Should Men & Women Train differently?
When it comes to increasing lean muscle tissue, dropping body fat, or improving one’s health, on the surface it seems like there aren’t any differences, but once you dive a little deeper, it becomes clear that that isn’t the case.
The main difference between men and women training is all the hormones at play. Men’s hormones are the same, 24/7, 365 days a year, whereas women’s hormones fluctuate throughout the month, depending on their menstrual cycle. This can make a huge difference in various aspects of training!
For example, during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle (days 1-14), insulin sensitivity is at its highest, which means a woman’s body will utilize glycogen (carbohydrates) a lot more efficiently. Due to the elevated levels of estrogen, women will find they are a lot more tolerant to pain, have better endurance, and higher power output. This makes the follicular phase the perfect time to increase resistance training intensity, whether you’re in a strength training or hypertrophy training block.
Another example is the susceptibility to ACL injuries. Studies are showing that women are more prone to ACL tears during particular phases of their cycle. This is due to an increase in ligament laxity, which makes the ACL more likely to tear. If you are someone that takes part in a lot of high-impact classes or sports, this is something that should be taken into consideration.
Then come the common concerns that can impact women’s hormones (outside of their cycle), things like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, underactive or overactive thyroid, and peri- and post-menopause. That’s just to name a few things that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to training, nutrition, sleep, and stress management.
There are far fewer things to consider when it comes to men’s training. Men deal with decreasing testosterone levels after the age of 30, and can expect their testosterone to decrease 1-2 % every year. Although this can impact training, practicing resistance training, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress levels can effectively slow down this testosterone decrease.
What does this all mean?
When creating a training program, don’t forget to consider these factors, especially when it comes to programming for women. A plan should be created to work with your body, not against it.
Other than the considerations that should be taken into account, I still personally believe that men should train more like women, and that women should train more like men. What I mean by this, is often times, women are afraid to lift heavy weights or embrace resistance training for fear of getting too “bulky,” which usually results in training with lighter weights and high repetitions. Then you’ll see a lot of men who lift with their ego—lifting weights that are too heavy, leading to poor execution. If each side took a leaf out of the other’s book, they might find themselves much happier with their results.
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Nicholas Noble- Willock