Author: Utsav Agrawal ,INFS Alumni and Visiting Faculty
Keywords: Female, training, principles, anatomy, resistance
It’s no secret that men and women are vastly different creatures but then why should women train like men? Let’s understand about these training principles for women.
- Woman can do more!
Studies suggests that since women have proportionally larger type 1 muscle fiber than men, this makes them more resistant to fatigue than men. This implies the training load chart or the intensity-volume relation for women may be entirely different than men. To grow to their full potential, women may need to perform more reps than men at a given intensity.
Also, they can handle more volume (read here as ‘more sets’) than men because of larger slow twitch muscle fiber and high estrogen level than men. Higher estrogen levels help reduce muscle breakdown and assists in muscle repair.
- Women don’t need a lot of rest between sets or overall recovery
Further, it is now known that females suffer less metabolic stress than men because of lower arterial blood pressure during exercise. This allows more blood and oxygen to flow to their muscles than men. Due to this and the above factors, women have a much shorter recovery period and need shorter inter-set rest compared to men.
- Explosive movements tire them out, compromising recovery
When it comes to explosive sports, men outperform women as the female nervous system is not as efficient as men at higher resistances. Women recovery is also adversely affected in high intensity workouts like sprints or HIIT. Research suggests that women are worse of in building muscle in these workouts when compared to men.
- Natural in sports that require balance and flexibility
In balance sports and when it comes to flexibility, women fare better than men because of different biomechanics. They have some unique structural factors such as wider pelvis, shorter legs, more oblique femurs, larger ratio of leg weight to body weight, greater fat deposition on the thigh, and greater carrying angle of the arm, which tips the odds in their favor.
- Overall low muscular strength
On the other hand, if we talk about muscular strength, on average, the female has about two-thirds the strength of the male and the major difference lies in the upper body strength. Their absolute upper body strength is 30-50% that of a male, while that of the lower extremity is 70% that of a male of the same size. Thus, women have relatively weaker upper body.
To sum up, there are a number of anatomical differences between men and women which necessitates a customised training program for women. More reps and more sets which can also be translated to more frequency of training sessions for women. Women are strong when it comes to heavy weights in isometric contractions but operating close to their 1RM or high intensity drills or explosive movements fatigues them, increasing their recovery period. These differences become even more important when women wish to progress at intermediate and advanced levels. Their training programs should cater to their specific strengths to ensure maximum utilisation of their natural abilities.
Excerpt from a chapter in INFS Health series for women : ‘Girls Get Strong’ – which will be released very soon!
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