It is true that men and women are two different creatures, but this does not mean that training should be completely different between the two genders. The principles and basis of training should be the same for both male and female with the same exercise library but there are a few things that we need to keep in mind.
Let’s start by talking about the hormone difference between men and women.
Men tend to have higher testosterone levels while women have higher oestrogen levels. This is the reason why men have a bigger frame, build muscle mass quicker and tend to be leaner, while females may find it harder to get rid of excess body fat.
Due to the significant lower levels of testosterone it is very hard for women to build muscle mass as quick as men so women need to stop being scared of looking like a guy if they start lifting weights. In fact, weight training has been proven to be one of the most beneficial and effective types of training for a number of different populations and goals.
Furthermore, women can be relatively as strong as men if they trained appropriately. Look at some of the athletes taking part in weightlifting and power lifting as well as crossfit; I get that most women don’t want to look ‘big and bulky’ but they can train to very strong. Having higher oestrogen also means that women are usually metabolically and aerobically more efficient which means that they can recover quicker in between sets and often can work for longer. This also comes down to the fact that men can work hard due to increased muscle mass therefore putting in more effort.
Other things that we want to take into consideration are that women are usually more quad dominant therefore putting an emphasis on training the posterior chain is of benefit. The posterior chain includes the hamstrings and glutes which are of extreme importance especially if training for a sport in which ones needs to run quick and jump far.
Moreover, women are usually more flexible and more mobile than men so they should use this to their advantage as it is easier to achieve certain positions such as the bottom of a squat or an overhead press.
Lastly, let us touch on the menstrual cycle. Although not everyone is comfortable talking about it, coaches and personal trainers need to be mindful of their female athletes’ / clients’ cycle especially if training hard for a specific event.
During the cycle, hormones are constantly changing and when there is an increase in oestrogen and progesterone (around ovulation) there’s also an increase in the laxity of tendons and ligaments around joints increasing the chance of injury.
Menstruation also affect women in very different ways, some women can stick to their training programme as planned but in other cases they cannot train at all. If this is the case and the symptoms are quite bad, it’s important to listen to your body and miss a session if need be.
So women, do not be afraid to get in the gym and start lifting weights with your male counterparts, just remember that it will take a lot of training to start looking like one.
Have questions or need help identifying your fitness goals? Feel free to get in touch!