Should women train differently from men?

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Should women train differently from men?

Postby GymBunny on Sat Feb 07, 2009 8:04 pm

AKA....."I want to tone up but not get bulky"

I have seen these two questions posted in some form or other more times than I can count.

So I thought I'd put up something for any ladies lurking.

The answer is simply that unless a woman takes anabolic steroids (AAS) her natural testosterone levels are something like one 10th that of a man i.e. a man has 10 times as much testosterone! So ladies it is impossible for you to get big and bulky and end up looking like Arnie!
If you are carrying a lot of body fat you may go through a stage where you look a bit bigger as you put on muscle but haven't yet begun to lose fat.
That lean and sleek look, that toned look you are so desperately searching for while running on treadmills or pounding the stairmaster and quite probably burning away your muscle, is achieved by a lower body fat revealing the lines of your muscles and some resistance training to improve said muscle!

I found a really nice article on the subject here whilst looking at some Westside stuff.
Here it is in full:

Should Females Train Differently Than Males?

by Joe DeFranco, Owner, Performance Enhancement Specialist
DeFranco’s Training Systems

When people ask me what are the biggest differences between designing strength-training programs for females compared to males, my answer usually surprises them. That is because the basic principles should be the same for both genders: train bodyweight exercises before using external resistance, train the core (abs & low back), favor multiple-joint exercises instead of isolation movements, and focus a good deal of their training on the “posterior chain” (hamstrings, gluteals and low back).

Despite the many similarities of male and female strength training, there are subtle differences to consider. First of all, females mature earlier than males. Therefore, in general, females can begin strength training earlier than males. Also, since females have less muscle mass, on average, than males, they are also more susceptible to deconditioning. That is why a female strength-training program should have the athlete continue to train during the competitive season. This is because the drop-off in strength is more dramatic for females when strength training is stopped.

Overall, strength training offers female athletes the same benefits that it offers male athletes! Regardless of their sport or gender, any athlete can benefit from increased sprinting speed, strength, balance, decreased body fat levels and a reduced incidence of injuries – all of which a properly designed strength-training program can provide. Also, studies have proven that strength training can have a positive effect on bone density, which will decrease your risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Even with all of the positive research out there with regards to strength training and female athletes, I still get asked the same question all of the time, “Will I end up looking like a man if I lift weights?” The answer is, “Absolutely not!” Much of the difference in muscle mass between males and females is attributed to hormones, specifically, testosterone. On average, men produce ten times more testosterone than females. Unless you’re a female who is taking anabolic steroids or other male hormones, lifting weights will NOT make you look like a man! Also, there is a difference in muscle mass distribution between men and women, especially in the upper body. So it is important to remember that male hormones and muscle mass distribution are the two main reasons that men usually carry more muscle than woman. These are 2 of the main factors why men who strength-train look more “bulky” than females who strength-train.

Females can still train like Tarzan, yet look like Jane!
Mens sana in corpore sano
Never look back with regrets and think "what if" for that way madness lies. There are those that will envy you and try and undermine you. They are not worth your time.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Rorschach on Sat Feb 07, 2009 8:37 pm

Sounds sensible from the little I know, however,
"Also, there is a difference in muscle mass distribution between men and women, especially in the upper body."

Doesn't that imply that there should be at least a slight difference in training?
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby health4ni on Sat Feb 07, 2009 9:00 pm

^^ No.

Just that the relative weight lifted will be different.

For example: females tend to be very poor comparatively speaking at overhead presses.
However, if trained properly, females are as good as, and in most cases better than, males at chin-ups. Trouble is, very few train well enough for this to happen.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby health4ni on Sat Feb 07, 2009 9:03 pm

Poliquin wrote:One of the most common questions asked in the field of strength training is what are the differences in training females vs. males.

With strength training for women the important differences are:

1. Women should train more frequently. Most females need at least a frequency of 3 days a week per muscle group for optimal gains in the early stages. The Chinese have been very successful at training weightlifters at the international level both in males and females. Upon analyzing their training system, what stood out is that they use much more training frequency for the females than the males.

2. Because of the lower levels of androgens, volume per training unit should be smaller in terms of sets and number of exercises. In most instances, the training volume per training unit should be about 20-35% lower. Most females get most of their hypertrophy in the first year of training. It then plateaus dramatically, even though strength still increases through mainly neural adaptations.

3. It is harder for females to gain hypertrophy because of lower androgen levels. Women also only have 60% of the number of nuclei per muscle fiber than males.

4. The trainer should adapt to the client’s needs. The stronger the female, the more her training should like the one of her male counterpart.

5. Biomechanical issues and cultural issues must be considered. For example, North American women athletes are often weaker in relative terms in the vastus medialis muscles, hamstrings, erector spinae, and scapulae retractors than their counterparts in other countries.

6. Pound for pound, females actually have stronger legs than males. That is, of course, if they properly trained.

7. Contrary to popular belief, the upper body lift that females can approximate the most the performance of males is the chin-up or the pull-up. Again, that is if course, if they properly trained.

Note: Actually, I use this exercise to evaluate the quality of knowledge of a personal trainer/strength coach. A competent coach will ask a female to do 12 chin-ups in twelve weeks. That is based on the assumption that the client is not clinically obese. You know, the type that gets harpooned when she goes swimming. Actually, in this morning's newspaper, they were relating the following story: A woman, standing nude, looks in the bedroom mirror and says to her husband, "I feel horrible, I look fat and ugly. Pay me a compliment.” Her husband replied, "Your eyesight's damn near perfect." He never heard the shot.

8. The most difficult lift for females to do well on, compared to males, is overhead presses. They tend do, on a pound for pound basis, about 58 to 66% of their male counterparts.

9. Female clients are far easier to coach than male clients, as they don't let their ego spoil the methodology and follow instructions far better than males. In 1994, I had 7 women who were World Champions in their respective sports,. What they all had in common was the good sense to communicate with me on a regular basis, so that I could finely tune their training loads. Interestingly, the worst individual to coach is the nineteen-year male, who usually goes through the life phase that he believes he is born with infinite knowledge.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Sat Feb 07, 2009 9:47 pm

Absolutely spot on post GB, and great follow up as always Scott.

I firmly believe that women should train the same as men. None of this girly crap about not wanting to lift weights because you will end up looking like a man (as GB says the amount of testosterone we have is so low that really aint gonna happen without "help").

And a lot of women seem to think gaining muscle is that easy!! :roll:

GB is also spot on about the loweing of BF levels as this is where the "toned" (although I can't stand that term) look will come from.

Any lady lurkers...do it. Get in the weights room, train til you bust and put those boys to shame. Simple as that...
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby ollie on Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:32 am

the girls with the best physiques in my gym are the ones that spend most of their time in the free weights area.

That says it all really.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:43 am

Agreed Ollie.

I only use machines for my legs now... besides, free weights are so much more fun!!! :D
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Alex Wheatman on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:10 am

The job where i am at the mo (7 days left here :D) I sometimes have to help out with the "normal" inductions and that amount of times that i have woman saying that to me.

My simple response is, "well if you can put on alot of muscle quicker then i can then i'll start training with you".
Kind of an arsey answer i know but i usually get the disired response of "oh, i thought i would get relly muscley"
Like they are annoyed that they won't now!

Good bit of info there GB on the test levels. Will incorparate that into my speech :)

Got to agree with ollie, the girls in th gym where i work who have a nice body all do quite aot of weight training. We only have two woman in my gym where i train and they are pro body builders. Not my cup of tea im afraid.
Last edited by Alex Wheatman on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:12 am

But then again not all of us who weight train want to be body builders... (not my cup of tea either).

For example, GB and I both want it for functional purposes. GB climbing and me swimming. I think a lot of women forget or don't know about the importance of strength training for sport. It gets lost in "I will look too muscly" which really isn't accurate at all. Yes, it helps us feel good about our bodies, but we are doing it for functionality.

If we can dispel that myth then fantastic!
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Alex Wheatman on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:14 am

Pingu wrote:But then again not all of us who weight train want to be body builders... (not my cup of tea either).

For example, GB and I both want it for functional purposes. GB climbing and me swimming. I think a lot of women forget or don't know about the importance of strength training for sport. It gets lost in "I will look too muscly" which really isn't accurate at all. Yes, it helps us feel good about our bodies, but we are doing it for functionality.

If we can dispel that myth then fantastic!


I don't think that you ever will really which is a shame
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:16 am

True, but we can try! If even a few women start to see it then that is a success.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Alex Wheatman on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:21 am

Yeah i do agree. It strange as all the GP people that i see who are female and are usually in there 60's are fine with the weight programmes that i set them. You would think that it would be the other way round but alas its not.

Like i say when i "have" to do any other inductions then i do try to emphasise the importance of weight training with the females that i see.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:23 am

I think a lot of this is down to the unfortunate obsession with the “WAG” culture now. It’s all about being stick thin and obsessed with make up and fashion. No focus on sporting prowess or health. Those women who are sport and health driven tend to get lost in it all. I have certainly found that, and man is it a HUUUUUGE by bear of mine!

Femininity is not about today’s typical projection at all!!!!
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby health4ni on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:36 am

Also, women often find the weights area intimidating. I can easily see why.

Often (and this includes men too) it just seems like too much hard work! Many women (and men) would rather take it easy in the gym and plod along on a treadmill easing their conscience and guilt.

Agree with the best female figures come from those that do some work in the free weights area.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:39 am

Yeah, it can be intimidating. I was a tad scared when I first started at my gym, all big beefy BBs! :shock:

But I just throw myself in.

Yes, a lot of people are afraid of hard work...shame, because it is so worth it!
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Alex Wheatman on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:39 am

Yeah got to agree with you on that. Thankfully my wife to be is not caught up in that at all (she would get a stern talking to if she were) but a few of my female friends are like that.

You only have to watch the programme that Louise Redknapp did on trying to get to size 0. She looked like crap and her health deminished but when she went for her final shoot the photographer said how good she looked!!

Just stupid!!
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:42 am

Yes it is! EDs are dangerous and are there for a lot of reasons, and deserve support. However, a great deal of it these days is about vanity. That I despise.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Alex Wheatman on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:44 am

Have to agree with that too. When i first joined my gym i was 15 and weighed 8 stone something and was scared big time, but you just have to get on with it. Now i try to remember that when there are new kids joining and try to be nice to them (unless they are doing bicep curls on my squat rack) but alot of the time they have such an attitude that i can't be bothered.

Hard work also comes into it, you are so right. This goes for the men for sure. I always say to the guys in my gym where i train that they are happy to wear a vest in the winter but never wear shorts in the summer. Why is that? Because training legs is hard work. If done properly that is.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Alex Wheatman on Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:47 am

Pingu wrote:Yes it is! EDs are dangerous and are there for a lot of reasons, and deserve support. However, a great deal of it these days is about vanity. That I despise.


I run a weight management course here every 6 weeks over throughout the year and they all say that they have tried all these diets but get out of breathe when walking.
A few weeks later of doing some kind of weighted work with them they start to lose weight.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby GymBunny on Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:08 am

health4ni wrote:Also, women often find the weights area intimidating. I can easily see why.

Often (and this includes men too) it just seems like too much hard work! Many women (and men) would rather take it easy in the gym and plod along on a treadmill easing their conscience and guilt.

Agree with the best female figures come from those that do some work in the free weights area.


Agreed! There are still some times I get afeart when the weights room is packed and everyone turns to look at me when I walk in. Though it's not the serious lifters that bother me, it's the kids doing full body curls in a weight belt that are the problem. Or when I set up for Oly lifts that no one else does.

Re point 2. it's depressing how much harder I have to work to get smaller results. Really REALLY depressing on occasion. So this is where the importance of photos of yourself come in, because when I look back at pics of me even 2 years ago the difference is very apparent.

It does my nut in this paranoia amongst women that lifting weights will make them big and bulky. A couple of years back I read an article by a exercsie coach to supermodels. If Gisele Bunchan (sp?) can do RDL then every woman can!

Lastly, I agree with Pingu, functional strength. Lets look at female track and athletics (see this thread)

and I'll repost what I think is a prime example of a functional athletic lady:
Image

That is a woman with LOW BODY FAT and HIGH MUSCLE MASS!

The "toned" look is due to the muscle!
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Will on Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:23 am

Fantastic thread. Although a lot of us knew this, I think a lot of the points raised in this thread has helped to re-educate or remind people that weight training is such an important part of the look that a lot of people strive for, but more importantly it offers a lot more practical and useable benefits. Strength gains will always help you in life no matter what, and body composition also has a huge effect on self esteem and aesthetic reasons.

I will be sure to pass this info on to people who I know train but "half heartedly".

And wow at that pic...
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby GymBunny on Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:33 am

Good points there Will, this is why I started the thread. We get a lot of people viewing and lurking on the forum and I think it is absolutely KEY that women realise that resistance training should be a major part of any health/sport training they do.

Will update this weekend with the health benefits of resistance for women...unless, of course, Scott beats me to it! :D
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:34 am

Yes, she really has an awesome physique! Admirable and hot! The other for me that springs to mind is Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. I still can’t find a decent picture but damn me the fitness and strength is really something. Makes me speechless in admiration anyway! Athletic functional strength in women, regardless of the sport, is to me the pinnacle of femininity because you are using your female body to the best of its ability.

Agreed with GB here, photos are absolutely vital. When you look at yourself day in day out it seems like you aren’t getting anywhere, but when you see pictures it really shows the work you have put in. This is especially important if you are your own harshest critic. I know this is something GB and I really struggle with and to be able to monitor your progress in this way is a big help. It enables a more detached and honest critique rather than criticism. Big difference.

(GB...I’ve seen the pics. Trust me, ENORMOUS and hugely commendable progress. And yummy too!).

I just wish there was more publicity about weight training for women. For example, I hadn’t heard anything of that article GB mentions. It would, however, require a change in approach and attitude of the general population away from the WAG image being most appealing in the majority. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

It’s not only in the general population, it is within sport too which is depressing. One of my fellow open water swimmers said she didn’t want to do weights because she didn’t want to end up looking like a man. I tried to talk to her about it and explain, but she just wouldn’t listen. Despite me showing her my “muscles” and explaining my training programme. Some people just can’t get past it.

The other thing that annoys me intensely is women (and men come to think of it) who just fanny about pretending to weight train because they think it is getting them into “shape”. Aaaargh!! I use the female only bit of my gym for bicep work so I can increase weight in single KG increments (which for my wonky arm is more sensible) and I saw a girl in there doing so called BO DB Rows with a 2kg weight (after walking on the treadmill for 10mins)! Form awful. I actually tried to help her by explaining about the form and that a higher weight would be better (she could so easily lift more) for “toning”. But nooooo. Not interested. And I wasn’t even preaching either!

We just need to chip away around the edges and any small changes we manage to make then great. The rest, well, it just aint gonna happen.

(Although that might change when GB and I do our cheerleader thread!) :lol:

GymBunny wrote:Will update this weekend with the health benefits of resistance for women...unless, of course, Scott beats me to it! :D


Helping prevent osteoperosis is one!
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby GymBunny on Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:38 am

Yep, I was gonna write something about that and other associated benefits.
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Re: Should women train differently from men?

Postby Pingu on Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:42 am

I thought I would get my one little bit of knowledge in there so I at least appear a little useful! :lol:
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