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Why Men and Women Must Train Differently

For muscle and strength training.

When training for hypertrophy and size, why men and women must train differently? Do they have to? Yes, in theory, they should.

Training is as diverse as the individuals who embark on the journey to wellness. Recognizing the inherent physiological distinctions between men and women, it becomes evident that tailoring workouts to align with these differences can be a game-changer. The intricacies of hormonal profiles, muscle distribution, and metabolic rates create unique landscapes for each gender. Embracing these distinctions rather than adhering to a one-size-fits-all approach opens the door to more effective and personalized fitness strategies.

Have you ever thought about how men, in general, are stronger than women? This translates to men lifting heavier weights and women lifting lighter weights, but usually for more reps. And there might be a reason for it.

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Before anything, it is important to note that this article is not intended to capitalise on the gender fluidity conversation. As respectful as possible, we leaned into the expertise of Mike Israetel. Dr Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization, who is a well-respected professor in the bodybuilding community.

While he acknowledges that his knowledge is largely theoretical, he presents 11 differences that he believes are significant. Scroll down to find out why men and women must train differently.

Why Men and Women Must Train Differently

The first difference he discusses is intensity handling. Females tend to perform more reps at a given percentage of their one-rep max compared to males. This means that percentage-based programs may need adjustments to ensure both genders are equally challenged.

Next, he explores rest times, noting that females generally recover faster between sets. This could influence programming decisions, allowing females shorter rest intervals for more efficient workouts.

Per session volumes come next on the list, with the observation that females can handle higher volumes within a single session compared to males. This means they can perform more exercises and sets without succumbing to excessive fatigue.

Weekly frequencies follow, indicating that females can recover more quickly, allowing for a higher training frequency per muscle group than males. This could impact the design of training programs to optimize recovery and progress.

Accumulation lengths, or the time before needing a deload, are discussed as well. Females may require an extra week or two before a deload phase compared to their male counterparts.

Axial and systemic fatigue costs are addressed, highlighting that females can perform more sets of compound movements with less fatigue compared to males. This could allow for a focus on heavy, compound exercises in female training programs.

Relative effort is the seventh difference, where it’s noted that females, on average, don’t push themselves as close to failure as males. Coaching and self-work are suggested to bridge this gap and help females realize their full potential.

Mike encourages females to embrace the potential for pushing harder and breaking through self-imposed limitations. He advocates for understanding and working within one’s unique capabilities, whether male or female, and emphasizes that toughness isn’t the only metric for success in training.

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In any case, some adjustments can profoundly impact various factors discussed earlier. For instance, the ability of females to endure high-intensity work surpasses that of males. This is partly due to their lower relative effort, a factor often overlooked. By gradually optimizing this aspect, one can witness a female athlete transforming into a formidable force, mastering the art of pushing oneself efficiently. The consequence? A recalibration of training metrics—total volumes may decrease, the use of high RSM movements might diminish, and the overall training approach may assume a slightly more male-oriented form.

Addressing the intricacies of technique and trainability, it’s evident that females possess a natural advantage. Their enhanced coachability, coupled with an innate prioritization of technique over ego-driven pursuits, makes them a coach’s dream. Unlike their male counterparts, who may veer towards egotistical tendencies in the gym, females often exhibit a more receptive and trainable demeanor.

The discussion extends to the realm of physique development, where initial size differences play a pivotal role. Acknowledging the smaller size of females, especially in the upper and lower body, sets the stage for a nuanced exploration of rate-of-gain dynamics. While initial gains may mirror those of males on a percentage basis, a personal hypothesis surfaces—a suggestion that, beyond the beginner stage, females may experience a gradual reduction in their rate of gains compared to males.

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Dispelling any notions of competition between genders, the emphasis is on individual progress and realistic expectations. Drawing parallels with statistical averages and bell curves, the speaker encourages an understanding that exceptions exist but averages provide a framework for gauging progress realistically. And, with a touch of humor, the notion of accidentally becoming a mass monster as a female is playfully dismissed—perhaps suggesting fewer late-night visits to McDonald’s.

In concluding thoughts, Israetel advocates for embracing gender differences without assigning value judgments. The journey is about making the best of what one has. Whether it’s the exploration of statistical averages or exceptions.

For a full grasp of everything Mike Israetel talked about, click on the video below.

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Hypertrophy training, often referred to as bodybuilding-style training, focuses on stimulating muscle growth by increasing the size of muscle fibers. The primary goal is to induce hypertrophy, which involves enlarging the individual cells within a muscle. To achieve this, several key principles come into play.

Firstly, progressive overload is crucial. This means gradually increasing the stress placed on muscles over time, whether through heavier weights, increased repetitions, or a combination of both. Progressive overload ensures that muscles are continually challenged, promoting growth.

Next, volume is a key factor. This involves the total amount of work performed, calculated by multiplying sets, reps, and weight lifted. Higher volume workouts, within the bounds of recovery, can contribute to muscle hypertrophy.

Training frequency is also important. Muscles benefit from regular stimulation, but it’s essential to allow sufficient time for recovery. Many hypertrophy-focused programs involve training specific muscle groups multiple times per week.

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Nutrition plays a vital role as well. Consuming a diet with an adequate protein intake is crucial for muscle repair and growth. Additionally, a calorie surplus is often recommended, ensuring the body has the energy resources to support muscle-building processes.

Lastly, proper form is essential to target muscles effectively and prevent injuries. Compound movements, such as squats and deadlifts, are often incorporated alongside isolation exercises to comprehensively target muscle groups.

In essence, hypertrophy training revolves around progressively challenging the muscles, providing them with enough volume and frequency of stimulus, supported by proper nutrition and form, to foster optimal muscle growth.

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