In the comments under one of my previous articles I found a request for describing the process of building muscle mass by women, as there is a lot of information about reduction, but about the other issue there's not. Well, this topic is complex and it could be even included in a book. In this article I will describe few facts and myths, which can be quite confusing.
Myth: “Muscles will make you less attractive for men”
Even female bodybuilders, who use pharmaceuticals and who present the negative influence of steroids, as well as their androgenizing potential, have their followers. Many competitors look quite normal in their clothes when they're off the stage, if they are not dehydrated or during the pre-competition procedures. For example: Whittney Clinkscales, Lone Noras, Marzia Prince, Jen Selter – you can find a lot of pictures of them writing bikini fitness (e.g. in the Google browser). But it does not mean that you should start using testosterone or the derivatives of DHT. If your partner is afraid of you doing resistance training – it simply means he has some complexes. If some people don't associate muscles with women, they should look for women who e.g. like fast food. For me, too much fat is also not so feminin, it even scares me off. The fact is that even such women can find men who will like them, because men like various things. On the other side there are skinny victims of homosexual fashion designers. Anorectic models are far more asexual than women who do bodybuilding as amateurs. It's good to remember that without using pharmaceuticals for many years, you are not able to achieve the results similar to those of the competitors on the stage! What's more, even moderate doses of winstrol or oxandrolone will not make your shoulders full and your thighs “gigantic”. If it was so simple – every woman could perform on the stage. Moderate, I mean 10 to 20 mg per day, for a woman weighing 50-60 kg. Obviously, using AAS by women is blameworthy and it may be harmful for the homeostasis of the body (when it is used for long time, it causes the irreversible results in the look of the body, virilisation).
Conclusion? Without the use of hormones and their derivatives, you should be not afraid of growing too big muscles. It's simply impossible from the physiological point of view. Women produce only 0.25 mg of testosterone a day , while men – according to various sources – 6-7 mg a day  (which means, that women produce 24 times less testosterone than men).
Myth: “free weights cause injuries”
According to various statistics, bodybuilding, powerlifting and weight lifting are connected with insignificant risk of injuries – it doesn't matter if you consider adults, children or teenagers. Other sports, like football, hockey, spinning, volleyball, American football, baseball, snowboarding or skiing, are much more dangerous. If you learn how to do a few basic resistance exercises, it's not that possible for you to get injured during training. Because of that reason, you should not be afraid of adding the working load. During few years you will be able to achieve the load of e.g. double body mass in deadlift – that's completely natural. You just have to increase the working load. After some time you may use the load during single-handed rowing, which could embarrass many men. And that's worse for them. Keep on increasing the load! Bigger working load is the best measurement of your performance, progress, efficiency or power. The changes can be also noticed in the mirror, thighs look better, the same with glutes, arms, shoulders and back.
Conclusion? Don't be afraid of strength training – it is a safe kind of activity. If you don't know the technique of particular exercise, do it with the grip only, or a similar, small load.
Fact: “strength training is the fastes way towards firm, sexy shape”
I mean training with free weights, such as: sand bags, barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, heavy ropes, suitcases, heavy balls. But the training itself is not enough – you need the progress of the load for many months. The best would be 2.5 kg in the main exercises once a week to the last set. If you keep doing the same exercises with the same load and in the same volume – you will not achieve much. Training on the machines is worse and group classes with minute load are usually ineffective.
Fact: “the best exercises for women are...”
full range barbell squats, front and back,
lunges, in one place or walking,
stepping on a box,
double-handed or single-handed rows,
standing barbell press,
dumbbell bench press, horizontal and inclined,
heel lifts standing,
arm lifts to the front, side, bent-over.
Those exercises are in such order on purpose – I put the ones with the biggest impact on top of the list. If your priority is to have beautiful glutes – squats, deadlift and lunges should become the part of your routine, at least 1 x a week.
If you already planned those exercises – and it's not enough – try additional exercises, isolated ones, e.g. abduction with the ropes, adduction and abduction on the machines, abduction on all fours, etc. It's not so important to do e.g. barbell press lying – you will benefit much more with dumbbell press. The only advantage of the barbell is smaller problem with the movement and stability – which is often problematic for women.
“How many repetitions should I do?”
In the exercises aimed at mass, according to the studies, the range of 6-20 repetitions is best, it can be assumed that it's good to differentiate the repetitions, e.g. 5 sets x 5 repetitions, 4 sets x 10 repetitions, 3 sets x 15 repetitions of a particular exercise, e.g. on the following days of training (Monday 5 x 5, Wednesday 4 x 10, Friday 3 x 15).
Fact: “the appearance of the abs doesn't depend on the workout”
If you have “love handles” or an almost perfect belly depends on the diet. You have to decide – if you want to improve the looks of your abs or build mucle mass in particular period of time. Those are opposite directions. Reduction requires negative calorific balance, building mass requires slight calorific excess. Those changes may appear at the same time, but only in case of pharmaceutical support (e.g. AAS + thyroid hormone +beta-mimetic) – but... that may be a very bad way for you. In some studies the so-called recomposition happens within many weeks of exercising by the beginners.
In normal conditions, the change of shape – with decreasing amount of body fat, are conditioned by the following:
reduction diet (e.g. limited supply of carbohydrates 2-4.5 g / kg of body mass, 2-2.5 g of protein per 1 kg of body mass, 0.8 – 1 g of fat per 1 kg of body mass),
aerobic training, e.g. running outdoors (few times a week; optimal would be 3 x 20-30 minutes),
interval training (e.g. 2-3 x a week 10-15 minutes; e.g. TABATA, HIIRT, HIIT, metabolic workout, circuits, bases),
resistance training (2-4 times a week, e.g. up/down; FBW; push-pull).
Obviously, some women can do 7 workouts a week – but it will cause their discouragement or injury.
Sources:http://www.termedia.pl/Journal/-4/pdf-6328-1?filename=Androgeny%20u%20kobiet.pdf 2. Michał Rabijewski, Wojciech Zgliczyński Klinika Endokrynologii Centrum Medycznego Kształcenia Podyplomowego w Warszawie Zespół niedoboru testosteronu u mężczyzn w starszym wieku Testosterone deficiency syndrome in elderly men