T Nation

Women's Workouts Different Than Men's?



I am an 18 year old female, very new to this site, and am wanting to start being really serious about my work-outs now, as well as possibly start competing in figure competitions.

I am so sorry if there is already a thread like this, which there probably is.. I just havn't figured out this site yet, so my apologies!

I keep seeing lots of men work outs posted, and threads about gaining weight etc.

However what if I want to slim down, keep my current weight, and become really toned such as a figure builder?

I'm not sure I should be doing some of the exercises I'm reading about if I don't want to become bulky..

Any suggestions on work outs to do for females? Or should I keep following the posts posted by men?

Thank you in advanced, and I'm sorry if this is annoying to any experienced posters!


There are a couple sub-forums aimed at women, check them out. You'll find a lot of what you're looking for there.


Why do so many women say this?

  1. You do not have the testosterone to become "bulky."
  2. "Bulky" does not happen overnight. If you start to not like the way you look you can STOP training the way you are and look for other options.
  3. I've never seen nor met anyone who has seen a girl get "bulky" naturally from lifting weights so 2 probably won't happen.
  4. Muscle doesn't spring up out of nothing. Muscle gains, or "bulk," happens in the kitchen just as much as in the weight room. Chances are, since you have goals of getting leaner, you will be eating a hypocaloric diet...meaning, NO BULK.

It's comparable to me saying, "I want to start taking yoga classes, but I don't want to get wide hips and breasts like the instructor..."


x2 on you won't get "bulky"



x3 on what the other guys have said about not getting bulky. It takes very dedicated guys years and years and years to build up that mass, and they have approximately 10 times the amount of testosterone you do. Ain't gonna happen overnight. I promise you, you will not wake up one day and look in the mirror and go "Oh my God, I'm HUUUUGE!" :).

Also, it is worth noting that the figure girls carry much more muscle than it looks like. The reason for this is that they are so lean they look very petite in photo shoots. Now, they ARE feminine and sexy (duh!), and they are "small" in the general scheme of things compared to guys. However, having a body that is 5'4" and 120 lbs at 6% bodyfat is a world of difference from having a body that is 120 lbs without any sort of definition.

For instance, I trained a figure girl that is currently 3 weeks out from competition (I'm helping her out but she moved out of town :frowning: ). She is 5'10" and with her build and proportions will likely need to be about 140 +/- 2 lbs onstage to win her pro card. That's 140 lbs at 5% bodyfat, or in other words, much heavier than you think you will need to be!

In other words, you will likely need to be growing muscle to compete well! I can all but guarantee this. For that reason, you should not be scared of the guys' workouts because you need to approach this with the will to grow muscle. With the exception of traps--you DON'T want those as a figure competitor--you don't really need to be concerned as much in the starting out phase with tweaking guys' training plans.

It is a slow process and of course, that weight did not come easy or fast for her. So if at some point in the future you feel like you don't want to get any heavier, you will have AMPLE time to change your training before you morph into the she-hulk :).

You can therefore train hard, lift heavy, and still be very feminine. I have a friend of mine who is very hot, very slender, and very much a "calender girl" sort of look to her. She does partial deadlifts with 325 lbs. And she looks like--ok, well she IS--a bikini babe :).

Also, knowing your current height and weight would help very very much in determining the direction you need to go for figure comps.


Also, the "powerful women" and "muscle sorority" are both sub-forums focused on women who lift. You will find a lot of help there.


As said above, definitely do not worry about getting bulky, it's not going to happen. Entirely too many women fail at their goals because of this irrational fear that one day they'll wake up looking like Arnie with a Dolly Parton wig.

Muscle gives you your shape, fat makes it soft and cuddly. Learning how each lift affects the shape of the target muscle is important and very individual, but there are some basic guidelines that work for almost everyone. What to do for overall muscle size is easy to understand, but getting the shape you want from each body part takes a lot more knowledge and discipline (figuring out what shape you want is sometimes iffy in itself).

Almost any beginner program will get you started in the right direction. After that, you just add, remove, switch or alter lifts as the need arises.

You'll find that getting lean is a lot easier once you ditch the pink weights, too.


Thank you for the helpful replies :slight_smile:

I guess I am on the right track then considering I have only been working out with guys and have just been adjusting the weight accordingly.

My usual routine is to do cardio and a light abb work out in the morning, go to classes, and then do my weight workout in the afternoon.

I'm 5'4 and weigh about 110-115 pounds. I have a small build, however have a very athletic build and can gain or lose weight (or muscle) VERY fast. With training for a week, I can have a TOTAL different body. This is partly why I was worried about becoming "bulky" because I can gain the muscle so easily. For instance, I find that my arms are very large and get the comments that I am "jacked" by the boys very often..Not that that means much..


Thanks again and anymore helpful tips would be appreciated!


Sorry, but you are not changing your body composition that much in a week. Fluctuations you see are probably due to water retention. For instance I look noticeably more cut in the morning than at night. Also, your muscles look bigger after you workout because there is extra blood flowing to them and they are actually swollen, because you have broken them down. If you've been training with weights for only a week, you have not put on any muscle. It will take around 8 weeks before that really starts to happen. Boys that are telling you you look "jacked" are idiots and don't know what they are looking at. I'm guessing none of these guys are "jacked" themselves. Feel free to post pics here if you want to get some honest feedback on what plan of attack you should take with regards to your physique. I guarantee none of the men or women will tell you you are "jacked."

You really have to put what you see in the mirror in the back of your head. Much more reliable sources to assess your progress are taking measurements of your waist, thighs, arms, etc. as well as body composition testing if you have that option available.

In regards to the subject of this thread...women's workouts really aren't different than men's. Workouts are designed based on the goal. Designing gender specific workouts is nothing more than a marketing ploy perpetuated by the retarded commercial fitness industry. The best way to lose fat is to train with heavy weights...period...man or woman.


Okay, I clearly should watch what I am saying on here because it seems like some people like to rip apart everything I say..
Maybe I shouldn't have said I have a TOTAL different body in a week.. but I do tend to lose and gain weight fast and can change in a week.

Anyways, I do not claim to know everything about working out, as I said I am still a novice, but do also have a lot of knowledge such as the body fluctuations, extra blood flowing after works out etc. so I'm not a complete idiot.

I'm attaching a picture of myself about 2 months ago. This picture if from when I was NOT working out and had not worked out for about 6 months. As you can see I do have an athletic build, but obviously in this picture I have a high fat mass :stuck_out_tongue:

Since working out, my body has changed since then and I will try to get an updated picture soon.

P.s this pic is kind of awkward..

Thanks for the replies, and I am looking for any constructive criticism :slight_smile:


Very hard to tell much from that pic. I'd like to see a better pic of the wheels, because it looks like your hams could possibly use some bringing up.

Good shape and proportion to your arm. A flexed pic would be nice. If I were you, I'd use the 'jacked arms' comments to weed out the boys from the men. Any man who has put in his time under the bar appreciates a woman with some guns of her own.

A little extra fat, maybe. A very short diet would get rid of that.

Looks like you've done a damn good job overall. I would say only minor tweaks would be necessary to make you competitive.


Thanks so much.

I appreciate those comments and I know that picture isn't that great at all. But I guess that's alright considering that pic is my body from when I was doing NO working out at all for 6 months. I will get an updated picture soon.

I also have absolutely no idea how to do "poses" or "flex properly" so I might look a tad stupid in my pics :slight_smile:

I'm looking to go to some clinics soon to fix that.

Thanks again!


i'd hit it



Jay is right, it is kinda hard to tell the specific details from that picture, but the one thing that IS clear is that you have a really great foundation for what you want to do. I am slightly jealous I won't get the opportunity to train you with your great start, and also slightly turned on... Sorry, couldn't help it :slight_smile:

Regarding the arms that you voiced concern over, if you are concerned about them then I suggest tri-sets for your workouts:

Take a goal bodypart--say chest for example--and then sandwich your compund movement between two isolation movements. Eg: cable flye, bench, dumbbell decline flye. This will limit the amount of weight you can do for bench, but it will make sure the stress stays on your chest and away from your arms. You can do similar things for your back, as well as shoulders. Isolation, compound, isolation. (eg: dumbbell lateral raise, shoulder press, lean away cable lateral raises).

Right now, however, and from that one "awkward" picture, I don't think you need to worry about the arms. A) once you dedicate yourself to a contest diet you will see that they probably have a tendency to shrink noticeably and B) I completely agree with Jay about separating the boys from the men. I think you look great. DON'T pay attention to boys who are intimidated by you because they are insecure. Guys love your current build.

Train hard, avoid trap work, concentrate on hamstrings and back which are often the deciding factors in figure among close competitors. Most trainees I have met--everybody, but particularly guys-- have a tendency to puss out on the hard hamstring work. Don't let that happen.

You have a fantastic start and look awesome, athletic, and sexy. The athletic build is the most widely appreciated build in figure. They're not soft bikini bimbos or freakishly manly men in wigs. An athletic build is ideal for starting the sport . Find a figure competitor in your area to learn posing from if you decide to try competition.


Dude, you're jacked!! j/k j/k! Great solid foundation. If that's how you look after 6 months of non-training, I'm a tad jelly. You are young and have so much potential. If you haven't checked it out already, here's a link to TNation's sister site. Should be right up your alley!



I am here for the pictures and she's a fellow Canadian! Everyone keep it up with recommendation, Fuzzyapple approves. Carry on.


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