M en are from Mars and women are Venus — even when it comes to weight lifting. It’s true that women should approach it differently, but not in the ways you might initially think.
When you walk into a gym, a lot of times you’ll see the majority of men in the free-weight section lifting heavy weights and the women sticking to low-weight machine exercises. After all, heavy lifting will make you look like a bodybuilder, right? Well — not exactly. The real truth is that heavy lifting makes you look more like a toned fitness model than a bodybuilder. If you see a woman who appears overly muscular, chances are she is taking some sort of anabolics.
It is my goal to change the way women view the weight room. If I can influence even one of you, my time has been worth it. However, I’ll save my entire spiel for another day. For now, I’ll try to keep it short as it pertains to this topic.
It is a myth that females should simply workout with less frequency and intensity than males in order to avoid getting bulky.
In fact, to a certain extent, the heavier you train and the more you do it, you are going to be burning more calories and boosting your metabolism. This in turn can result in that slim, toned, physique that so many of us are after.
Heavy lifting at a high frequency is actually more important for females —even if you just want to look lean and tone — because we just don’t have the hormones and genetic make-up to easily build muscle. It seems as if a man can just walk into a gym and look at the weights and he’s already making progress whereas a female really has to be on point with everything she does — which includes lifting weights much heavier than her comfort zone will allow. Even then, a woman will build a minimal amount of muscle compared to a man.
The moral of the story is, ladies, train like a beast to look like a beauty. Don’t skimp on lifting heavy and learn how to utilize the free-weight section as barbells and dumbbells typically have much more to offer than machines alone.
In addition to lifting at an intensity at least as high, if not higher, than men, research has shown that perhaps women can handle a higher frequency of training as opposed to their male counterparts.
One study showed that following a bench press training session, men took 48 hours to return to their previous levels of strength whereas women took only four hours (Judge & Burke, 2010). Women simply do not tax their muscular and nervous systems to the extent of males and therefore do not require the same amount of recovery time.
Finally, women also are put together differently than men. One notable difference is that women have a wider Q (quadriceps) angle — the angle at which the femur (upper leg bone) meets the tibia (lower leg bone).
This predisposes women to injuries especially in the knees, markedly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Because an excessive Q angle can alter the movement patterns in the knees and feet, women especially need to watch to make sure that their feet are not pronating (rolling inward) during lower body exercises (or any exercises for that matter) and also that their knees are not pointing inward as well.
It’s also a good idea to include prehab exercises such as body weight squats with a band around the knees, or perhaps resisted abduction (side squats or steps with a band around the ankles). You might also choose to include stretching for the Iliotibial Band (ITB) throughout the week.
Amanda May is a Factor X Fitness personal trainer. Reach her at AmandaMayFit@Gmail.com and Instagram.com/AmandaMayFit.