First off, you can train however you like, and for whatever you want - I'm not stopping you from doing what you want! The reasons outlined in this post are simply based on two things; body goals and physiological response to exercise.
First off there ARE some universal rules. Everyone should :
- do strength training (aka heavy weights or resistance) to build or maintain muscle
- fix imbalances (physical ones, we can't fix emotional ones)
- develop body weight control and strength
- do some kind of conditioning to boost metabolism, burn calories and develop cardiovascular health
- work full body
Of course there are variances in training from individual to individual - this post isn't about that. It will not discuss genetic limitations, although we do encourage all women to accept their genetic potential and limitations (for example, I will never, ever have a Kardashian butt, but I'll make the most out of what I can build).
This post is also NOT discussing competitive training programmes, i.e. if a man and a woman are both training for the 100m sprint. I am not even going to begin to get into that in case it takes away from the message I'm trying to convey.
Now that's out of the way, on to the good stuff.
REASON #1: MEN AND WOMEN HAVE DIFFERENT GOALS
In general when women come to us and discuss their goals, they list the following:
- toned legs
- a butt
- flat stomach/abs
They also often ask for what they DON'T want: 'bulky' arms, 'bulky' chest, or 'bulky' shoulders.
When a man comes in for a consultation, guess what they ask for?
- muscular shoulders
- muscular chest
- muscular biceps and triceps
- a 6 pack
So would you do the same sessions or classes as a dude, then expect your booty to grow? Of course not.
If a man wants bigger shoulders and a woman doesn't want a bigger shoulders, why would they be doing the same exercise program? The male athlete would be working high volume hypertrophy sets, targeting his upper body. Push press, push ups, bench press, heavy delt raises, and so on. He would be training towards his goal, which is exactly what the female athlete should be doing as well. This is why you very rarely ever see a man doing barbell glute thrusts that specifically target the glutes (not usually a dude's main priority).
I have seen many women dedicate themselves to mixed-gender classes and work their butts off, only to be left confused why they haven't yet achieved their body goals. Sure they've lost weight, but they've also usually found their lower body hasn't developed the way they thought it would; their waist and quads have thickened but their glutes haven't grown as much as they hoped, and their delts have developed more than they thought they would.
There are many different kinds of fitness. Ask yourself if you are training for YOUR goals.
REASON #2: MEN AND WOMEN'S BODIES WORK DIFFERENTLY
We are physiologically different *shrug* no argument there, right?
Women tend to be more flexible than men, but often without strength at the extent of that range of motion. It's important for everyone to include accessory work to strengthen ligaments surrounding joints so they don't collapse, ensuring you're protected against injuries. BUT I'd argue with women, there should be a greater focus on this. Why? Once a month about 14 days after your period your body releases Relaxin, a hormone that relaxes your tendons and ligaments to prepare you to birth out a baby. There is some debate if this is why women suffer from more knee injuries than men, but either way focused accessory work on strengthening joints for women is a priority for GetFitChick.
Volume versus Maxing out:
Physiologically and generally speaking women have larger and more type 1 fibres, so therefore are better at resisting fatigue. Type 1 fibres are slow-twitch, and are more efficient over a long period of time. Type 2 fibres are fast-twitch and are better at performing short bursts of exercise.
What that means is GENERALLY women can do more work in the gym than men and with less rest (men don't last as long as women - but we all knew that), which translates to being able to do more in an hour-long session.
Women can also do more reps at a higher percentage of their 1 rep max than men can. In short, you can do more sets, higher reps, work closer to your max lifts, AND handle eccentric work better too.
So as an example only, if a woman and a woman were squatting 80% of their heaviest back squat, she might be able to squeeze out 6-7 reps. The man might only be able to squeeze out 5 reps. Again, this is in general and isn't comparing an unfit male to a very fit female.
Women burn more calories when they are working than men do, but they burn LESS calories when they are resting than men (usually because they have less muscle mass to maintain). So strength AS WELL AS HIIT works best. Not just 60 minutes of HIIT conditioning.
Yup, we get periods. And our cycles affect not only our nutrition or mood but it gives us cramps, bloating and/or back pain, as well as affects our physical performance. It is totally normal for all this to happen but an exercise program needs to be sympathetic to women who are going through their cycle, and be able to advise them on their physiological response to that time of the month.
So when it comes to training women, not only are their body goals generally different, but the WAY they respond to exercise is also different. We started GFC because we'd have girls in our mixed group classes coming up to me asking me 'why, oh why' they weren't seeing progress in their glutes/legs. The answer? Because you are not specifically training for your goals! If you are not working on your glutes with heavy weight, then of course your butt isn't going to grow dramatically. If you are doing heavy and high volume upper body work then of course your shoulders are going to get bigger!
So to sum it up?
If you've got girl body goals, Then TRAIN LIKE A GIRL.
**Need help with training or nutrition? Do you have specific body goals but aren't sure how to achieve them? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org