Should women strength train differently than men? Yes and no. I will get to the yes in a minute but lets go over the why and how women shouldn’t train differently than men.
NO! Women Should Train Like Men
The ladies have been fed the lie that they will become too bulky if they start lifting weights, and this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Men gain bulk from their lifting at a much greater rate than their female counterparts because of one reason, testosterone. Men produce ten times more testosterone than women. So unless you are lifting while also introducing steroids into your body, as a women it is considerably more difficult to put on bulk and “look like a man”.
Want a body like Jessica Biel? Guess what? She lifts weights. She focuses on getting strong and the physique results happen.
Women, just like men, should focus on the basics by learning how to move their bodyweight first and then load up the movements.
They also need to focus on core strength and stability to help reduce injury.
Lastly, women should focus on the compound lifts such as squat and deadlift variations as well as rows, pull-ups, and pressing.
Women, focus on getting strong and I guarantee you will like the results.
Want to see an example of a normal person who has focused on getting strong and doesn’t look like a man?? My coworker Danielle. She is a high level Olympic lifter…meaning she throws heavy stuff over her head. And when I mean high level, she competed with the current Olympic champion a month ago.
Check her out front squatting some heavy ass weight and guess what? I wouldn’t exactly call her manly…just strong as hell.
Differences in Training
So we’ve already gone over why men are bigger than women or have the potential to be bigger. This also leads to a discrepancy in strength as well.
Men are typically stronger than women relatively speaking. Women especially struggle with upper body strength. Lower body strength in women is around 70 to 75 percent of men, where as upper body strength is around 40 to 60 percent.
While the differences in strength may seem unfair, this allows for differences in program design.
Women, due to their smaller stature have a higher endurance tolerance at higher intensities. Basically because they have less muscle mass and lower bodyweight than their male counterparts, their energy demand is not as high. Therefore they are able to recover faster between bouts of exercise.
This lends itself to a higher training density, or the amount of work that can be done within a given time period. Basically women can do more relative work in the weight room because they do not have as much active body mass that needs to recover between sets.
Women can also tolerate a higher training frequency for two reasons, lower muscle mass and lower neural demand.
The smaller amount of muscle mass means not as much muscular damage occurs and the body is able to repair the muscle damage much quicker, allowing the person to trainer more frequently. Bigger, male trainees can elicit significant muscle damage within a workout that takes much longer to recover from.
Women are also not able to handle the heavy loads that men are so the neurological effect is of a lower magnitude. The quicker that neural fatigue can be dissipated the sooner someone can train. The heavier the loads on can handle the more neural fatigue can determine recoverability.
So What Does This Mean?
Women can handle much more work within a shorter period of time. They do not need as long of rest periods between their working sets as compared to their male counterparts.
Women are also able to train certain movements or muscles much more frequently. This is due to less accumulated fatigue and muscle damage within their workouts.
So the difference is in the details. The basics still apply to everyone but small changes can be considered when designing strength training programs for women.