Does Weight Training Really Reduce Breast Size In Women?
One of the most common myths about weight training for women is that weight training reduces breast size and creates a flat manly looking chest. This misconception has prevented many women from incorporating weight training into their quests to lose weight and firm up their bodies. A practice that inevitably leads to failure as weight training is without question the most effective way to really tone up and develop a tight body. But what about the prospect of becoming flat chested? To answer that I can honestly say that unless you plan on starving yourself or using anabolic steroids, women have little to worry about in terms of their breasts getting smaller from weight training. In fact most tend to see a slight increase over time!
Weight training properly executed with sufficient intensity, adequate rest and nutrition will bring about an increase in muscle size of any part of the body that is being worked. This holds true whether it be it the pectoralis muscles of the chest (or pecs as many call them) or the muscles of your arms and legs. The way that this process (hypertrophy) works is that individual muscle fibers will get bigger (slightly bigger, that is, you won’t see mountains of muscle sprout on a woman without the use of anabolic steroids as it takes men with ten times more testosterone, years upon years to develop a muscular physique) or they will split and then get slightly bigger. The fibers of your pectoral muscles are all constituents of skeletal muscle whereas breast tissue is made up of sex specific adipose tissue (fat), ligaments, connective tissue and mammary glands. There are no skeletal muscle fibers found in the breasts as they simply sit directly over the pectoralis muscles. Weight training therefore can have no direct effect on them whatsoever.
Weight Training Doesn’t Affect Breasts Just The Muscles Underneath
Thus breast tissue cannot be subject to hypertrophy or get larger due to weight training, but by increasing the size (slightly, ladies) of the pectoral muscles under the breasts there will be a natural increase in overall chest size. It may then appear that the breasts look a bit larger as they will stand up a bit more, which, is something most women would not mind. However the actual size and composition of the breasts themselves will not change. A study conducted in the University of Arizona back in 1985 confirmed this phenomenon in a 21 day study that used concentric and eccentric contractions with a specialized chest exercise machine. After the three week program researchers found no changes whatsoever in the size, shape or volume of the breasts of the women participating after extensive scientific measurement.
So what about those flat chested women in the magazines with thickly developed chest muscles and no breasts? The ones that are so often parodied and ridiculed? Firstly it should be noted that the female bodybuilders that we typically see in magazines or on the internet use extensive amounts of drugs to attain a degree of muscular development and body fat reduction that is not in any way possible without pharmaceutical intervention. These athletes do not in any way represent what a regular woman would look like if they trained with weights, no matter how long or how hard they trained. The size and shape of breasts in a healthy woman is fairly resistant to change as long as there are normal conditions of hydration and food availability. That being said, in cases of extreme under nutrition or calorie restriction as is often the case for athletes trying to get lean or individuals with eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia where there is a significant reduction of body-weight and body fat, the breasts, which have a high proportion of fat, will shrink. In the case of female bodybuilders- you see the dense muscle tissue in their chest area and no breasts and the assumption is erroneously made that somehow the weight training made their breasts go away. Weight training has nothing to do with it, as shrinkage comes from the reduction in body fat and nothing else.
Weight Training Can Help You Look Better All Round!
That being said, natural athletes who don’t aspire to have 3% body fat levels don’t tend to have the same flat chested look as their drug using counterparts, nor the thickly muscled pecs that many find a bit off putting. Due to the reduced body fat of the average elite athlete there is some reduction in breast sized as compared to the general population, as they diet down, but most of the size lost in their chest area comes back when they eat normally and reduce their levels of fat burning activity. The other factor that can cause breast size to change is obesity- in which case the breasts become larger as body fat increases past healthy levels. Some women who are overweight see this increase in breast size as a positive attribute and are reluctant to exercise or diet for fear of reducing their bust size. For someone who is overweight to trim down to a lean and toned body, there will always be some loss of breast size- from the loss of body fat. But keep in mind that weight training can help lift what remains and make you look better all round!
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