It’s no secret that men and women are vastly different creatures; ask anyone. We generally think of this in terms of personality and preferences. However, they also differ in the ways they should approach training for fitness.
Different Fitness Goals
It is impossible to make complete judgments based on generalizations about two different sexes. However, in order to begin this discussion, we must make room for some common generalizations.
Often, men train for strength or size. Women, on the other hand, are not generally concerned with how big their muscles are, and many are not as generally interested in strength to a high degree.
Men go to the gym to lift big weights and feel strong, while women go to the gym to maintain their figure and “feel the burn.”
Physiological Differences and Exercise
Generally, men have larger frames and higher testosterone levels than women do.
This means that men will generally be leaner and stronger than women. In addition, men have stronger bones than women.
The larger frame of men means that they have relatively bigger hearts and lungs. This helps a lot with cardiovascular exercise.
Estrogen causes women’s bodies to hold more fat than men.
The biological purpose of this is to enable women’s bodies to be more capable of child-bearing. However, this becomes an issue for women when they try to lose weight.
Women are often more flexible than men. Their longer, more elastic muscles enable them to outperform men in flexibility tasks.
Women also recover more quickly than men after a bout of exercise.
When men gain strength and size, their bodies often develop more fast twitch muscle fibers than slow-twitch muscle fibers. When women gain strength and size, their bodies develop fast and slow twitch muscle fibers almost equally.
Women’s bodies prefer to use fat as energy, while men’s bodies generally use a high level of carbs, combined with protein and fat.
Women tend to be more quad-dominant than their male counterparts. This means that during squats or similar activities, they are more susceptible to valgus knee movement, which can result in injury.
To combat this, it’s important that women focus on developing posterior chain strength through their hamstrings and glutes.
Men tend to be less flexible than women. This prohibits them from achieving proper form and body position during complex movements.
Men can take a note from women and either hit the yoga mat, or spend more time stretching to increase the elasticity and range-of-motion of their muscles to prevent injury.
For women who desire to develop their fast-twitch muscle fibers, it’s important to include activities that incorporate explosive movements like sprints, plyometrics, or perform other movements explosively.
Due to women’s smaller and generally weaker bone structure, it’s important that they add weight training to their exercise regimen. Weight training increases bone density.
Many women are afraid that by lifting weights they will become “too bulky.”
While they may gain muscle and even lose body fat, most women do not have sufficient testosterone levels to attain a level of muscle mass similar to a man. Generally, getting “too bulky” from weight training is not going to happen.
Men are often afraid that by spending too much time doing yoga or stretching that they will lose strength or be perceived as feminine.
While static stretching at the wrong time can lead to a decrease in strength, incorporating a proper warm-up and stretching routine will decrease chances of injury and maybe even cause the men to meet a few ladies in yoga class.
Nutritional Considerations for Men and Women
Due to their lower bone density, it’s important that women eat foods that are high in calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, and calcium-fortified orange juice are all examples.
Many women seem to fear fat and do not eat enough protein.
Being that their bodies metabolize fat better than carbs, upping dietary levels of fat and protein while lowering dietary levels of carbs may result in better performance and a more desirable physique for women.
This can be done by increasing consumption of meats like salmon or other fish, grass-fed beef, chicken, and turkey. Adding nuts and eggs can add beneficial fats to any diet as well.
Protein powder may be a good addition for those who struggle to get enough protein in through regular diet.
The opposite is true for men. They revel in fat and protein, but unlike women, do not eat enough fruits or vegetables.
Men can increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables easily by juicing or simply adding a fruit or vegetable to every meal.