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Should women train differently to men?

I have often been asked-should women train differently to men? Short answer is no... long answer is yes.

The main thing you have to keep in mind is that, physiologically speaking, both males and females do still have quite a bit in common and women don't need a completely special way of training. If you really want to change your body, both sexes need to apply the same general principles: heavy lifting (progressive overload), incorporate a balance nutirent dense diet and enough rest to ensure overtraining does not set in. However, there are a few fundamental differences between the sexes that can effect how women train. Here are just a few.

Due to a higher proportion of type 1 muscle fibres (slow twitch fibres) women are more fatigue resilient. Couple that with higher estrogen levels, women tend to recover faster than men. As estrogen is an anti- catabolic hormone, it helps the muscles to repair, reduces protein breakdown during exercise and protects muscles against damage. To get the most out of training, women typically benefit from more reps per set as a result.

Following on from the above, women don’t fatigue as much as men and therefore require less rest . They have a higher ability to burn fatty acids than men, meaning they can train with low rest periods without sacrificing muscle mass or performance, and can instead burn more fat for fuel.

While women should be able to perform the same lifts as men, some modifications may be needed to suit the female body structure. Women generally have wider hips, therefore a wider stance for certain lifts, like squats and deadlifts, will be beneficial to reduce the valgus (inward) force on the knees

Women a have a naturally greater bum out posture (anterior pelvic tilt), which accentuates the curve in the low back. This can lead to a weaker hamstrings, glutes, & calves and the increased pressure on the low back during heavier lifts, could potentially cause low back pain. Having awareness of proper form and appropriate core and hamstring strength is extremely important to avoid injury.

Though there are huge variability in how women respond to their period and to make sweeping statements is folly, there are a few physiological changes that takes place. During the first half of the cycle, many women feel strong and perform really well as estrogen is at its highest and their body responds more efficiently to resistance training, leading to greater muscle gains. However, we need to be mindful that at the peak of estrogen, your ligament laxity is increased and therefore elevating injury risk. In the second half of the cycle, as estrogen levels decreases, progesterone increases (your body is preparing itself to potentially house a baby!), there can be higher levels of fatigue, mood changes, inflammation, water retention and other symptoms that can affect performance in the gym. It is important not to judge yourself based on the training of this period of your cycle and give yourself some grace.

In conclusion, 90% of how you should train as a woman is the same as a man. Training theory is still training theory and general principles that work can be applied to both sexes. Train hard and do it consistently. If you can do these basics, then considering some of the differences can help give you that extra edge.

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