That's the eternal question. Should women train differently then men?
What’s the biggest problem that hard training women face? It’s not hormones, it’s not responsibilities, it’s the fact that they hire male coaches who don’t understand that women need a unique training and nutrition approach.
We have to accept the fact that women and men truly have the same strength potential. Women can get to the same level of strength as men. While that doesn’t mean that women can deadlift 400 pounds, it does mean that they can exponentially increase their strength. Women should use multijoint exercises, women should attempt to gain muscle and increase their strength levels. As a result, women should be given the same training principles as men.
Research points to the fact that women actually recover in between sets faster than men. One study concluded that women don’t deplete ATP as fast as men and have lower blood lactate levels and less muscle glycogen depletion.(1) What this means is that women can be trained more intensely with less rest intervals.
Men also have higher force output than women which means that special care and focus should be given for women when training eccentrically. Women can benefit from adding eccentric training with moderate loads into their training to attempt to increase the size of their type IIA and IIB muscle fibers for explosive sports.(2)
Women and Aerobic Fitness
What’s interesting is that aerobically women appear to do better than men who dominate with heavy lifting. Women, due to their overall leg volume, can go longer than men and as a result may require more single limb training to achieve more leg development. This may also be due to the fact that women burn more fat during exercise. Since women deplete glycogen at a slower rate they can go longer during endurance events when relying on fat for their primary fuel source (3)
The difference between men and women often extends to their use of fuel as well.
Women burn more fat during exercise and use more glucose at rest than men who burn more glucose during activity but burn more fat at rest. This is another reason why women burn less glycogen during training and can recover faster than men.
Most male coaches just give their female clients less overall food and don’t acknowledge the fat that women burn more fat during exercise but need carbohydrate as rest to recover. An additional study points to how women burn fat during exercise programs (4).
Aerobically, while women are superior than men, women tend to to lose LESS fat when restricting calories and doing aerobic work than men. Women, in my experience, respond harder and worse to traditional fat loss programs and studies point to hormonal imbalances as the cause.
A second study shows that women were able to lose more lower body fat with a combination of interval training and intense weight training than women who used purely aerobic training. (5).
Video: How To Recover From Metabolic Damage:The Adjustments.
Women and losing body fat
Women have more subcutaneous fat, below the skin. Men have more visceral fat, think about their beer bellies. Studies show that each gender will primarily lose their specific fat. Women lose more subcutaneous fat while men lose more visceral fat. This is why men are more prone to having a heart attack.
What does this all mean?
1:Flores, D. et al. Dissociated Time Course Of Recovery Between Genders after Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2011. 25(11): 3039-3044
2:Edwen, Cr, et al, Stretch-Shortening Cycle Muscle Power In Women and Men Aged 18-81 Years: Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science In Sports. 2013.
3:Tanopolsky M. Evaluation of Gender Differences In Physiology. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2001
4:Black, Ellen. Gender Differences in Fat Metabolism. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2001.4:499-502
5:Laurent M, et al. Sex Specific Responses to Self-Paced, High Intensity Interval Training with Variable Recovery Periods. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2013