Is it necessary to have a different strength training program for men and women?
A couple of decades ago we learnt that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. While this may be true when it comes to our emotional and psychological make-ups, from a purely anatomical vantage we are remarkably similar.
So, should men and women train differently when it comes to a strength training program? The answer is Yes and No. Let’s find out why.
How We Differ
Women do not carry as much muscle mass as men do. As a result, studies indicate that men are 45-50% stronger when it comes to the upper body and 30% stronger in the lower body. In terms of muscle quality and functionality, though, male and female muscle is just the same. In other words, men are only stronger because they have more muscle, not because the muscle that they have is ‘male’ muscle.
To benefit from a strength training program you have got to lift heavy on basic functional movements, using a relatively low rep range. Even though society may not quite be ready for the idea of a woman sweating and straining with a maximally loaded squat bar on her shoulders, our bodies don’t conform to the outdated stereotypes that embody the society in which they are forced to operate.
Getting strong is a non-sexist endeavour. As a result the following aspects of a strength training program should be the same regardless of gender:
Train Intensely: Both men and women should train intensely. That means that you should be sweating within the first 10 minutes. The resistance should be challenging at an 8-12 rep range.
Use Compound Movements: Both genders benefit most by focusing on full body exercises that mimic functional movements. Squats, Deadlifts, Presses and Snatches should form the foundation of a strength training program. These exercises will develop the kind of strength that will transfer to your daily activities.
Concentrate on using Free Weights: By stepping away from the machines and grabbing hold of the barbells and dumbbells women are more efficiently able to work the entire body together, as it was designed. They’ll be building strength, not only in the target muscle group, but also in the vital stabiliser muscles.
Rest Less: As soon as a woman has recovered sufficiently to start the next set, she should go for it. Men can take a little longer to allow for their ATP to replenish fully. Women actually need to work harder on a strength training program because they have about 10 times as less testosterone coursing through their bodies than men do.
Start Earlier: Because females reach maturity more quickly than males, they are able to start a strength training program at a younger age. You can safely start girls on a strength training program in their pre-teens.
Train Year Round: Females have a quicker drop off in strength when training is discontinued. That is why women need to continue a strength training program year round in order to progressively make continual strength progression.
Modified Chin Ups: Women are not as strong as men, so when it comes to the toughest body weight exercise of the lot, chin ups, they’ll probably need to modify – at least when starting. This is where a chin up machine, or power bands comes in handy. The assisted Chin Up Machine allows you to preselect the resistance rather than having to pull your own body weight, the principle is the same with power bands – The thicker the band the more assistance you receive.
The bottom line when it comes to a strength training program is that men and women are from the same planet. The gym has no time for gender stereotypes. Women can and should mix it up with basic movements and heavy weights.