Recently, I’ve been receiving questions on how females should train. Most have the goal of looking leaner, toned, and a more curvy. In this post, I wanted to answer the most frequently asked question, “Should Women train differently than men? ”
Short Answer: No, not really.
With the questions I frequently get, I have put together 7 considerations for helping sculpt a sexy female figure.
1.) “Toning” and “shaping” are not the answer.
Weight training in popular media for women generally revolves around words such as “toning and shaping.”
Lets examine “toning” This term is used to make muscles appear firmer, and tighter without them appearing bigger. It’s a common, but extremely thawed thought. Routines based upon “toning” likely involve extremely light weights for very high rep amounts. Think pink dumbbells for 20 rep sets of triceps kickbacks. Unfortunately, these routines are not challenging enough to the muscle to force growth and change.
Without challenging you body to grow and change, how will it look any better? With or without excess fat, a body looks healthy and fit with a little more muscle.
Shaping offers a different, yet equally confusing idea. Muscles cannot be shaped; rather, they are pre-determined by your genetics. You can’t physiologically change a muscles shape, only whether it is bigger or smaller.
2.) You should lift heavy.
Certain goals for both men and women are similar. The most common is a firm, toned, sexy look. One of the best ways to get that look, for men or women, is with heavy weight. Lifting heavy weights is the fastest, and most efficient way to build myogenic muscle tone… or the highly dense, toned muscle that you seek.
“But won’t lifting heavier weights make me bigger?” This leads to right to my next point…
3.)No, lifting weights will NOT make you bigger.
Why? Building muscle is very, very, hard. Ask any guy. There is a reason we train year in, year out, eat copious amounts of dead animal flesh, and cherish any small, muscular changes. And that’s with a plethora of hormonal benefits from testosterone helping us out! Unless you have extremely rare genetics you won’t be piling on slabs of muscle and look like Hulk Hogan.
Additionally, there are tons of factors that mitigate muscle growth: Training style (most importantly, muscle tension and training volume), diet, and hormones (as mentioned above.) Unless you are taking external testosterone, training with way too much volume, and consuming a ton of excess calories you won’t be getting bulky.
With that thought, I recommend all women do some sort of heavy training once per week.
Try squats, deadlifts, bench presses, push presses, and rows for 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps with the heaviest weight you can safely do.
4.) There is no such thing as spot reduction
Men and women deposit fat differently. Men generally carry more body fat centralized around the abdomen whereas women carry more excess fat around the hips and thighs. For both genders, spot reduction is a popular topic. In most cases, body fat is lost evenly throughout the body. Therefore, in order to be leaner in a particular area fat loss needs to occur all over.
I find the best exercises for losing fat all over are done in a standing position, such as sprints and high intensity weighting, rather than a seated position like a stationary bike, or rowing machine.
5.) Women have a different weight distribution than men.
Because women carry more weight in their lower body they are generally relatively weaker in the upper body, but just as relatively strong in the lower body. In most cases it’s best to regress upper body exercises, such as a push up or pull up. Rather than watching in horror as a female grinds out worm-ups, regressed the exercise by performing it with a barbell racked off the ground. Just because someone can’t do a full exercise…yet… doesn’t mean they shouldn’t perform any variation.
6.) Women have better stamina than men
Women can handle a higher training density– less rest between sets and a higher volume– than their male counterpart. This may be due to an overall decrease in relative strength. This factor allows women to train at a higher frequency with a higher density than men.
*Note: Training density (doing more in less time) is a huge variable for fat loss.
7.) Women need more protein
I find most of my female clients drastically under-consume protein. Protein does three awesome things for your body: Protein can blunt your appetite to keep you fuller for longer, speed up your metabolism, and help you maintain your muscle (giving you that toned, dense look) while stripping off unwanted fat. I tell my female clients to have protein with any carbohydrate source and shoot for their body weight in grams of protein. This would mean a 120 lb female consumes roughly 120 grams of protein per day.
Okay, I’ve got to run, but I gathered a list of great sites and resources for you to check out. These are some of the best fitness sites for females looking to build awesome bodies. Fellas, you can take a look to and stop giving poor advice to women who ask you :).
Let me know any questions you have and how you currently train!
“Beautiful Crossfit Woman.” List 09. N.p., n. d. Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://www.list09.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/crossfit-girl-Laura-Plumley1.jpg>.
Romaniello, John . “Sexy Female Training.” Roman Fitness Systems. N.p., n. d. Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://www.romanfitnesssystems.com/blog/6-tips-for-building-a-sexy-female-body/>.
Schuler , Lou, Cassandra Forsythe, and Alwyn Cosgrove.The New Rules of Lifting For Women . New York City: Penguin Group, 2007. Print.