T Nation

How Does Female Training Differ From Male Training?


#1

I’m here on behalf of my little sister. She’s attending the same community college as I am this year, and I asked her if she wanted to lift with me… and she said yes!! I didn’t expect her to say yes, and she seems pretty serious about it. I’d like to know as much as possible about the way girls train to make her experience as fun and rewarding as possible.

That being said, I don’t want to put her through the same type of workout that I will be doing all semester; I have a feeling that she wouldn’t enjoy training for maximal strength (although I have hope that one day she’ll decide to try powerlifting…lol). I have a pretty good idea of what my individual limitations are in terms of training frequency and training volume, but I have 0 female friends/acquaintances/gym homies who lift weights. Therefore, I have no clue how to structure her workouts.

Right now, all I know about females is that they generally have a very high potential for lower body strength and hypertrophy, especially compared to their own upper body potential. I also know that women can usually train more frequently than men (doesn’t make much sense to me, but I read it somewhere).

That’s the extent of my knowledge. Like I said, I want her to have a rewarding semester with me in the gym. I plan on starting her with a few weeks (2-3) of unilateral lower body movements and basic upper body movements (dumbbell bench, bicep curls, tricep extensions, face pulls, and lat pulldowns) before we let her touch a barbell. The last thing I want to do is tell her to squat a loaded barbell without knowing if she has sufficient mobility and strength to do so. I believe unilateral movements are a good way to test both of those waters before we do anything else.

Thanks in advance!

Edit: She is tall and slim at 6’0" 165. One of the reasons I’m being cautious about getting her under a barbell right away… it’s hard for some tall people to squat!


#2

You can always reassure women by showing them some 54kg class lifters… most women will train like men but at a higher relative intensity.


#3

Oh, man @Powerpuff HELP! But she’s not short like us but ya know the ins and outs of everything and know others on the site to tag. :hugs:


#4

Ok, so how do we know Megan @strongmangoals?


#5

She stalked me for a long time… it’s awkward and complicated.

Nah, I just happened to be watching a Mike T video just before reading this and she was in it.


#6

I remember something about the width of women’s hips causing the angle of their femur to be different making their knees less tolerant to lateral stress or something.

That’s a hacked up version of it, but if you’re really interested there are better and more informed articles on the subject.


#7

Yeah, it contributes to the higher rate among females of non-contact ACL injury, especially in jumping/cutting sports (volleyball, basketball, soccer, etc). I haven’t heard of a higher rate among female weightlifters, though.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4805849/


#8

My wife just started lifting with me, but she’s about a foot shorter haha

She came from a running background, some knee injuries from prior, and her squatting mechanics weren’t all that when we started lifting. A lot of pitching forward and rising off the heels. I think goblet squats and high reps on just the bar helped.

When she’s with me, I recommend her to go with heavy 5’s and 3’s. But when she’s not (she’s going to school in another state), I’ll have her do the old timey Squats and Milk routine with 20 reps squat, 20 reps pull over (straight arm cable pulldown for her), and a buncha dumbbell ohp because I don’t trust people spotting her for heavy bench.


#9

Thanks!


#10

My girlfriend lifts weights. She likes training for strength, and enjoys seeing her numbers go up. A few women at my gym are into lifting progressively bigger weights too. You never know what your sister might like.


#11

Try searching T Nation. There are articles about it. Several.


#12

Can you provide a link to this t-nation site?


#13

Thank you all. She has no previous knee injuries so I think as long as her knees are tracking over her toes she should be alright. I’ll search on T Nation a bit. Today’s her first day, we’re heading to the gym in a few hours. She’s excited and nervous, but I might be more so… I feel like I’m taking my child to her first day of kindergarten or something. Lol


#14

Quick update: I read a few T Nation articles. Got some good info.

She did great today. She has the best RDL I’ve ever seen in a beginner. If she can master a proper hinge, which is looks like she’s well on her way to doing, we’re going to be making some quick progress in the gym this semester. Thank you all again


#15

Hi @lava2007. Late to your thread!

@ Training for women. There’s a lot of variation in what people enjoy, and just like men, training is tailored toward goals.

I think you’re on the right track. Many beginner women can do pretty well with mostly BW exercises at first. Progress weight gradually as people learn basic muscle movements, correct form. It takes time to build MMC, and to strengthen ligaments, etc…

Some women, particularly women with an athletic background like gymnastics, may make really rapid progress, already have a good MMC, and be able to get very quickly into heavier weights.

All beginners need to learn some basic movement patterns for various lifts, get comfortable in the gym.

I would probably start any new trainee with full body workouts or an upper/lower spit that let them get comfortable with both machines and free weights. At first I’d keep rep ranges up in the 8-12 range because they’re learning movement patterns. Personally, I enjoy training in higher rep ranges but I spent time doing more 5x5 work my first year to try to build functional strength. Of course, you can get stronger working in higher rep ranges too, you just have to remember the basic fundamental of progressing weights. I think this is a common mistake for women in the gym, they don’t always keep moving to heavier weights.

Remember, a lot of DB moves are more advanced, require more control than BB lifts. I think a lot of beginners think DBs are less intimidating somehow because they’re small.

I like Sohee Lee’s (SoheeFit) social media for sensible training advice, technique and nutrition.

Also, you might want to look at @jamie1888’s training log for a good example of a women who isn’t training for PLing goals.

This is also an option for women who need to start with more BW movements, and full body circuits. If pushups or BW lunges are really challenging, then that’s a good place to start. This article gets some hate from women who want to lift heavy, but I sometimes train more like this. Or I may to an abbreviated body part split, then do BW work and Ballet Barre.

@ Sister is 6 feet tall. My boss has a college-age daughter who just won a big athletic conference title for high jump. She’s 6’5"! Both parents were college basketball players, so she comes by it honestly.

Best of luck. I hope you have fun a lot of fun with your sis.


#16

Same principles apply, all depends what your goals are, that’s how you decide what kind of training is best for you.


#17

did you share at any point what her goals are? If you did I missed it. If you didn’t, I’m surprised we got 16 responses in without at least addressing that, since it’s literally the most important factor in determining what her workouts should look like.

Females can train any way they want. There are female crossfitters, weightlifters, powerlifters, strongwomen, basketball players, etc. The way a female powerlifter trains for her sport is comparable to how a male trains for the same sport. My girlfriend goes through workouts with me, because she also competes in strongman.

So. What are her values? What does she want to be when she grows up? lol


#18

I agree with this, but was going to let him slide a bit on it since I think a lot of new trainees actually don’t even know what their own goals are yet, and may need to get in the gym to figure that out, backwards as that may seem. In theory, I should probably be training for aestheticz and hawt abz (what does a 600 Deadlift do for a desk jockey anyway?) but I just love heavy low-rep training and lifting. I probably wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t spent some time in the gym doing stuff first.


#19

that’s totally fair, and really that was my own experience. I got into lifting because I wanted to look like a bodybuilder, not necessarily because I wanted to lift heavy things. And Strongman wasn’t anywhere on my radar.


#20

hahaha! I was expecting that question a little sooner too to be honest with you.

Pretty much this. We were hobbling out of the gym today and she made some remark about wanting to look like “one of those really fit girls with good quads and hamstrings.” Not a weird goal, but I’m surprised she didn’t say something like “I want a better butt” or “I want arms like Michelle Obama.”

So right now, all I have to work with is hamstrings and quads. Easy enough.

So like @powerpuff said (thanks for the awesome response BTW), I think bodyweight movements and light barbell stuff for high reps is the way to go right now, probably for at least a month or two. But idk. I’d love to hear more input if there’s anything else y’all can think of