Should women train like men in the gym?

Female personal trainer

A common myth among personal trainers is that women should train in exactly the same way men do. From our experience with hundreds of female clients we've found that it's true that women do best with an intelligent resistance training program with an emphasis on progressively increasing weights whether your goal is weight loss or strength gain and toning. However, there are some important differences in the way female clients respond to exercise.

Try any of these 5 tips to help get the most out of your workouts in the gym:

1. Workout More Frequently

One advantage of estrogen - the female hormone - is that women are less prone to muscle soreness after exercise, protecting against muscle damage. This hormone has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, giving women the ability to recover much quicker than men. This means the same muscle groups can usually be worked on multiple times a week and women benefit from doing so.

2. Keep Your Rest Periods Short For Weightloss

Women's muscles don't get fatigued during exercise as quickly as men. Their superior stamina and endurance mean that they may benefit from significantly reducing rest periods to achieve the same training effect.  This saves time in the gym and makes workouts more efficient.

3. Emphasise Glute And Leg Training

In our experience with clients we find that women usually have different aesthetic goals from men. Our female clients often want to develop their butt and legs while men tend to prioritise building a bigger chest, shoulders and arms. Many women also want more well-defined shoulders and arms, but usually don’t want to build bigger pecs or neck muscles.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train other muscle groups, but your primary focus should be on body parts that you do want to bring up. Women's physiology responds best to whole body workouts, as compared to workouts split by body parts because of better recovery capability. At ATP we construct workout plans that target specific areas with specialised glutes and lower body training systems that de-emphasise the traps.

4. Keep Your Sets Long

With a higher tolerance for metabolic stress, higher reps are a key factor in successful female body transformations. Less lactic acid accumulates in the blood during exercise, allowing you to perform well with higher reps. You can also combine sets to make supersets of different exercises performed sequentially. Genetically women usually have a higher percentage of slow-twitch fibres making them less explosive but longer lasting than men.

5. Factor In Your Hormonal Profile

Not many of our female clients see the single digit body fat goals of men as ideal for themselves, and not many want to be so lean. A naturally higher essential fat percentage means that in order to avoid potential health complications like temporary infertility and thyroid dysfunction, we are wary of our female clients getting too lean too quickly. We’ve found the sweet spot of body fat for a lean body goal is roughly between the 14-20% range when measured with body fat calipers in the gym, so keep your goals realistic.

Despite these differences, we know from science and from experience that women and men all benefit from weight training, whether the goal is health, weightloss, longevity or the aesthetics of a lean, toned body.

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