Should Women Train Differently Than Men?
Updated: Feb 16, 2020
For the most part I’d say, “No. They don’t necessarily have to”. That is, assuming the woman wasn’t pregnant and was trying to achieve the same goal as her male counterpart. I might make some adjustments in exercise selection based on a few variables, but the overall structure of the program wouldn’t necessarily have to be radically different.
In fact, there’s more research coming out showing that men and women can make similar gains when on the same weight-training program.
Case in point, in a study published in 2016, a team of researchers put 44 untrained men and 47 untrained women on the same 10-week, strength-training program. The subjects trained twice a week. Each workout included 3 sets of 8-12 reps on leg press, leg curls, chest press and lat pulldowns. (Not the most creative program, but I digress.)
At the beginning and end of the study, the research team measured the peak torque of the elbow flexors (i.e. brachialis, biceps brachii, and the brachioradialis). Basically, they were trying to see if the subject’s strength increased during a curl (and it did).
Both the men and women made significant gains in strength. In fact, the relative gains in strength were the essentially the same between both groups.
Ok, so that study looked at just upper body strength. So, let’s look at a study that examined strength and muscle growth in both the upper and lower body.
In this study, published in 2000, a research team split 23 untrained men and 27 untrained women into three groups.(2)
One group consisted of 8 men and 10 women. Another had 20 women and the third had 6 men and 7 women.
The first two groups were put on a 12-week, weight-training program, while the third group did nothing and served as a control. The difference between the two training groups was that one group only performed 1 set of 6 exercises, three times a week. While the other group performed 3 sets of the same exercises (also three times a week).
At the beginning and end of the study, the researchers conducted tests to gauge each subject’s strength on leg extensions and chest press. They also looked at the muscle thickness of the subjects in 8 locations in the body. The result?
The subjects increased strength and muscle thickness. In fact, the relative gains in strength and muscle thickness were about the same for the men and women in each training group.
So once again, this suggests that men and women don’t necessarily have train differently.
And now you know. :-)
For more information: Gentil, P et al. Comparison of upper body strength gains between men and women after 10 weeks of resistance training. PeerJ. 2016. Feb 11;4:e1627.
Abe, T et al. Time course for strength and muscle thickness changes following upper and lower body resistance training in men and women. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2000. Feb;81(3):174-80.