UNSW Exercise Physiology Dr. Mandy Hagstrom
UNSW Exercise Physiology Dr. Mandy Hagstrom.
BY CFI / UNSW MEDIA

When we think of weightlifting, we tend to think of big burly men pumping iron in a gym - but it turns out, women have just as much to gain from strength training as their male gym junkie counterparts. Historically, pumping iron to build muscles has been seen as a masculine pursuit. And research into sport and exercise has largely focused on men too. But increasingly women at gyms are heading to the heavy weights room and picking up the dumbbells to reap the benefits of strength training. 

When she discovered a complete lack of literature on female resistance and strength training, former Olympic weightlifter and exercise scholar Mandy Hagstrom decided to take matters into her own hands. “Sex bias in sports and exercise research has been holding us back,” she says.

According to her research, both male and female strength trainers gain the same relative amount of muscle mass following strength training, so when it comes to fitness, are we compromising the health of half of our population due to a lack of understanding? 

In under ten minutes, or roughly the same amount of time it takes to do a triple set of bench presses, Dr Hagstrom explains why being male or female doesn’t make as much difference to growing muscle as you might think.

Mandy Hagstrom is an accredited exercise scientist from the School of Medical Sciences at UNSW Sydney. Her work focuses broadly on the effects of resistance training. As a former New Zealand weightlifting champion, commonwealth powerlifting medallist, and an exercise scientist, the topic of resistance and strength training is particularly close to her heart. She has two streams of research: the use of exercise following cancer and its treatments, and maximising the effect of resistance training in healthy populations with a specific interest in sex-differences and female physiology. Mandy’s research has been widely publicised including being featured on sports brand Nike's website.