When it comes to exercise routine – do men need to train differently to women? Do they need different programs? It feels a bit strange for me to answer this question as I have mostly personal trained women over the past 14 years and I own a female only gym that specialize in women’s wellness …But, when I reflect on it and I look at my approach when training women where principles are largely the same, I would personally not train men that different to women, but there are a few a few tweaks to think about.
Men and women are different sexes but their bones, muscles fibres, connective tissues, nerve, etc. are all made up of the same raw material and they function in the exact same way. Both gender need to apply similar simple principles when it comes to achieving great results with their training: heavy lifting, cardio to complement their weight program, stretching, a proper diet and enough rest to avoid overtraining. Despite theses similar principles , when we look at the science, research and facts that underpin the best coaching practices, there are certain genetic, anatomical and physiological differences between men and women that must be accounted for to gain the maximum results from their fitness regime.
As per example, men have more muscle mass than women and tend to have better upper body strength. Men have higher testosterone levels than women which helps them with muscle gain and weight loss, whereas women have high oestrogen level that causes their bodies to hold on to more fat then men.
All these facts have to be taken into consideration when training both genders . Another thing that we cannot overlook when designing a program for men or women, are goals. Men and women train for different reasons, more often men train because they would like to get bigger – generally this not the case for women. (I can happily say although that both gender train to get stronger these days, women are totally embracing the idea that strong is the new skinny which is so refreshing)
So let’s talk about a few differences with weight lifting training between men and women. Weight bearing exercises is one of the best ways for both men and women to improve their health and physique. Strength training help both gender get stronger, leaner, more athletic and develop a balanced, healthy and toned body. There are no ‘exercises for men’ or ‘exercises for women’; there are just exercises that are the same for both men and women, but by varying the position, the tempo, reps and recovery period the training will benefit them differently.
For example : Men do better with lesser reps than women, more explosive movements, faster tempo and more rest in between sets. Since men naturally have more strength and muscle than women, they are able to put more power into each set, which often requires them to need more time to recover (rest) between exercises. I am not saying that women cannot lift heavy here and should only work out doing more reps than men, it’s just that they can often tolerate a greater training density within a given workout because they’re less able to give as much energy into each rep as men due to the strength differences. So, it’s important to understand that although men and women can do the same exercises, it’s how it’s APPLIED and structured in a workout program that can determine its effectiveness,
It’s the same with cardiovascular exercise, another type of training that should be incorporated in everyone’s weekly exercise routine. However, it should be prescribed slightly differently to both gender to benefit them better individually. Cardio workouts strengthen the heart , boost metabolism, burns calories and helps lose weight for both men and women, but some research shows that men respond better to Hiit (high intensity interval training ) and women to steady state cardio. For that reason I wouldn’t encourage my lady clients to do HIIT every day.
Lastly and often forgotten, stretching! Yes physiologically women have longer , more elastic muscles that enable them to outperform many men in flexibility tasks but nevertheless, both gender should be complementing their training with at least 5 mins of dynamic stretching before every session and static stretching after a work out. Attending any kind of stretching classes like yoga one or twice a week is even better.
So, in summary, desired outcomes will often be achieved with very similar programs for men and women but they are definitely a few tweaks required to get more out of their personal workouts and again maximise their results. Male trainees should instinctively do high intensity training and avoid sets with more than 12 reps. Women should naturally be more inclined to do steady-state cardio, lift with a more controlled tempo, perform higher reps, ( but no more than 15) take shorter rest periods and do more total body work out. And don’t ever underestimate the importance of stretching and rest in between training.
I didn’t get much into nutrition this time, which is equally important what men and women should be eating to get the best benefits of their training. I will leave you with this though: women’s bodies prefer to use fats as an energy, while men’s bodies generally use a high level of carbs combined with protein and fat. Do men need to eat differently than women? That’s another article.