From infancy we’re taught that girls and boys are different. Girls like to play with dolls and boys with toy trucks. Girls have long hair and boys short.
As we grow older this perception is solidified with a variety of other examples. Is it any wonder, then, that people seek out differences in the realm of physical fitness as well?
The question of whether women should train like men do is a common one. A lot of women, and men too, have an instinctive belief that women should have an entirely different workout routine than men do. In fact, many women feel downright uncomfortable working out according to what they believe is a male routine. They fear that this will somehow distort their body, make them look masculine, and may even be unhealthy for them.
I want to clarify this issue once and for all. In this post I’ll talk about when women should train like men and the differences you do need to be aware of and take into consideration.
Why Women Should Train More Like Men Do
In a previous post I wrote about fitness tips for women, I wrote that women should exercise more like men do. The main point was that a lot of women focus most of their workout time on cardio and neglect weight lifting. They think that cardio is the “feminine” way of burning fat while weight lifting is mainly reserved for men who want to add muscle mass. But strength training isn’t done just to build muscle. It is also an excellent way to accelerate fat loss.
Even women who do venture to the weight lifting section of the gym often tend to work with very low weights. I don’t blame any woman who does this. I appreciate the extent of the confusion that exists in the world of fitness. I just hope that this confusion will clear by the time you finish reading this article.
Women tend to lift low weights because they believe that this is a way to tone muscles without making them bulky. This is a big mistake as I showed in my posts on why women should lift heavy weights and how to lift weights without getting bulky. Lifting heavy weights helps you build dense, tight muscles and not bloated ones.
In addition, many experts, such as John Barban and Flavia Del Monte, for instance, don’t believe that women have anything to worry about bulking up. Their hormones will make this very difficult.
Women have about 10% of the Testosterone which men do. With so little of this hormone, building a lot of muscles becomes very hard. Women can and should add muscle to their body as a way to boost metabolism and improve physical health and fitness but they will need to train very hard in order to get bulky.
Fat Burning Is Gender Blind
The reason why women shouldn’t train differently than men do is that men train better for fat loss. Weight lifting or resistance training is very effective for fat burning. If this is your main goal then you should train more like men do.
Male and female bodies burn fat in the same way and the rate in which they do so is influenced by the same factors. Weight lifting is effective for fat loss because it helps to boost your metabolism for hours after the workout is completed. In addition, muscle tissue is, by nature, calorie expensive. Just by having it you burn more calories than you would have done otherwise.
It’s true that men and women tend to gain weight in different body parts. Men tend to store fat around their abdomen while women tend to do so in their hips, buttocks, and lower body. For the most part, this doesn’t change the way you need to train. Remember that spot reduction, the idea that you burn fat from the body part you train, is a myth. Your body burns fat from all over.
While there are ways in which your training can influence your hormonal balance and change the way your body stores fat, as shown in the Final Phase Fat Loss program, the influence of these tactics is often limited. The bottom line is the fat burning is gender blind. You train the same to achieve it.
Train By Goals Not by Gender
By now you may be thinking that women should train exactly as men do. I believe you should assume a more advanced perspective: train by your goals.
I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman. You have your own fitness goals and you need to work hard to achieve them. Marathon runners, whether male or female, train in the same way. So do swimmers, javelin throwers, skiers, etc.
The same goes for non-athletes. If fat loss is your goal you need to train one way, if muscle building is what you’re after, you will need another approach. What I’m saying is that your training should serve your goals regardless of gender.
There are Differences
If all you’re interested is fat loss then the answer may be no. There are excellent fat loss programs which are marketed to men and women both. However, most women also want to get in shape and this does require a specific fitness plan.
The desired female shape is widely different than that of a man. Most women are concerned with fat loss and toning the lower body while men often strive to increase muscle size in the upper body. Naturally, these two goals will require a different fitness approach.
In addition, as women are built differently than men are, with wider hips, shorter frame, and lower muscle mass, some exercises are more suitable for men than they are for women. I won’t go into specifics here. This is what specialized programs are for.
However, at the end of the day, the similarities outweigh the differences. For fat loss and body toning, most women would be wise to train more like men do, with a greater emphasis on weight lifting and resistance training. Cardio does have its place but it can’t be the main focus.
I believe that a person should train according to his or her goals. The way to achieve those goals is similar regardless of gender. The differences between a female fitness plan and a male one are often attributed to the different goals that men and women have.
If you’re mostly interested in losing weight and melting fat, then a workout routine consisting of weight lifting and high intensity interval training is your best choice. This is true for men and women both.