Author Topic: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight  (Read 2208 times)

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Offline Deborah

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Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« on: April 11, 2018, 10:53:20 am »
This is a very new and very good meta-analysis on strength training for women.  It is good reading for mtf interested in not being helpless and weak and also for ftm who are not using testosterone.

https://www.strongerbyscience.com/strength-training-women/

The main takeaways are:
“1) While men start with more muscle mass and strength, relative strength gains actually tend to be larger in women, at least in the short term. This is especially true for younger women and upper body strength gains.

2) Long-term, relative rates of muscle growth and strength gains are probably roughly equal for men and women, though women may make slightly larger gains, relative to their starting point, across their entire training career.

3) Women are not just “little men.”  While relative muscle and strength gains may be similar, there are key differences between men and women that impact training and recovery.”

A couple of other points are that while testosterone gives one a higher baseline of muscle mass to begin with its effect on strength training gains is not significant.  For a mtf after a couple of years of HRT without training that higher muscle baseline has likely disappeared.  That baseline muscle mass though is what accounts for the majority of strength difference between men and women. 

The bottom line there is that a trained woman can easily be way stronger than untrained and lesser trained men.  Given equal training though a man will be somewhat stronger due to the muscle mass baseline.

The other point, in reference to #3 above, is that the differences mentioned actually favor women. For reasons not completely understood women can train harder and recover faster from hard training than men.


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Offline Jessica

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2018, 11:01:53 am »
Thank you Wonder Woman!  I’m going to share this with the women in my running group.

Jess 

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Offline Paige

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2018, 12:33:32 pm »
Very interesting article Deborah,  I wonder which side of the fence mtf fall with this study.  Do we respond like males because we were born with male genetics or does HRT change things and we respond to strength training more like a female?  Or are we somewhere in between?

Found these points particularly interesting.

estrogen (which, contrary to popular belief, exerts anabolic effects in muscle tissue)

estrogen may exert a protective effect on muscle, limiting damage and potentially accelerating repair.

Thanks for posting this Deborah,
Paige :)

Offline Gertrude

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2018, 12:55:37 pm »
Yeah, tell that to magnus Samuelson or Mariuz pudzianowski. Arnold too... T helps with recovery and allows for greater work loads which usually lead to more mass and strength.


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Offline Deborah

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2018, 12:59:28 pm »
Very interesting article Deborah,  I wonder which side of the fence mtf fall with this study.  Do we respond like males because we were born with male genetics or does HRT change things and we respond to strength training more like a female?  Or are we somewhere in between?

Found these points particularly interesting.

estrogen (which, contrary to popular belief, exerts anabolic effects in muscle tissue)

estrogen may exert a protective effect on muscle, limiting damage and potentially accelerating repair.

Thanks for posting this Deborah,
Paige :)
My experience is that at least after a couple of years of HRT we respond more like women. In my case I do seem to recover from killer workouts pretty quickly.  This makes sense because male muscle and female muscle is identical.  The only difference is the hormonal interactions with training.

One place we may differ is the starting point.  While HRT does reduce muscle mass I don’t know if it reduces it as much as if the testosterone had never been there.  Also, studies show that if one is strength trained and then becomes untrained the effects at the cellular level remain for a long time, years.  So while strength declines when becoming untrained it comes back much faster with a resumption of training than it would for a person that had never before trained.  This may or may not mean something for trans women who train, even after lengthy HRT.  It seems likely that it might, but that specific question has not been studied.


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Offline Paige

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2018, 09:43:34 am »
My experience is that at least after a couple of years of HRT we respond more like women. In my case I do seem to recover from killer workouts pretty quickly.  This makes sense because male muscle and female muscle is identical.  The only difference is the hormonal interactions with training.

One place we may differ is the starting point.  While HRT does reduce muscle mass I don’t know if it reduces it as much as if the testosterone had never been there.  Also, studies show that if one is strength trained and then becomes untrained the effects at the cellular level remain for a long time, years.  So while strength declines when becoming untrained it comes back much faster with a resumption of training than it would for a person that had never before trained.  This may or may not mean something for trans women who train, even after lengthy HRT.  It seems likely that it might, but that specific question has not been studied.


Interesting.  So you've lost mass in your muscles but I assume you've continued to train the same.  If male and female muscles are identical wouldn't that imply you've actually lost some of your strength?

Thanks,
Paige :)

Offline Deborah

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2018, 10:12:50 am »

Interesting.  So you've lost mass in your muscles but I assume you've continued to train the same.  If male and female muscles are identical wouldn't that imply you've actually lost some of your strength?

Thanks,
Paige :)
I am training much harder now.  For the first two years of HRT I didn’t strength train at all.  For 17 months before that I didn’t exercise at all.  Before that I ran marathons and did strength train but only for about five months and at the same time I was training for a marathon. That was too much which led to a physical breakdown which combined with dysphoria and some other life stressors led to the 17 months of complete inactivity.

Also, strength is not entirely proportional to muscle size.  A smaller muscle can be stronger than a larger one if trained for strength.  That is lots of volume but low reps per set with heavy weights centered on big compound lifts like squats and deadlifts.  The reason is that this type of training puts enormous stress on the central nervous system to adapt and be able to recruit more muscle fibers for any given task.

Training focused solely on increasing muscle size approaches it all differently and has a different effect on the muscle cells.

Since starting this training last year I have added muscle mass.  But since I started after two years of HRT and no training my starting point was with much less muscle mass than before HRT.  Despite that, the strength gains continue.

Interestingly, one of the reasons I started strength training this time was that I first tried running a lot again.  I was a pretty good runner before but HRT, and maybe age, has decreased my running ability a lot.  This was kind of frustrating so I turned to strength training in the hopes that increased leg strength might help restore my running, and increase my butt size, LOL.  Then when my strength began increasing rapidly it captured my interest to see how far I could take this.  So for now it’s my fitness focus. 

I also have a fear of becoming feeble with age after watching my mother decline into complete helplessness a few years ago.


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Alexa Ares

Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2018, 10:33:33 am »
Deborah, it's a really good thing you put up articles / posts like this. It helps everyone see what is possible.

It does appear there is far more to muscle gains and strength then just testosterone levels....

Being strong is good for everyone really as to not be strong catches up with you in old age. I saw the same situation with my Mother and also fear being weak.

BTW with Glutes if you want development hip thrusts are the Queen of all exercises.

Offline sarah1972

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2018, 10:45:15 am »
Thanks for posting this! This will be super helpful since I have started less than four weeks ago with a broad range of training, anything between extended walking to Zumba and weight training in between.

I have not done anything like this for 30 + years, so I am starting at zero. But according to my body composition scale, even in the 4 weeks I am training, I have gained almost 3 lbs in muscle mass, so even in the ramp up phase, I can tell a change.


Offline Deborah

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Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2018, 10:45:37 am »
Deborah, it's a really good thing you put up articles / posts like this. It helps everyone see what is possible.

It does appear there is far more to muscle gains and strength then just testosterone levels....

Being strong is good for everyone really as to not be strong catches up with you in old age. I saw the same situation with my Mother and also fear being weak.

BTW with Glutes if you want development hip thrusts are the Queen of all exercises.
I have been thinking about adding hip thrusts for some extra butt and maybe some extra strength for squats.

Also, an update on my progress.  About a month ago I started a new training technique where I squat every day up to a training maximum, around 90 to 95 percent of my true max.  Once a week I do front squats instead and on Fridays I usually take a break and walk.

It was kind of physically grueling at first but in a month I improved my squat by nearly 30 pounds and this week squatted 300 lbs for the first time in my life.  (It was legit and did go to parallel, not a half squat).  So in one year I progressed from 130 lb squat to 300 lb squat.  That’s really not bad progress for a 58 year old with no testosterone.  It would be reasonable progress for anyone at that age.


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Offline Mariah

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2018, 11:17:22 am »
@Deborah, everything look as it should now? Hugs
Mariah
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Offline Deborah

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2018, 11:19:21 am »
@Deborah, everything look as it should now? Hugs
Mariah
Thank you for correcting my mistake.  I’ll have to be more careful in pushing buttons the next time I edit something.


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Offline Mariah

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2018, 11:21:25 am »
No worries. It gets more complicated the more buttons you have and sometimes you can't undo your own mistakes. Hugs
Mariah
Thank you for correcting my mistake.  I’ll have to be more careful in pushing buttons the next time I edit something.


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Offline Deborah

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2018, 01:37:54 pm »
Here is another interesting article I found a while back that is very good for anyone interested in women’s strength training.  https://www.strongerbyscience.com/how-to-get-strong-what-is-strong/

The article itself covers both women and men but the part I found interesting are the charts attached at the end.  These show women’s and men’s (steroid free) powerlifting competition results summarized for the past four years and broken into weight classes.  It gives a good idea for what might be expected with consistent training.  My weight class, 185 lbs, is illustrative with these 50 percentile and 90 percentile lifts:

Squat: 255 (50%), 330 (90%)
Bench: 145, 185
Deadlift: 315, 385
Total: 705, 895

These are all quite a bit higher than I would have expected before I started researching this stuff.  A year ago when I started I was below the 5th percentile.


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Alexa Ares

Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2018, 06:07:57 am »
I have been thinking about adding hip thrusts for some extra butt and maybe some extra strength for squats.

Also, an update on my progress.  About a month ago I started a new training technique where I squat every day up to a training maximum, around 90 to 95 percent of my true max.  Once a week I do front squats instead and on Fridays I usually take a break and walk.

It was kind of physically grueling at first but in a month I improved my squat by nearly 30 pounds and this week squatted 300 lbs for the first time in my life.  (It was legit and did go to parallel, not a half squat).  So in one year I progressed from 130 lb squat to 300 lb squat.  That’s really not bad progress for a 58 year old with no testosterone.  It would be reasonable progress for anyone at that age.


Its pretty amazing progress for anyone really. To go from 60kg to 140kg in a year for squats for a 58yr old...Wow. I work in PT and let me tell you its rare to see this, as most people cant stick at this for long enough. You also dont have the benefit of high testosterone / injectables so its even more impressive.

For what its worth, Hip Thrusts I feel would in time give you another 10% or more on that squat. Glutes are really the lower body powerhouses. And when developed optimally,  fill out clothes nicely for a strong shapely look.

Heavy hip thrusts, heavy kettle bell swings, hip abbduction, those are mainstays of my workouts, and I throw in some Deadlifts, and a little upper body presses, and chin ups/pulldowns when I feel like it. Im managing over time to gradually  shift from looking like Male bodybuilder, to Trans Female fitness bodybuilder type of look, which reflects my feelings about myself well.

I hope when Im 58 I can squat 300lbs!

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Offline Deborah

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2018, 04:43:36 pm »

Thanks for your suggestions.  I added in three sets of weighted hip raises today at the end of my workout.  The way the bar felt across my upper thighs, I was wishing I had brought a pillow, LOL.  By the last set though it wasn’t too bad.

I have been doing deadlifts all along.  So far my best there is 360x5 today or 385x2 a couple of weeks ago.  The bar is elevated about six inches though so maybe my true weights would be a little less.

I have also been doing a set of good mornings at the end of most workouts.  Sometimes I skip it if I feel really wiped out.

Lower body is steadily getting better.  Upper body on the other hand has been stalled for about six weeks.  Because of my lower body focus though I’m not really too concerned.  It is interesting though that if I compare my lifts to the chart of female powerlifters I linked above my deadlift and bench are right at about the same percentile.  My squat is lagging about 15 percentile points lower.


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Alexa Ares

Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #16 on: May 21, 2018, 02:16:36 pm »
I can relate to the lower body focus. I mainly train upper body, out of fear of loosing strength!  360 x 5 is a damn good Deadlift. I would say starting 6 inches up has safety benefits, and you know your body better than anyone else...
Its normal to see a slight difference between where you are on charts with the 3 power lifts. Its rare anyone is at same percentile on all 3.

Let me know how you go with the Hip Thrusts. I love them, as frankly they make everything else easier and its one of the few exercises my Wife will do with Me at the Gym. I would suggest you get the bar nearer to the crotch / hip bone area than the upper thigh  for comfort, and maybe use a bar pad that is used for Squats.

I hope to be as committed to training as You are when I am your age. Strength is so important to everyone Cis or Trans.


Offline Deborah

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2018, 04:49:03 pm »
I hope to be as committed to training as You are when I am your age. Strength is so important to everyone Cis or Trans.
This is one thing in which having some OCD has benefits.  Several years ago it helped me get reasonably good at marathoning.

In high school my coach told my mother something that she then told me.  He said that when I first got there as a freshman he looked and determined that I had about zero athletic talent.  (I knew that already) But over the four years I worked harder at it than anyone else and so senior year I was team captain and MVP. 



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Alexa Ares

Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #18 on: May 24, 2018, 12:01:36 pm »
OCD yeah it does help drive people to achieve. My wife has it and I notice that she can get a lot done in a short space of time with work or other things.

It's nice to challenge the ideas that trans or cis women should not try to be strong. As the pursuit of strength is inherently gender neutral. It's not a male or female thing.

Keep me updated on your pbs.
Alexa

Offline RobynD

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Re: Strength Training For Women: Setting the Record Straight
« Reply #19 on: May 24, 2018, 12:38:51 pm »
Really interesting and refutes much of the casual information you see out there, certainly makes sense relative to women's baseline.

My girlfriend is an athlete and works out about 5-6 days a week, competes about 2-3 days a week. She was lean, very lean this winter and decided to transition to more of a x-training work out. The immediate strength gains in her arms was amazing.

I think too often people look at in a very simplistic way, like the male who is roughly genetically equal and trains the same amount as a woman, will always bench press more. So what does that prove? Its all about the baseline that their efforts started from.



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