WOMEN ‘S DIFFERENCES
10 Reasons why women shouldn’t train like men
By Dan Wagman, PhD, CSCS
Publisher and Editor in Chief, Journal of Pure Power (JOPP)
Consultant, Body Intellect Sports Performance Enhancement Consortium
I can’t imagine living at a time when people thought that women can’t be medical doctors, lawyers, leaders in government—or athletes. Thanks to Title IX in the United States, women have been able to excel at any sport they desire. But in the desire to receive equal footing with men in sport—and to maintain it—women, coaches, and other sports professionals have almost forgotten one basic fact—women are not men.
So you might say to yourself, “Good one Dan, ain’t that obvious?” Well, of course it is. But that also extends into how women should train for sport because of how they adapt to training. You see, most people assume that if a guy can squat a lot of weight, so can a women, and if a guy trains this way for a big squat, well, so can a woman. I would argue that the point is not whether the woman can train the same way as a guy, rather whether the woman should train the same way—especially if she has max gains in mind.
Though the woman athlete and her coach is at the heart of making training decisions, we shouldn’t be too hard on them for adhering to outdated training principles. The fact is, exercise scientists have just recently begun to investigate in what areas, to what extent, and why women ought not train the same way men do. Basically the way it works is that some athlete or coach generates a hypothesis about how one ought to train. Then scientists test the hypothesis for its merit and degree of truth. If proven true, then the hypothesis gets bumped up to the level of theory, in which case it receives further scrutiny to see in what areas the theory may hold more or less true. So in the case of women vs. men, early thinking was that the bench press is a great exercise for the pecs. Research in men has proved this to be false as other muscles are much more involved in the execution of this lift. But to what extent do these findings hold true in women?
JOPP is, as you know, at the forefront of sharing the latest scientific findings in strength/power sport with its readership. And so this journal has a solid record for bringing women and their coaches up to speed on training issues. To follow, my top 10…
- Women fatigue less from an equal amount of weight training than men.
- Women lose more strength after a set than men.
- Women can demonstrate max power in a wider range of 1-RM (1-rep max, the max amount of weight you can lift once) than men; in the jump squat it’s between 30% to 40% 1-RM for men and between 30% to 50% 1-RM for women.
- Hamstring to quad activation ratios are lower in women than men.
- Women have a higher sweat threshold than men, meaning their body temperature regulatory mechanisms aren’t as efficient.
- Women show less muscle damage after training at the same level of intensity as men.
- Women have less passive resistance (kinda like sturdiness) in the ankle muscle-tendon unit than men, contributing to less efficiency and economy in various leg movements.
- Women synthesize about 55% less collagen than men, which is related to having smaller tendons, tendons not responding to training as well, and tending to hold higher injury potential then men.
- Women can train at a given high intensity, e.g., 90% 1-RM, more frequently than men and make more gains by doing so.
- Women show little difference in rest periods between sets of 60, 90, 120, 240, and more seconds, therefore women can rest for as little as 60 seconds between sets for optimal gains—men need much more rest.
That my top 10 list holds important training implications for women is clear. So as in all walks of life, paying attention to scientific developments—and implementing them in your training—is the key to success. And that’s where men and women don’t differ from each other.