There are lies, and then there are zombie lies. These are myths that will not die, no matter how many times you shoot them in the head. No one knows why they exist, but when it comes to fitness, they're lurking behind every squat rack. One of the biggest zombie lies is that too many squats will make a woman's thighs too big. Let's talk about why that's just flat out wrong.
Squats, weighted or otherwise, will boost muscle strength. Part of this boost comes from an increase in muscle size. It is also true that weight training will stimulate increased levels of growth hormone and testosterone. However, the American Council on Exercise states that the vast majority of women, possessing lower levels of testosterone than men, simply don't have the capacity to walk around with massive, bulky legs. It's not about the squats or any exercise in particular. It's about the hormones.
The Actual Effect of Too Many Squats
While squats may make you sore and maybe even cranky, too many squats are far more likely to lead to a breakdown in muscle tissue than anything else. Over-training will spike your cortisol levels; elevated amounts brought about by reckless training will eat away at muscle tissue. What qualifies as too many squats depends on your fitness goals. If you just want to work on getting strong keep the reps low and the intensity high. Sets of three to five repetitions for three to six sets will work wonders. High repetition routines are useful for building muscular endurance, just don't do them every day.
- ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 4th Edition. Daniel Green, ed. 2010