should be part of the training regimen. At least two days should be taken for a period of recovery to allow for muscle repair. Outside of exercise, diet require enough protein to fuel the muscle. Getting enough caloric intake is required to have enough energy for the body . Women response to resistance training is an emerging area of  focus as more women are getting active in strength sports.

          Women have the have muscles and bones like men, so it was thought that they respond in a similar manner. This assumption is wrong, because men and women differ in physiology and physical fitness capacity. Exercise physiology and sports medicine has not caught up in terms of studies that focus on female athletes. This is something that Dr. Mandy Hagstrom wants to reverse. There are sex based differences in muscle fiber size, fatigue levels, recovery times, and muscle perfusion. The difference in muscle perfusion is the most curious and fascinating. Perfusion refers to the passage of vitals fluids through the circulatory and lymphatic system to tissues of the body. Blood must get the the capillary bed in organ tissue. Women have smaller hearts, which may explain why there is a difference in muscle profusion.

21a49dca365b91586d207453db96b7c1af4a372f workouts.jpg

Muscle 67

There is a bias in the scientific literature. The majority of studies do focus on men with assumption that strength sports are male only. Landow’s article even demonstrates bias unconsciously with this statement : ” while resistance training has historically been a male sport, there has also been a bias to publish literature about men. ” Women were using weights prior to the 21st century. Sports are not male or female; it is for everybody. Women were excluded from participation, but there were times in which athletic competition become available. Basketball and archery were sports women had access to. Professional weightlifting and bodybuilding competition did not exist for women in the early 20th century, however there were certain platforms that athletic women could display their talents. Strongwomen performed feats of strength in circuses, vaudeville houses, or simple street performance. While strongwomen of the 19th and early 20th century did gain some notoriety, they still did not have an arena for professional competition.  The change with the appearance of female bodybuilding in the 1970s and when women’s weightlifting was introduced to the Olympics in 2000. Women’s participation in sports has ancient roots. The Heraean Games were athletic competitions in Greek civilization. Women participated in footraces.




Sexism and discrimination held women back from athletic competition and only recently have barriers been dismantled. Prejudice and biological sexism still remain. The idea that women should train differently than men may sound like a sexist concept. It is not simply because their are biological and physiological attributes that must be accounted for. Beyond sex, exercise programs may not work the same for every individual. This means men and women can have multiple responses to training. One method may not work for every person. The study found that only 39% of women were recognized in exercise science literature. This means the current data may not be as precise as some would want it. Resistance training studies seem to not focus on women as much as men. Dr. Mandy Hagstrom intends to further research seeing the specific physiological changes that women’s bodies undergo through long term, training regimens.  What is known is that resistance training does have immense benefits to health. Osteoporosis and sacropenia can be prevented through load bearing exercise. Dr. Hagstrom’s research could have wider applications beyond enhancing women’s sports performance. Training programs to help women pass physical fitness requirements in occupations such as the military, law enforcement, or firefighting can be designed from data.

Medical Express : Workout Frequency The Most Important Factor in Strength Gains For Women

International Sports Science Association :Ladies Lifting Won’t Make You “Bulk Up”


Ladies, Lifting Heavy Won’t Make You “Bulk Up”

The International Sports Sciences Association is an organization devoted to teaching of fitness instructors, medical professionals, and aerobic instructors. The ISSA offers fitness certification courses to people interested in sports medicine, personal training, and  post-rehabilitation training. The organization was founded in 1988 by  Dr. Sal Arria and Dr. Fredrick Hatfield. The goal was develop a unified standard of fitness training. It was also designed to use applied science in relation to exercise and fitness. There are three main divisions of the organization which include public, professional, and education sections. The ISSA is also a provisional affiliate of the National Board of Fitness Examiners. The International Sports Sciences Association also provides free access to articles published on its website for the general public. There is one question that is recurring when women get involved in strength training. Do women bulk up? This is not as simple answer. Women can through weight training and exercise intensity build muscle. The extent of muscular hypertrophy varies depending on physiological and anatomical factors. There is an irrational fear or bias  of women getting muscular or strong , which seems to be present in fitness literature. Bulking up does not exist in terms of physiology. The proper description is building muscle through resistance training. Other biological  factors contribute to how muscular or strong a person can get through an exercise regimen.

        Endocrinology is a one factor in the extent of muscular hypertrophy. Testosterone is present in both sexes, but after puberty men develop a greater amount. Boys and girls are at the same strength level up until the age of 13, when sex hormones begin to change the human body to one capable of sexual reproduction. Estrogen and progesterone do not cause a strength spurt in the manner that testosterone does. However, it should be remembered its not the complete aggregate, rather the amount of free testosterone in the human body. The amount of sex hormones a person produces could vary by individual and age, but the average woman can have  0.7-3.6 pg/dl . Seeing as the male range extends beyond that, the average man can have more natural physical strength than the average woman. The strength gap can be narrowed, but not closed. The reason is that men have more muscles to start off with in regards to body composition. Testosterone is not the only requirement for muscular hypertrophy.  Beverly Paquin expresses “without that extra testosterone, we ladies simply can’t (yes I mean can’t, as in we are biologically unable to) build the big muscles like guys.”  Women can build muscle, but not to the same degree as a man on the same training regimen. The muscles women build are big for their body size and skeletal frame. It is possible for a woman to be bigger than a man who is smaller or does not train. Simply say women cannot reach a certain level by saying “It’s science, so stop worrying” ignores the fact the the interaction  of anatomy, biology, physiology, genetics, diet, and training is more complicated. While hormone physiology is thought to be a limitation, women have the advantage of producing growth hormone through training. Testosterone is not the only requirement for building muscle.

      Body size and skeletal frame are factors in the total amount of muscular gains that can be made. A bigger person due to their size will have a greater potential to add more mass. A smaller frame carries less mass. Height can either be determined by genetics and nutrition. Children who lack food security may not grow as large as children with an abundance of it. Poor health can also effect human growth. Size can vary among men and women, but on average men tend to be larger. When discussing strength differences the size factor seems to be the factor rather than sex itself. A physically bigger woman could have more strength than a smaller man. The skeleton provides support for the muscles by a network of tendons and ligaments. Bone mass and density also add to body strength. Osteology reveals that overtime bone mass is lost with age. This puts women with less bone density at risk for osteoporosis. Not all women are at risk some with thinner frames could be the most vulnerable. Body size and skeletal frame are two factors that are are not solely sex hormone based.








The skeletal system acts as a frame to hold organs and support of muscular structure. The larger the skeletal frame, the more space for muscle. However, excessive weight gain in terms of fat can cause extra strain on the skeletal system. Unlike muscle which can build itself up with bone from training, fat does not contribute to strengthening the bones. This explains why someone who is obese or overweight may have joint issues. Extreme cases of morbid obesity people can lose their ability to be ambulatory.

         Body type and genetics also determine the amount of muscle a person can gain on their bodies. Regardless of sex, somatotype can vary immensely among the sexes. Some people may have more muscle prior to training and it only enhances if such activities remain consistent. A mesomorph will have greater potential to build muscle compared to an ectomorph. An endomorph has a more difficult task of losing weight and preventing it from reaching a dangerous level. The growth of muscular tissue and its regulation can be explained by the MSTN gene. MSTN has to give myostatin instructions which regulates growth of the muscles. The reason muscles on human beings to not grow to Incredible Hulk levels, is due to the transforming growth factor beta. Men and women can have low mysotatin levels, which enhance their level of muscular hypertrophy. There still is more to learn about how genetics effect athletic performance overall. It would be inaccurate to say that genetics create champions alone.


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There is a condition known as myostatin related muscular hypertrophy. A mutation in the MSTN gene can cause a person to have lower levels of body fat and more muscle than average.  It is uncertain just how many people have this condition, but it would not be surprising if some female bodybuilders had this mutation. It is not life threatening nor does it cause severe physical disability. What it demonstrates is that biology is not constant, rather a constantly changing.  The human body is capable of many amazing feats.

        Sadly, there are a number of women who still fear gaining muscle. They tend to cite female bodybuilders as being “too big” or “too masculine.” The charge of steroid use is normally used an excuse to disparage them and their sport. Steroids and other performance enhancing drugs have been a part of sports for most of its history. Women often are given more harsh criticism for use of anabolic androgenic steroids. Virilization can happen depending on which type of steroid used, the dosage, and the total period used. Women do not need steroids to be good bodybuilders. Statistically, more men use anabolic androgenic steroids according to research data. This does not mean women have not used in other sports. While IFBB shows are not drug tested, there is no proof that every single competitor is using substances. Without training and proper diet such physiques would not be possible even with drugs. There are athletes who are not as muscular and could be using multiple substances. Unless visible signs of side effects are present there is no way of knowing if an athlete is on drugs without a test. There is a sex bias, which likes to only see women in terms of physical limitation. Some claims are just false : ”  to become a professional woman bodybuilder, many have to take anabolic androgenic steroids, testosterone, and other ergogenic aids to even achieve such a body worthy of that title.” There are shows that are drug tested, but that still does not explain why people object to the image of a physically strong woman. Women have the right to look like whatever they want regardless of society’s opinions. When this objection is countered people state that women doing this is “unnatural.” Men are not naturally built up either. Highly physically fit bodies are the product of  diet, nutrition, training, exercise physiology, sports medicine, and sometimes performance enhancing drugs.


Sports women



Even substances that are not performance enhancing are not natural. Erogogenic aids can enhance fitness during exercise. Performance enhancing drugs can fall under this classification with a slight difference. According the the Dietary Supplement and Health Act of 1994  vitamins, herbs, minerals, or  botanicals that do not contain a controlled substance is a supplement. Supplements such as creatine or carnitine are not natural. Certain substances are either deemed appropriate or inappropriate depending on an arbitrary criteria. Saying “drugs are bad” ignores the complexities policy and pharmaceutical science . Women compete in drug tested shows and still get criticism about the muscle on their body. The more comedic aspect is that they are accused of use even when it has been proven no such substance is in their body. Frankly, the discussion of drugs has become irrelevant. Human beings are no longer completely natural or drug free. If  athletes were to be completely natural they would train without supplements and consume regular food. This is next to impossible seeing as more food is becoming genetically modified and processed. Alcohol and cigarettes are drugs, but they are accepted by society. Women’s bodies have great potential for physical prowess either through non-assisted or pharmaceutical means.

         Women’s muscles do respond to exercise stimuli. If trained through a system of resistance training, muscular hypertrophy can occur. Toning and bulking do not exist in reference to exercise physiology. These terms are relative and depend on a person’s preference. Toning used in the colloquial should not be confused with muscle tone. Muscle tone ( residual muscle tension or tonus ) is when the muscles make contractions during periods of rest. This is a physiological function present in everyone’s body no matter what fitness level. Form the perspective of histology, there would be no way to distinguish between toned and bulky muscle.

Although these women are at different fitness levels ,residual muscle tension occurs in both their bodies.
Women’s bodies can experience muscular hypertrophy through resistance training stimuli.
There is a difference between muscle cells and fat cells. One can store calories, while another can burn them.
This is an example of a “toned” woman. The fact is she used weight training which caused a degree of muscular hypertrophy producing this body.

This maintains a person’s posture. Tone used in the aesthetic context would be incorrect in terms of anatomy and physiology. Bulking at least could be more so a form of slang for muscular hypertrophy.However, it could be argued in a general sense a person is bulking when they are gaining weight in terms of fat mass. Fitness terminology states that it is only  occurs for building muscle mass. So, used in that context women can gain muscle mass. The degree of muscularity varies among individuals. This means that various people could be doing the same training regimen, but may look different over a period of months or years of training. Building muscular physiques take years of training and be consistent with a specialized diet. Proteins, carbohydrates, and some fats are required to meet the calorie needs of high performing athletes. Rest and recovery is as equally important to training based muscular hypertrophy. Muscle fibers during this period regrow and get bigger. Women should not have the fear about “getting too big.” This idea is relative and based on a person’s idea about how a woman should look. Developed muscle on a female frame differs from that of men.

         Muscular women appear to be large, but morphology and weight tell a different story. Men who embark on a similar training regimen have a higher degree of mass and weight. The claim that women doing weightlifting or bodybuilding will cause them to be masculine is false. ISSA states ”    Don’t think that just because you lift heavy and workout hard that you’ll end up looking like a professional woman bodybuilder, because 99.9% of the time, you won’t.” Weight training for a couple of days will not transform a person into a top performing athlete. However, women through the correct diet, resistance training , and exercise methods can attain muscular physiques. Women have been shown to be great bodybuilders, even though there are objections. The random 99.9 % statistic is not a precise measure, because there are very few exercise physiology studies that have focused on women’s muscular potential. The more important question is what are a person’s goals. One can train for aesthetics or functional fitness. An athletic body can come in different forms depending on what sport a person plays. This is where the the ISSA proclamation becomes disputable : ” remaining a natural athlete while utilizing a very healthy, nutrient-dense diet, proper supplementation, proper exercise programs and recovery techniques will help you achieve a lean, firm, tight, athletic body. ” A athletic body could range from being muscular, smaller, or bigger.  Supplements are not performance enhancing drugs, but still could be counted as erogenic aids. These substances are not natural to the human body. The larger muscular woman can have lean, firm,and tight bodies.





The image presented is that of an aesthetically developed physique based around a certain criteria. The only reason women look exaggerated is due to low body fat levels, tans, and how light on stage shows their muscles. In their off season, their bodies do not look the same way. During this period they look like women with a some fat and a solid shape. Detractors state that women get too big, but their weight is the that immense compared to their male counterparts. The big bulky female bodybuilders do not come into the same weight range as male bodybuilders. Examining weight demonstrates that the idea women can get too big in terms of muscularity is unfounded. Compare Stan Mcquay’s weight of 202 lbs to 145 lbs body weight. This is a difference of  57 lbs  between Colette Nelson and Stan Mcquay. Larry Wheels is 255 lbs, while Denise Masino is 138 lbs. That gap is a total of 117 lbs. Looking at the images it is easy to believe that they are at some type of equivalent in term of muscle mass. Margie Martin another female bodybuilder weighs a total of 154 lbs. Jeff Seid tops the scales at 215 lbs, which means there is a 61 lbs difference.

Woman and man
Colette Nelson and  Stan Mcquay 
Strong woman and man copy
Larry Wheels and Denise Masino 
Jeff Seid and Margie Martin 
Many women would be bulky in comparison to this man.

Doing this basic arithmetic shows that these women are not bulky at all. They are in comparison smaller than men in terms of total body mass and height. Bulky just becomes a term of relativity. When compared to thinner men, women of this level of muscularity could look bulky or bigger. Then there is the basic body morphology of the human anatomical structure. Men have larger upper bodies, which means more muscle can be housed there. When examining the pictures of both male and female bodybuilders one can see the upper bodies on the men are more pronounced. Lower body development is where the difference in strength is smaller. The women still have a wider waist to hip ratio. The pelvis is wider in women giving them the more hour glass shape. It becomes more exaggerated with a highly developed upper and lower body, making the waist see smaller. The characteristics of sexual dimorphism do not disappear due to training. A woman who weight trains or  is bodybuilding does not transform her body into a man’s body. Muscle development can come in various degrees depending on exercise method.

       What can be concluded is that women do not get “bulky”, but they can achieve muscular hypertrophy  through training, diet, and a period of recovery. The fact that terms such as bulky or toned are still being used, even in a professional fitness organization is facetious. Myoctyes are not classified as being bulky or toned muscle. Muscle fiber types such as type II and type I have different physiological attributes. While it is wonderful that the ISSA is encouraging women to lift weights, it is time to relinquish the fear of muscle on women’s bodies. Being a muscular woman either a bodybuilder, crossfit competitor, or any type of athlete does not make her any less of a woman. Muscle can provide numerous benefits to health. Weight lifting can protect bone mass as age gradually decreases. It can be an effective measure against heat disease, unhealthy weight gain, sarcopenia, and osteoporosis. Weight training can also improve women’s  athletic performance in various sports. From this perspective, bulk is not a bad thing. One does not have to train like a bodybuilder or powerlifter to see positive health outcomes.


International Sports Science Association :Ladies Lifting Won’t Make You “Bulk Up”

High Protein Bedtime Snacks No Problem For Active Women

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Protein and Bedtime Snacks

Florida State University conducted a study on women weightlifters and the effects of night time food consumption. Women have a difference in metabolism, endocrine function, and body mass composition that effect athletic performance. What the study seeks to discover the effect of consumption of high protein snacks on the body composition of female weightlifters. The findings published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that women who are active should not worry about excess weight gain from protein consumption at night. As stated in the press release ” In a study of women weight lifters, nutrition scientists at FSU showed that protein consumption before bed compared to protein consumption during the day does not disturb overnight belly fat metabolism or whole-body fat burn.” Micheal Ormsbee an associate professor in the College of Human Sciences and the associate director of the FSU Institute of Sports Sciences & Medicine stated there are still many myth regarding food consumption at night and weight gain. The important factors are the amount of food consumed and the what type of food. The challenge remains with exercise science is studying women. A majority of experiments were done on men in relation to  nighttime protein consumption.

        The experimental approach was to put subjects through two conditions. The first experimental group was involved  drinking casein protein shake 30 minutes after a workout session. They would the consume a taste matched placebo 30 minutes before going to bed. The second condition merely involved doing the same actions in reverse order. The purpose of this Ormbee stated ” we wanted to investigate how drinking a protein shake before bed influenced overnight metabolism of fat in fit women as compared to taking that protein shake at another time of day.” It does not seem like a ludicrous assumption to think women would gain weight from consuming more food. Women have higher body fat levels due to endocrinology. Estrogen produces more fat in relation to testosterone. The reason women have a harder time with weight loss is due to this difference in hormonal function.

Exercise physiology has to take into account the differences in women’s physiology and anatomy in relation to sports performance.
Even the most muscular  women have higher body fat levels. The female bodybuilders here
Weightlifting has health benefits for women.

The participants were then observed for changes in metabolism. What researchers did was take a strategic measurement approach. Breath sample measurements to evaluate fat metabolism. Exercise physiology and sports science has know for a period of time eating protein combined with exercise can cause the release of fat cells. The reaction of the body depends on fat oxidation and lipolysis. For women who are physically active a protein snack at night does not cause excessive weight gain. There could be two reasons for this outcome. Muscle burns more fat in the body and women who weight train can increase their mass. Their activity level is high enough so that calories are burned. Women may be doing more harm by not getting enough to eat. The human body requires fuel and food is converted to energy through the citric acid cycle.

       To fully understand the study there needs to be a basic understanding of lipolysis and fat oxidation. The process is when fats are broken down by means enzymes and water. This is known as hydrolysis. Inside the adipose tissue lipolysis occurs and the fatty tissues act as a cushion for our bodies. Lipid triglyceride are converted into glycerol. Fats in this context are stored energy. Fat oxidation refers to the process in which the stored lipids are used for energy both during exercise and periods of rest.

The Physiology of lipolysis 
During exercise and physical activity fat acts as an energy reserve. 
Ana Cláudia Lemos
Women may have an advantage in energy due to fat, yet more studies must be done to confirm this. 

Women not eating enough when performing at high levels of competition may be jeopardizing their fitness potential.  Muscles take from fat energy and the citric acid cycle converts food into the body’s fuel. Brittany Allman a doctoral student working on the study stated ” “In women who weight train, there are no differences in overnight local belly fat metabolism or whole-body fat burn whether you eat protein in the form of a protein shake during the day post-workout or at night presleep,” Allman currently is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arkansas  for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center. She also hols the position that protein consumption will not cause excessive weight gain if done before bed. However, this does not mean any type of food can be consumed before sleep.

          The experiment was only done for protein consumption. Doing the same would produce a different result with fats and carbohydrates. The reason people gain excessive weight comes from unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity. A person’s body type can also effect their weight gain over a lifetime. Even when a person is not moving they still have a basal metabolism. Brittany Allman explained ” the research suggests that really only holds true if you’re eating a ton of calories and they are carbohydrate- and/or fat-laden. ” Merely eating before bed does not cause weight gain. It depends on what a person consumes. Confection foods that contain high amounts of sugar could cause weight gain.

Certain foods will have to be either cut or limited in a diet. 
Training the body for sports performance requires a specific diet, understanding of nutrition, and  a certain amount of caloric intake. 
The foods that contain protein. 

Eating during the night was thought to cause weight gain, but appears that this study challenges this belief. Then there is the factor of the amount of sleep a person gets. There are some suggestions that not getting enough sleep regardless of what a person eats can effect their health. Getting enough sleep is important to athletic performance and health in general. More studies must be done to confirm the role sleep plays in cognitive and circulatory system health. Sleep and food consumption must be done in a certain way to maximize sports performance. Women can see benefits from protein consumption at night. The prevalence of junk food and high sugar diets put people at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. This study may have applications beyond sports performance. The findings could be useful to weight management or weight loss programs. More studies have to be conducted to decipher the physiology of food consumption in relation to sleep. For now, protein snacks are okay to consume before a good nights sleep.


High Protein Bedtime Snacks No Problem For Active Women

Livestrong : How To Tone Muscles Without Bulk


Tone and Bulk

The terms tone and bulk are used constantly in fitness publications.  It should be realized that these have no basis in exercise physiology and rarely appear in sports science texts. Tone and bulk are more colloquial words rather than an anatomical description.  They describe a person’s idea of muscular aesthetics. There are multiple opinions and when discussing women’s bodies there is a level of controversy. The image of the muscular woman generates many responses, but disgust should not be one of them. Women should not fear gaining muscle or looking strong. Often fitness professionals assure women bulking up is not biologically possible for a woman to do. Women bodies are capable of building strength and muscle despite differences in sexual dimorphism. Women compete in bodybuilding,crossfit, and weightlifting. Each has varying degrees of muscularity. The bulk up fear is related to “looking like a man.” What many fail to realize is that even the large women are not as big as they seem. Strong women do not look like men, they just have significant musculature. Knowing this, one can conclude bulking and toning are nothing more than terms giving an idea of a particular appearance. The notion you can tone without bulk  seems ludicrous if you have a basic understanding of  muscular hypertrophy. Erin Zeggert gives a general training program for building muscle. A correct revision of the text would be how to induce muscular hypertrophy to a certain level. To understand why this proclamation is flawed it must be approached from a perspective of exercise science.

          Tone and bulk must be defined to give a correct answer to the question. Zeggert states ”    there is no real definition of toned in the fitness world, but it is commonly accepted that getting toned involves adding muscle to have some muscle definition and losing fat. ” If there is no real definition then how can it be a fitness goal ? This seems more dependent on perspective. To some the toned look could be bulky. A toned woman would be bulky in comparison to a thin woman or man.  The size of the muscles can be misleading. Some women may look bigger than they actually are in person. Then there is a problem of quantifying . There is no specific range in which a woman goes from a toned to bulky classification. How muscular a person get depends on their genetics, training, diet, and natural strength prior to exercise. A woman with more muscle prior to training is going to have more muscle mass gain compared to a woman does not.  This means a woman who has an ectomorphic body type will have a harder time adding mass.

A woman with limited amount of muscle mass just starting a training program.
A woman that is considered toned. Compared to the image above she would be bulky in comparison.
When the term bulky is used it normally is in reference to female bodybuilders.

There are women who might fall in between bulky and toned. No such term exists for women with that body type. The terms bulky and toned can only be used to classify certain types of bodies that have undergone some form of exercise or fitness training.  Physique aesthetics are more so about presentation, rather than functional fitness. When fitness publications use the term bulk, they normally mean size. There is a word that already exists for that and it is called muscle mass and weight. Female bodybuilders have the largest amount of muscle,but it is not just amount building yourself as much as possible. Symmetry,definition, conditioning, and muscle shape are important elements. Size is not the only element a truly aesthetic physique has. The denotations of bulk and tone can vary . The terms do not have a use scientifically, rather it a general description of the amount of muscle carried on the body. Creating a certain look requires both weight training and attention to diet.

         It must be understood why from a perspective of histology why “bulk muscle” and “toned muscle” does not exist in a biological sense. Histology is the study of the microscopic structure of tissues. Examining muscle cells between a bulky or toned body would not show cells or tissues being radically different. If a biopsy were to be done between what is considered a bulky and toned woman there would be little cellular differences.  There are three types of muscular tissue. This includes cardiac muscle, smooth muscle, and skeletal muscle.




Looking at muscle under a microscope from a “toned” or a “bulky” woman one can confirm that it is not radically different. It should be noted there is a difference in the attributes of muscle fiber types. Type II muscle fiber is designed more for explosive physical power compared to more endurance based type I muscle fiber. The body consists of connective tissues, nervous system tissue, epithelial tissue, and muscle tissue. Cells are the building blocks of living organisms. Cell theory has three major tenets. The first is all things considered living are composed of cells. The second tenet states that the cell is the basic structure of organisms. Cells can only come into existence from pre-existing cells. The process of cellular differentiation happens when a stem cells changes for a particular tissue. Neurons and muscle cells are not the same,but they have a common origin from stem cells. Cell theory was pioneered by Matthias Schleiden and Theodore Schwann in the 19th century. It was Schwann who began to classify cells, which would later give rise to modern histology. Schleiden  was a botanist who through observation of plants that cells were forming from other cells. This indicated that nuclei played a major role in cell division. Myogenesis describes the cellular development of muscle tissue. This occurs in both women who either appear toned or bulky. Being bulky or tone is a matter of perspective rather than biological or physiological reality.

        Building what is called a toned body is just adding some muscle. However, there are exercises and certain methods that are required to attain a certain look. Adding size or definition requires the reduction of body fat. General weight loss will  not produce a toned appearance rather if done to a certain degree it will produce an ectomorphic body type. This goal can be achieved through exercise and a change in diet. There are some possible risks to dramatic weight loss. Bone mass and muscle mass may suffer,if excessive dieting is done. Some women could even develop an unhealthy relationship with food and their own bodies. Being too thin is not healthy, even though mass media representations present it as such. It should be noted also when you train, looking like another person or an ideal can be an unrealistic goal. How you look is dictated by your phenotype and genetics. The images that are seen on fitness magazines may not realistic goals that the majority of the population can attain. However, if there is enough consistency in diet and training progress can be made. The appropriate mind set and approach is critical to reaching particular fitness goals.

          The question of cardiovascular exercise normally comes up in the discussion of women and fitness. There is a major error Erin Zeggert makes when suggestion that cardio can help in producing a toned  body. Cardio exercise is not enough to build muscle and it is thought that adding too much may effect the total amount of muscular gains. There is the benefit of such exercise burning more calories in comparison to just lifting weights. Any amount of exercise is good for health, but it is important to get the most benefits. Some women think that the best way to lose weight is to just get on a treadmill can eat less. This is incorrect,because it is not only ineffective it wastes time.

Cardio   cardio90.jpg


If you are doing only cardio exercise, strength and muscle will not increase. This can increase aerobic capacity, but have little effect on the health of the muscular system. Livestrong goes off the guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine.  The recommendation 150 minutes of cardio at moderate activity level. Livestrong advises “Any activity that gets your heart rate into the target zone can be used so choose something you will enjoy and will stick with.” Zeggart also writes “target heart rate is calculated as 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.” The 150 recommendation seems like too much cardio if the intent is to create a particular physique aesthetic. This may not be even useful for weight loss. The calculation is 220 minus a person’s age. A woman who is 32 years of age would have a maximum heart rate 188. One with a general understanding of anatomy can see why this equation is a problem. Women have smaller hearts than men and lower aerobic capacity. However, using this same measure would give the same heart rate for both sexes. There needs to be a new equation to accurately calculate women’s maximum heart rate. This demonstrates that exercise science has a limited understanding of how sex differences influence women’s physical fitness. Cardio cannot be completely condemned. Cardiovascular exercise can enhance stamina and aerobic capacity.

        If a woman is attempting to build a physique or strength weight training is the best method. Strength and muscle can be built even without access to weights. Push ups, lunges, and sit-ups can build a certain degree of strength. Lifting weights can build muscle and strength more efficiently. Livestrong reveals “the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least two resistance training workouts per week on non-consecutive days using free weights, machines, resistance bands or body weight.” There are many methods to build a body,but it has not been determined which is the best. So far using all of these could be helpful depending on the fitness goal objective. Challenging the body and specifically the muscle will induce changes due to exercise stimuli.




Livestrong makes the recommendation that “each workout should have eight to 10 exercises working each muscle group.” This means that both the lower and upper body should be worked. Fitness literature tends to put emphasis on women’s lower body development. The intent should be to strengthen bones and muscles. Attaining the toned arms that women desire is simply adding muscle to the biceps brachii, deltoids, and triceps barchii. There is also the suggestion to work in a 12 repetition range to see substantial change in muscular development. Toning as some people refer to it still requires a certain degree of progressive overload. While a training schedule is essential rest is also equally important. Rest days should be periods in which no exercise is done so that muscle tissue can recover. When it recovers muscular hypertrophy will occur. Lifting heavy at lower repetition can increase strength and lifting lighter weights at higher repetitions can enhance muscular endurance. The training regimen should focus on lifting rather than cardio to reach a certain physique aesthetic.

         Diet and food consumption is a major part of fitness. Women should keep in mind some differences. Metabolic function for women is lower even at basal rate. Women also metabolize more of their food in to fat storage. Due to endocrinology, women also have a harder time losing weight. What this means is that food consumption should be adjusted in relation to activity level.Eating less will ultimately cause failure,because it will disturb metabolic function. Diet should be balanced in proteins, carbohydrates, along with some fat. High sugar or food that contains limited nutritional value should be avoided. Sugar however should not be abandoned completely. An occasional dessert or cheat meal will not harm health or sabotage a fitness goal. If fats and sugars are consumed in excess, this is when it can have negative effects on the human body. Traditionally, it was the food pyramid that was used to give a basic guideline to healthy eating. The updated version is referred to my plate guidelines. The charts and guidelines are either not specific enough or just simply are not grounded in nutrition based science. They may come in useful as a basic introduction to health science.

pyramidbig       myplate.jpg


Such charts may have to be adjusted in relation to a person’s age,sex, and health condition. For a highly active person, they may require more food compared to a person who is mostly sedentary. For a person who is attempting to manage weight a gradual readjustment of eating habits has to be done. The major error people make is to reduce calories to the point of starvation. Doing this only crates disordered eating and interrupts normal biological function. Seeing as humans are heterotrophs food is fuel for our bodies. The citric acid cycle explains how food is broken down and used for cellular metabolic function. This process is an intersection of both biochemistry and physiology. Energy is released in increments from respiration is a series of biochemical reactions. Glucose will divide into small units known as acetyl groups. Following this acetyl groups then merge with oxaloacetate and  six-carbon compound   will be produced known as citrate. Citrate needs enzymes to break it down and it will transform into a four-carbon  oxaloaceate. Energy is produced in the form of adenosine triphosphate. This then enables various metabolic processes in cells of the body. Acetyl groups are derived from the food that we consume.




There are multiple factors involved in healthy eating and nutrition. A good place to begin a change is to examine the nutrition facts on food labeling. Approaches become more complicated when taking into account somatotype . Endomorphs have to be careful about nutrition and diet. Ectomorphs would struggle in comparison to gain any weight. Diet and exercise are both essential to obtaining a certain look .

         Now that is has been established that toning and bulking are nothing more then general descriptions of physiques, there are some myths that must be addressed. Women fear that they will drastically increase in size from weight training and lose femininity. That claim is unfounded. Women can build muscle and still be attractive. The real problem is the bias against women who do not follow body image conformity. The large women seen on stage are not as big as one would assume. If we compare male and female bodybuilders in terms of weight the notion of women being “too big” is laughable. Stan Mcquay weighs about 202 lbs. Margie Martin weighs 154 lbs. Looking at the pictures of both of them, one would assume Margie is too big. Her weight is not that massive at all,but by certain standards she would be called “bulky.” Andrea Shaw would weigh less than Shawn Ray during his competitive career. Shawn’s biggest weight was 215 lbs. The average male bodybuilder easily exceeds past the 200 lbs range. Even if some women have the ability to gain significant mass, maintaining  it takes considerable effort.

Margie and Stan
Stan Mcquay  and Margie Martin
woman and man.jpg
Andrea Shaw and Shawn Ray
The image of Mina Mituskoa when she competed and her retirement from the sport. The only thing that happens to muscles is they atrophy when exercise is not done.

When a person builds it does not remain permanent. The opposite of muscular hypertrophy is atrophy. Muscular atrophy occurs when muscles are not in use or exercised. Muscles do not turn into fat when training stops. The only way weight can be changed is if diet is drastically altered. The image of Mina Mitsukoa demonstrates that muscles do not shift into fat. The image on the left show her when she competed as a bodybuilder and  the left shows her in her current career as an ophthalmologist. The difference is that her muscles are smaller due to the fact she is not training for competition. Knowing this about muscles has wider applications. Astronauts spending long periods of time in space must exercise regularly to maintain  bone  and  muscle mass. Another myth related to women’s fitness is that women are too weak for weight training.  As Crossfit athletes, Olympic lifters, and bodybuilders women’s bodies are  capable of  gaining  physical strength. Muscular hypertrophy operates in a similarly in both sexes. The difference is  related to degree in muscular gains which is related to  size, endocrine function , and genetics. What can be extrapolated from this information is that tone and bulk are just general terms for an appearance of a physique. Toning muscle without bulk is more of a paradox,because both involve lifting weights and eating a certain way.

Livestrong : How To Tone Muscles Without Bulk