There’s a lot of confusion in magazines and online about workout programs that claim to target either men or women only. There are programs for men who want to build muscle in no time and others for women who want to become slim and lean. There are even specific exercises that are only targeted at women and others are designed for men only.
But the question begs, is there some truth behind all this categorization? Is this thinking based on science or not? Are men supposed to be lifting heavy weights to build muscle and strength? And are women supposed to do more cardio and lift light weights to have that “toned” look?
What I’ve Found Out
In my years as a personal trainer, I have seen this scenario repeated over and over again in many gyms I’ve frequented. On one hand, men will always pack the weights room doing hardcore workouts while sweating and grunting and on the hand, women will always occupy all the available cardio equipment doing their thing- “burning fat”.
Unfortunately, this is a worldwide phenomenon that’s widespread in many countries.
If you walk into a gym anywhere in the world, you’ll notice that men will always lean towards resistance training and women always will default to aerobic exercises. The same scenario applies in most group classes. Women drive over ninety percent of group classes with very few men here and there.
Where Did All This Start?
Did this just happen or was it by design?
Apparently, this was not just a coincidence. It was a well-calculated move by fitness marketers in the early 60s, 70s to target females and to encourage them to pick up exercise by joining gyms and health clubs. In those years, women never used to lift weights for fitness. Weight training was strictly a male affair.
The women who exercised would only do cardio-based workouts or do women-only classes. Gyms were for the likes of Arnold and other strong men who’d spent their days pumping weights and showing off their muscles by flexing in front of the mirror.
This trend went on into the 80s and 90s. The introduction of Aerobics which targeted females fueled this lie that men and women must train differently. Even then, classes were dominated by female attendees and the picture has not changed to date.
After having trained lots of women in the past ten plus years, the most difficult part of my training has always been convincing them to reduce the amount of cardio they’re doing and instead shift the focus to weight training.
Sometimes it might take a year of teaching and explaining to get the point through for some clients but other clients totally refuse to budge and remain stuck in their beliefs that heavy weighs will make them look bulky and heavier.
It’s so difficult to change this deeply ingrained belief. Unfortunately, unless one is ready and willing to change their mindset, it won’t matter what you do or say. They will always hit a wall in pursuit of their goals until they work on their mind to shift their beliefs.
What’s the Current Situation?
If you think more people are aware because of the free information that is available these days, you’re mistaken. Most men still believe that weight training is the only exercise they need and that is what they engage in exclusively. And women still lean heavily on cardio and other workouts that are specifically marketed for females like Pilates, Yoga, Barre and many others believing that a workout designed for women will deliver the results they’re looking for.
There’s no basis in science that shows that men should train differently from women. Physiologically, our bodies respond to the exercise stimulus in exactly the same way. If muscles are trained by lifting weights, they’ll adapt and become lean and strong regardless of gender.
So, if you’re a lady who has been doing a ‘female training’ routine to sculpt lean muscles, stop it. There’s no ‘female’ or ‘male’ training routine. Find a well-written strength program that targets and challenges all your major muscle groups and do it at least three times a week. If you keep challenging yourself and making progress on every workout, you will make faster progress in a year than in all the years you’ve been exercising.
I’m not saying cardio is bad and you should avoid it. Cardio has its benefits but it should not be the foundation upon which your entire training is founded on and especially if you want to lose weight or to build lean and strong muscles.
So, do men and women really need to train differently? The answer is no.
The principles of exercise science still apply to both men and women.
Lift heavy, clean up your diet, get a good night sleep, take time to recover and you’re good to go. Throw in a bit of cardio if enjoy it and you’ll have a well-rounded workout program that will help you build a strong physique that will serve you for years.