Pumping Iron Builds Too Muscle for Women, Plus Forced Chin-ups To Torture Your Back

Strength training and muscle-building is always an interesting topic, but never more so than as it relates to woman building muscle – or rather, building too much muscle.  Does pumping iron build too much muscle with respect to women?  How many times have you heard a woman say, to the effect, ” I don’t really want big guy muscle; I just want to tone my body.”

What is that?

What is tone?

Resistance training builds muscle, makes it strong, makes it hard.

Dieting burns fat and sheds pounds.

Where is the toning?

I told a co-worker who clocks in around 180 lbs. (though she really doesn’t look it) that she needs to do resistance training coupled with some cardio and work towards achieving a daily caloric deficit; if she wants to lose weight – permanently.  She says she doesn’t want to build muscle, she just wants to tone her body; but more importantly, lose about 30 lbs. before her family reunion in a few weeks.

30 lbs. in a few weeks – good luck with that.

Sally Feinerman wrote a nice article, Top 7 Women’s Bodybuilding Misconceptions, still, I think this is a good topic to revisit.  And attempt to stake this vampire one more time.

Building muscle is hard.  If it were easy, then everyone would be massive.  But it is not easy.  Simply pumping iron is not going to give anyone bulging biceps and tectonic pecs.

Women can no more build muscle fast and easy than men can.  And trust me, it ain’t that easy!

For all the women who think that curling a 10 lbs. dumbbell is going to make them look like Ms. Olympia, they are mistaken.

Case in point – my first example is this woman who is in the down position of an Olympic weightlifting Snatch movement.  She is holding a 135 lbs. barbell over her head.

That is simply impressive.

That is strength beyond 99% of all human beings – I’m guessing.

Yet look at her arms.  Look at her development.   Her shoulders – square and strong.  Her Back.

The strength in her torso, hips, quads, her flexibility – this is phenom!

What you see is a very fit, strong-looking human being.


Where’s the bulging muscles?

This whole line of thought came to me when a buddy told me to look at this YouTube video of a gal deadlifting 275 lbs. for multiple reps.

Very impressive.

The lifter is Nia Shanks.  Turns out she runs a very cool website called NiaShanks.com – Lift Like A Girl.  I think she means just lift.

Here’s the video:

Check her out.  Does she look massive and muscular? I think she weighs about 120 lbs.

And she’s deadlifting 275 lbs.

For 6 reps.

That’s ridiculous – and most impressive


Where’s the bulging muscles?

You would think – following the logic of some – that Nia Shanks would be a mastodon, considering how strong she is.  Again, I think she weighs 120 lbs. or so.

But no – she simply looks like a fit, strong human being.

That’s what resistance training will do for you.  It will make you fit and strong.  Yes, it will give muscles; but every ounce of muscle you gain will be hard-fought and hard-earned.

And it won’t come easy.

That said…

Just lifting is not enough.  You do have to know what you are doing.  More importantly, you have to know what you want for the end results.  As Dr. Covey says, “begin with the end in mind.”

It’s the why before the how.

The why is all you.

The how – well, you can start with these suggestions:

  • Seems like NiaShank.com website has some good info on it.
  • Sign up for one session with a personal trainer at your local gym.
  • Head over to my workout routine pages and get some ideas, because whether man or woman; the lifting is the same.
  • Look for Ebook programs like Visual Impact For Women that can point you in the right direction.

One thing I like about programs like Rusty Moore’s VI for Women is that while the lifting principles are the same; it does not necessary stand that you should do the same program as a guy.  That is unless you want a physique that ultimately looks like guy’s.

For example – do women really need to do bench presses, flyes, and dips or cable crossovers for a chest workout?

On the other hand, a shoulder workout of seated dumbbell presses, standing lateral raises, and face pulls would be okay.


Because I think a solid, square set of delts on gal looks good; while the kind of board, square pecs that look good a guy might not on a women.

It’s all about knowing what you want to look like before you get started.

How do you want to look?

Which is why programs like Rusty’s VI for Women are useful.

But the bottom line is this…

Whether you are a woman or a man; hit the iron hard and work those muscles hard.  Get strong and muscular.  Then, or concurrently diet to show the lean muscles underneath…

And then – maybe you can look like Shannon Veurink or Stefanie

Today’s Training Tip – Chin-up forced reps.

Tonight I did my back and biceps before going a 2 1/2 mile run.

For my back, I started out with 4 sets of chin-ups followed by 4 sets of one arm rows and 4 sets of “seated” rows with my bodylastics straps.

At the end of my back routine, I really wanted to punish and push my back to total exhaustion.  I don’t know why, I was feeling sadistic – toward myself.

  • I went back to the chin-up bar but this time I put a chair behind me.
  • I did a couple of chin-ups, then immediately put my feet up on the chair behind me.
  • As I struggled for a rep, I used my feet and legs to “help” push me up as I pulled up.
  • I used the chair to do forced reps.


I tortured by back until it was numb with lactic acids.  It felt great.

If you’re working out alone – at home, or even at the gym, this is great way to push yourself.

But, be honest with yourself, too.  Use just enough leg push to get you up as you pull up.  Don’t cheat yourself.  Your back does the work and your legs help only as much as you need it.

Give it try.

You’ll thank in the morning – or curse me.

Be Sociable, Share!