Gendered products don’t always make sense. After all, does the world really need “man-size tissues” or a “His and Hers Menu”? But when it comes to exercising, there may be a point of adjusting for gender.
Training goals are usually different for men and women. Men generally want to build muscles. Women rarely want the same. Sure, there are female bodybuilders, but a good majority of female gym-goers are looking to slim down and tone muscles instead of adding bulk. So, if the goals are different, why should training exercises be the same?
While we have the same muscles, we do not necessarily react to exercises the same way. We list down the real reasons why ladies should ditch men’s workouts and what you should be doing instead.
Top 7 Reasons You Should Train Like a Girl
Women Burn More Fat
This is awesome news if your primary goal is to lose weight.
You may have heard that men lose weight faster than women. That’s because men have 36% more muscles  and muscles burn more calories. But women have a higher body fat percentage. So what does that mean for you?
Men may start dropping pounds quicker but women have more fat to burn and will continue dropping weight with steady exercise. The female body burns fat and you need fewer carbohydrates and protein to fuel workouts versus men of the same weight.
Recommended Exercises: Do these at least 4x a week to boost fat burn and get a leg up on building leaner muscles.
- Side to sides
- Triceps dips
Do each exercise for 30 seconds then rest for 2 minutes. Repeat 3x.
Women Tire Less Quickly
Science has proven that when it comes to exercise, men tire faster than women. Women have more type I fibers, also known as slow-twitch fibers.
What are they? These are skeletal muscles that help in movement and exercise programming. The best thing about it is they’re fatigue-resistant. They have more mitochondria (yes, THE powerhouse of the cells) and myoglobin (which binds both iron and oxygen).
Recommended Exercises: Slow-twitch fibers are awesome for endurance training because of the great support for aerobic metabolism and fatigue resistance.
Activities you can try to maximize these muscle fibers include:
- Marathon running
- Distance running
- Power walking
The Strength to Weight Ratio Variance
If you’re going to the gym for strength training rather than slimming down, you may have noticed that men are usually lifting heavier weights. In fact, even a “simple” pull-up seems easier for them to do.
Looking at weightlifting records lends credence to the idea that men are stronger than women. The current record in the men’s 69kg weight class is 169kg. On the flip side, the women’s record in the same weight class is an astounding 46kg lighter.
The difference in weight to strength ratio (that is, your strength divided by body weight) can largely be attributed to testosterone. A man and woman of the same weight will not look the same because testosterone lends to the development of more muscles, letting him lift heavier weights.
Recommended Exercises: The strength difference does not necessarily mean women should forego weight training. Rather, you can focus on “progressive overload” and do muscle-building exercises like these:
- Bodyweight Squat
- Inverted Bodyweight Row
- Barbell and Deadlift Squats
- Barbell Bench Press
Women are Not as Explosive
The prevalence of slow-twitch fibers in women means you have less of the opposite – fast-twitch fibers. It’s the latter type that allows for the generation of more force, more quickly. Therefore, men appear to be more explosive in sports versus women. Women also generally take longer to recover from explosive exercises.
The good news is that with serious training, women can close the explosiveness gap.
Recommended Exercises: Ladies, train to your strengths. Reduce injury risk by starting slow and with lighter weights and build slowly over a few weeks.
Consider doing plyometrics. The hops and jumps not only helps build power and speed. It also effectively develops agility and coordination.
Also, don’t forget to factor in rest and recovery.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Get ample sleep.
- Eat healthy food.
- Consider getting a massage.
Women HIIT Better
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) works by alternating fast and intense periods of activity with lighter workouts or even complete rest. Simply put, you train hard for a few minutes to get your heart racing, then rest and repeat.
Science backs up the claim that HIIT workouts work best for women. This is perfect because as mentioned, women are a better fit for endurance training. The shorter, higher intensity HIIT workouts address the need to improve explosiveness and build muscles without spending too much time.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) attest that HIIT burns more calories for every minute versus the usual aerobic exercises.
Recommended Exercises: If you’re trying HIIT for the first time, try the following low-impact routines. Do each for 30 seconds, resting 15 seconds between each. Do 3 to 5 repetitions.
- Squat Twist
- Reach and Crunch
- Mountain Climber
If you’ve been doing HIIT and need more advanced workouts, you can try these jumping moves. Do each for 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds between sets. Do 3-5 repetitions, resting 1 minute in-between.
- Toe Tap
- Hop Over
- Hands-On Climber
- Feet-On Climber
Note that HIIT stresses your body more so do not do it daily. Two to three sessions per week should be alright. On alternate days, try doing a different workout or just resting.
Women Tolerate Metabolic Stress Better
What is metabolic stress in relation to exercise? When you work out, the need for energy rapidly increases and you start accumulating substrates like lactate and phosphate.
During exercise, women have been found to have lower arterial blood pressure compared to their male counterparts. Because ladies get more blood and therefore more oxygen to their muscles, the muscles can function longer under stress while accumulating less of the byproducts.
Recommended Exercises: Try doing compound sets. This involves two back to back exercises that target the same muscle group (not to be confused with supersets, which target opposing muscle groups). It has the benefit of keeping the target muscle active, burning more calories, and improving flexibility and strength. Here’s one set you can try, it targets the shoulder and back muscles:
- Pull Downs
- Seated Rows
Women Recover Quicker
Apparently, man-flu is not a myth. Ladies, compared to men, you produce more antibodies more quickly. This means you have a higher resistance to infectious diseases. Even if you do get sick, the recovery time is usually quicker, too.
The reason for this? Estrogen. It’s an anti-catabolic hormone that protects muscles from breaking down. Sure, it gets a bad rep for all the bloating and fatigue you experience every month. It’s also why you can’t build the same bulk like men. But, on the upside, it also lets you recover faster and therefore, train more frequently.
Recommended Exercises: Build muscle and burn fat without stressing your estrogen levels by doing circuit training.
- Walking Lunges
- Dumbbell Rows
- Jumping Jacks
Do 15-20 reps per exercise. Add a 15-second plank. Rest and repeat 3x.
Men and women have the same muscles, but physiological differences mean we react differently to different exercises. Ladies, go for lower weights but higher repetitions. Don’t underestimate the power of rest and recovery, even if you need less than men.
Focusing on appropriate exercises will maximize your gym time and will more effectively address what you need to fulfill your athletic potential.