Whether women should train like men or not is a never-ending topic that often divides the opinions of many fitness enthusiasts. Most of the time, the opposing sides usually hold on to the idea that there are physical differences scientifically inclined to one’s gender, so women won’t have the same results as men even if doing the same workout routines.
The thing is, women have a higher fatigue resistance and have more acquired endurance than men. Hence, they can do higher repetitions, take shorter rest intervals, lift in a more controlled tempo, do steady-state cardio, and do more work than men.
How and why? Listed under are science-based factors influencing the idea of women training the same as men.
Researchers in a study about sex differences in human fatigability had proved that women, when trained, have proportionally larger slow-twitch muscle fibers than men. As a result, they increase in quantity as women do heavy resistance strength training.
Type 1 or slow-twitch muscle fibers are one of the two general types of a human’s skeletal muscle fibers that enables long-endurance feats. The other one is called Type 2 or fast-twitch muscles.
Fast-twitch muscles are used for an effective, powerful, and quick burst of strength. However, they fatigue quicker than slow-twitch muscles. Comparatively, slow-twitch muscles use oxygen to produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used in more continuous and extended muscle contractions over time.
In brief, slow-twitch muscle fibers help women fatigue slowly and need less recovery time. In addition, having more slow-twitch muscle fibers enables women to have the capability to handle higher repetitions and higher volume training.
Aside from estrogen, one study explained that women could handle metabolic stress better than men as women have lower arterial blood pressure when exercising.
The study showed that after finishing one set or the same relative training volume, women tend to get more oxygen and blood to their muscles than men, allowing women to recover faster and need lesser rest.
Female Sex Hormone Estrogen
Aside from having slow-twitch muscles, women can handle higher training volume because of the female sex hormone estrogen. As an anti-catabolic hormone, estrogen doesn’t only reduce protein breakdown but also prevents body muscle damage during exercises, allowing women to handle more volume without being overtrained.
One study on the responses of both young men and women to resistance training showed that women responded better to negative bench press than men. Often, heavy lengthening muscle contractions contribute to severe muscle damage. The study concluded that women tolerated training stress more than men.
Strength training is even great for older female adults. However, many believe that women at the menopausal stage, wherein osteoporosis potentially kicks in, should avoid strength training to prevent injury. However, studies have shown that strength training is advisable since it can preserve bone density and improve balance, strength, and muscle mass in postmenopausal women.
Additionally, estrogen is one of the factors that help women slow weight gain. In other words, lower estrogen levels may increase their weight. That’s why a lot of female older adults opt for estrogen hormone therapy and appetite suppressants, especially during menopause when their estrogen levels are usually fluctuating.
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In most cases, men and women alike can train the same. While men and women have varying aesthetic goals, what matters the most is that anyone can’t be jacked, yoked, toned, or shapely without building muscle.
In general, women can:
- Burn more fat;
- Store less glycogen in carb refeeds;
- Exercise with less carbohydrate and protein;
- Resist fatigue or fatigue slower;
- Perform more repetitions per set;
- Have lower strength and aerobic capacity;
- Have more anaerobic capacity;
- Handle more training volume;
- Do slower lifting tempo better;
- Suffer less from metabolic stress; and
- Recover faster, even resting a little after a set and a session.
Considering all of these advantages, you can train better on the following training:
- Steady-State Cardio/Mood Improvements from Aerobic Workouts;
- Greater Training Frequency;
- Slower Lifting and Less Explosive Tempo;
- Lower weights;
- Kaatsu/Vascular Occlusion Moderation Training; and
- Specific Aerobic Exercises like spinning, running, kickboxing, stair climbing, swimming, doing yoga, dancing, or the like, depending on a woman’s physical structure and body goals.
Moreover, women should focus on isolation work, specifically in the upper body. Most women tend to have smaller muscles, so it would be easier for you to isolate your muscles. After all, you don’t need to be wary about a more extended recovery period.
Many women have stronger legs compared to their upper body, as well. Hence, there should be a lesser focus on heavy lower body lifting. However, the following are a few areas that women may be interested in:
Men tend to build abs simply from heavy squatting and deadlifting. Women can also do a great base with these workouts. They need more isolation in this specific part of the body, though. After ending your upper body sessions, you can add heavy abs and volume day through supersets or just tri-sets with other muscle groups.
For most women, possessing a great set of calves will let them look better in dresses. Also, it will make larger hamstrings and quads look more proportional. To get an excellent set of calves, women need to train them four times within a week in both vertical planes.
Squatting or training legs three to four in a week can automatically lead to having a greater set of glutes. To build better glutes, add bodyweight glute bridges during warm-up sets. Also, concentrate on pushing the floor apart when squatting to activate the glutes more.
Do more shoulder activity and stability by performing heaving movements with dumbbells. No need to isolate chests with the pec deck machine, cable crossover variations, or press drop sets as men do.
Knowing the physical differences between women and men does not automatically mean you should limit your workout styles only to those areas where you will excel. Sure, genetic potential is an essential factor, but what you do every day matters most. A healthier lifestyle can be of more value than a genetic predisposition for an ailment.