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Should Women Really Train Differently to Men?

Want to learn the real differences in how women should train, as opposed to men, for fat loss?

To ignore the fact that women are different to men when it comes to training would be crazy.

Equally, to say that women should only lift 1.5kg dumbbells (some of you will know who claimed that) or can’t do chin-ups, would be complete BS.

In the years Ultimate Performance has been open, we’ve seen thousands of women come through our doors – many of them feeling like they needed to train differently to men.

In many of those cases the belief was that women can’t, or shouldn’t, do as much as men. But let us tell you one thing right now: that’s flat out WRONG.

Women training

We know women need to train differently, but in the same way that a sprinter trains differently to a triathlete. Both are capable of amazing feats of performance and self-development, but they certainly wouldn’t be following the same programme.

To say women should train the same as men is ignorant. But to say they should be doing less is like going back to the 1920s when it was believed that a true lady shouldn’t sweat.

Ladies, if your trainer doesn’t push you to lift heavier in the weights room (or doesn’t have you in the weights room at all), has you on the pink dumbbells or tells you that cardio is the only ‘fat burner’ then… well, you know.

Equally, if your trainer has you on the same routine as their 20-year old male bodybuilder, then something is wrong too. You can check out some of the amazing transformations we’ve had with women HERE.

Here are the key considerations for women training for fat loss by comparison to their male counterparts.

  1. Women can handle significantly MORE work in the gym than men.
  2. Women often do better with higher rep ranges. That said, the longer you’ve lifted the lower those rep ranges should be, in general.
  3. Women NEED to weight train. In fact, you’ll get the best fat loss with most of your training coming from resistance work (Well, so do men).
  4. Women often do better with longer warm-ups on their strength training. Your strength will improve, set by set, rather than getting worse with each set (as happens more often with guys).
  5. Women have much more staying power than their male counterparts. A guy struggling on rep eight probably won’t get past rep 10, but a female will often make it up to rep 15 or above – even if she started to fatigue at rep eight.  Like we said, staying power.
  6. Women burn a higher percentage of fat when training than men, and a lower percentage at rest.

Women training Marbella

What does this mean in terms of training differently?

1. Rest should be kept relatively low between each lift.  Women can handle a high volume of training, so keeping rest a little lower and workload greater, would be ideal.

2. Training should be based nearly exclusively around weights and intervals.

3. Women should aim to increase the weight they are lifting in very small increments each set. For example, if the first set of five reps is a 40kg squat, increase each set by 1-2kg to end on a 45kg squat (or higher). You’ll be surprised how able your body is to match the small increases in weight and you may end up lifting heavier than ever before.

4. Women should keep working until “technical failure” (the point where form just breaks down). You can recover from reaching failure much quicker than men, and you’ll be able to get way more ‘hard’ reps in for quicker results.

training weights women

All of that said, women we’ve seen training in public gyms will often stick to very high repetitions with weight far too light for them.

Women should do a couple more reps on average than men, but those ranges should still allow them to move a decent amount of weight. Higher reps for women does not mean performing 50 reps of glute kickbacks.

Below is a seriously effective fat loss workout for women; it’s a hard one. Having tried this a couple of times with guys, we can confidently say that women get the best results from this plan – men often just don’t have the staying power for this rep, set and rest scheme (usually).

You can click on the workout image to download and save on your smartphone when you’re in the gym. Try it with a male training partner and see who struggles most, just for fun.

The Three Stage Training Routine – our top workout for a fat loss plan

Fat Loss Workout

Notes on the workout

1. Tempo

If you know about tempo and the importance of time under tension for optimal muscle stimulation, you may recognise this four-digit code.

If not it might look a bit perplexing – but it’s not. The four numbers are there to guide you through each portion of the lift to ensure your tempo is correct, so you’re getting the maximum benefit from every single rep.

The first number always refers to the lowering phase of the exercise – so if it reads ‘3’ and you’re deadlifting, ensure you’re taking three seconds to lower the bar to the floor.

The second number tells you if there is a pause immediately after the lowering phase. Sometimes there is no pause so it will read ‘0’, other times, such as when bench pressing, there could be a ‘1’ indicating a one-second pause with the barbell on your chest.

The third number refers to the actual lift portion of the movement. So, if you’re squatting it’s the portion when you’re standing back up from the lowest part of the move. If you see an ‘X’ this means it should be an explosive movement and you should lift with the most force possible.

The fourth number indicates a pause after performing the lifting phase. So, if you’ve just performed a hamstring curl, this number will show how long you need to pause with your heel pulled right in towards your hamstring.

Women training

2. Push it

To get the best from this workout, the goal for each set should be “technical failure.” What that means is, reaching the point where you can’t quite hold perfect form. Some people with a high training age may be able to maintain perfect form for the full rep range and thus would be able to reach “muscular failure” – their technique stays strong until they just can’t lift the weight anymore. If this is the case, don’t aim for full muscular failure (especially on a squat!). Aim to stop one rep before failure. Otherwise, aim to reach that technical failure on an 8–10 rep range on either rep 8, 9 or 10.

3. Supersetting

For those not familiar with supersets, giant sets and tri-sets make special note of the A1, A2, A3 or B1, B2, etc. down the left-hand side of the workout.  All the A exercises are grouped together and are done consecutively, and it’s the same with B and the same with C.  You only move on from your sequence of A exercises once you have completed all the prescribed sets for that tri-set.

Training deadlift women

4. Rest

The rest is very important. You must take 10 seconds after exercise one and exercise two – no more and no less. You must then take exactly 60 or 90 seconds before repeating the set of three exercises. This means starting your timer as soon as the weight is put down and you should be lifting (not getting ready to lift) immediately when time is up.

5. Frequency

Lastly, how often should you perform this workout? Honestly, it depends on what other training routines you are doing, how often you are training, which types of exercise you are doing, the quality and length of your recovery and many more things. Work with how you feel.

We are telling you now that the first time you do this plan, it will be one of the hardest workouts you’ve ever done. Make sure you plan a bit of recovery in afterward and let us know once you’ve tried it! To see some of the amazing transformations we’ve had with female clients, go and check out our female Real Results transformation page.


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