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Some women still can't stand the idea of strength training because they think it'll make them look too masculine and muscular. Sports scientists at Pennsylvania State University did an experiment in 2000 which showed that their fears are unfounded.Study
The researchers got 31 healthy women aged between 24 and 32 to do weight training for six months. The women did just under an hour of weight training followed by half an hour of cardio training four times a week. On the fifth day the women ran for an hour.
The researchers made scans to see how the women's bodies changed as a result of the programme.
The table below shows the changes in lean tissue, and the table beneath that shows the changes in fat tissue.Six months' training led to an increase in lean body mass of just over 2 percent. Most of this increase was in the legs, with less in the trunk and hardly any in the arms.
The change in fat mass was bigger – there was almost a ten percent reduction. Most fat was lost from the arms and a little less from the trunk. No fat was lost from the legs.
To understand the figures we need to look at the table below. This compares the body composition of young adult males and females, who did not do weight training.
The women have an average of 43 kg lean body mass and the men 63 kg. The women have an average of 25 kg fat and the men 15 kg.If the women were to acquire the same body composition as the men they would need to lose 40 percent of their fat mass. If you can lose 10 percent of your fat in six months, then this would be possible.
If the same women also wanted to gain as much lean body mass as the men, they'd have to increase their lean body mass by 147 percent. But if you only gain 2.2 percent after six months' of hard training, then you know that's going to be impossible.
J Appl Physiol. 2000 Jun;88(6):2251-9.