This is a funny question, but I find myself going over this constantly with my female clients.
If you look at the tasks you need to perform in life and then add a little bit to it, you’ll have sufficient strength to get along well.
So what tasks might a woman need to perform in life?
Strength Training and Gender
Out of the main ten modalities of measuring someone’s fitness (coordination, agility, balance, accuracy, flexibility, endurance, stamina, strength, power and speed), strength is considered more of a male feature.
This makes sense because men can easily have somewhere around 20 times the amount of testosterone than a female.
It is kind of funny, but you don’t hear “How much endurance should a man have vs a woman?” or “How much coordination should a woman have?”
But the strength factor is very much influenced by testosterone levels and testosterone levels are influenced by gender. This doesn’t mean a woman can’t build muscle, but it does mean that it takes more work to do so when compared to a man.
The Social Effect
There used to be a LOT of women who “didn’t want muscles” or were “afraid to look like a guy.” They would refuse to work out their arms because they didn’t want to be seen as a “butch chick.” These are actual things I’ve run into and still run into.
I personally don’t care how much shoulder muscles a woman has. If I see that she’s got some muscle, she looks like an able woman to me. I like to see athletic women. They can control their environments. They aren’t feeble things that can’t lift something off the floor.
If there were a political spectrum here, I’m on the Pro-Muscle side of it. Not building muscle to the point where it gets in the way, but if you get some muscle through doing regular functional training – be proud of it.
In my experience it is the lazy husband at home worrying that his wife is much more fit and attractive than he is so he will discourage her going to the gym. It happens more often than you would think.
How Much Muscle You Need Depends on Your Job
I’ve known women in construction, law enforcement, auto mechanic shops, butcher shops, flower shops, waitresses, fitness trainers (obviously) and all sorts of other jobs that require physical work.
I’ve also trained women that have white collar jobs in air conditioned rooms.
My goal for them all is to make them stronger than what they will run into in the real world. We train everything we can in the gym. I make your core strong, your legs strong, your arms strong and I make sure that you can keep applying that strength over a period of time with good form.
Then you can go out into the real world and pick something up with poor form when I’m not around and it won’t be the end of the world. You’ll survive.
You’ll be able to pick up your kids 75 times in one night because they loved that game of running to you and flying through the air. And you won’t need to take pain medication the next day just to get out of bed.
Strength To Lose Weight
There is absolutely a time when I will do as much strength training as possible on a woman – and that is when she has lots of excess fat and is trying to lose weight.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. Think of your body as a constantly lit fire. Putting on muscle turns that fire into a massive bonfire – and it stays lit all day.
The more muscle I can put on you, the more fat you can burn throughout your day. If you ever want to lose that muscle once you’ve gotten the bulk of your fat off, just restrict your calories and do a lot of cardiovascular exercise. The muscle will go. It is even easier to get off than fat.
Trust me, you are in no danger of accidentally gaining massive amounts of muscle. I’ve got a lot more testosterone than you and if it were that easy, I would be HUGE.
Strength For Self Defense
For those women in my life that I have felt responsible for, I have always made sure that they had enough strength to defend themselves.
This is a whole subject in and of itself, but it is worth noting. If you’re a woman reading this, look at the areas you frequent and the types of people in them. Is there anywhere along your route to work where you wouldn’t want your car to break down?
Don’t get me started on kids. A woman will do anything she needs to protect her kids.
She can do a lot more if she has some muscle and has taken some basic self-defense classes.
Strength and Pregnancy
I’ve read that women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy.
Carrying a lot of extra weight in your belly is not easy. If you have a strong core and an otherwise well-worked out body, you’ll survive.
My pre-pregnancy regimen for any woman includes a lot of core training – abdominals, quadratus lumborum, obliques and all of the muscles of the spine such as the erector spinae. I go heavy on the legs and deadlifts.
The main difference between a man and a woman is that a woman can have children. So regardless of whether or not they are expecting to get pregnant, I train them to be able to do the same basic movements.
I’m a functional training kind of trainer and that is what works for people in the real world. It works to lose fat, improve posture and do stuff like lifting a 30 pound kid 75 times in one night.
Your aesthetic concerns are your own. Figure out how you want to look and then go for it.
If you don’t like how it is when you get there, then do it again. Figure out how you want to look and then go for it. Reassess once you’re there.
I would say to listen to less people about what looks good. You can define good looks.
If you’re getting hate from people, take it as a sign that you’re doing something right.
I honestly think that women should be stronger and more able than the housewife of the 50s and 60s. It is catching on more and more in popular culture. Superhero women are in the movies and you’re seeing more of them with some muscle.
But regardless of what everyone else thinks or what is in vogue, you need to be able to do some basic functions. If you’ve got a labor-intensive job, then you need a little more.
Base it off of what you need to do and then how you look is just how you look.
I wish I didn’t have to keep having the “muscle” discussion with my female clients, but I do. I have to calm them down and tell them that a little muscle is okay.
Like I said, I’m Pro-Muscle. Most of the time the naysayers are guys who are jealous of girls being stronger than them. Forget about them.
You do you.